STEUBENVILLE, Ohio – What’s ahead for the Republican presidential race post-Super Tuesday?
There’s a good case to be made that more than Mitt Romney’s six wins yesterday or Rick Santorum’s three, it’s Newt Gingrich’s sole victory in his home state of Georgia that could wind up having the biggest impact on the race.
Gingrich captured nearly half the popular vote in Georgia. And Santorum, who placed third behind Romney, may not qualify for any of Georgia's 76 delegates, given that he appears to have fallen just shy of the state GOP’s 20-percent threshold.
So despite calls by Santorum aides and others for the GOP’s conservative base to start rallying behind Santorum, Gingrich’s Peach State victory could mean the anti-Romney forces remain splintered for some time to come.
“If conservatives and tea party supporters unite behind Rick Santorum, Newt Gingrich will not be the nominee,” Santorum’s senior adviser, John Brabender, told reporters here last night after the candidate’s primary-night speech.
Look for the Santorum camp to ramp up that message in the days to come – and expect Gingrich to ignore it and continue campaigning hard in the upcoming states of Mississippi and Alabama (today, for instance, he holds three events in the latter).
All of which is good news for Romney. In Virginia, the one state yesterday where the former Massachusetts governor faced a one-on-one race, the anti-Romney vote coalesced behind Rep. Ron Paul, giving the Texas congressman 41 percent of the vote.
Had it been Santorum or Gingrich on the ballot instead of Paul, it’s likely that that share of the vote would have been even higher – a potentially dismal scenario for the GOP frontrunner.
Here’s a closer look at today on the trail (Courtesy of candidate schedules and the PBS NewsHour Political Calendar; all times Eastern):
11:30 a.m.: Gingrich holds a rally in Montgomery, Ala.
2:30 p.m.: Santorum holds a rally in Lenexa, Kansas
3:30 p.m.: Gingrich holds a rally in Pell City, Ala.
6 p.m.: Santorum holds a rally in Tupelo, Miss.
7:30 p.m.: Gingrich holds a rally in Birmingham, Ala.
8:30 p.m.: Santorum holds a rally in Jackson, Miss.