With so much at stake on Super Tuesday, Virginia may seem like the undercard.
Voters in the commonwealth will head to the ballot box to help select a Republican nominee for president, with 49 delegates at stake for the winner. Polls are open from 6 a.m. to 7 p.m., and Virginians can find their polling place on the State Board of Elections Web site.
But voters won’t have as many choices as their counterparts in other states will: Only former Massachusetts governor Mitt Romney and Rep. Ron Paul (Tex.) will appear on Tuesday’s ballot, as the other contenders failed to qualify. Virginia has open primaries, meaning any registered voter may cast a ballot in the Republican contest.
State Republican party rules required each candidate to submit 10,000 valid signatures by Dec. 22, including at least 400 from each of the state’s 11 congressional districts. Former House speaker Newt Gingrich (Ga.) did not submit enough valid signatures, while former senator Rick Santorum (Pa.) didn’t try. Gingrich, Santorum, Texas Gov. Rick Perry and former Utah governor Jon Huntsman sued to get on the ballot, but their suit was tossed out by a federal court in January.
That makes Romney the prohibitive favorite in the state. In four different polls released over the past month, Romney has held leads over Paul ranging from 30 to 49 percentage points. The only question for Tuesday, it seems, is the final breadth of Romney’s victory.
But that doesn’t mean all is well for the former Massachusetts governor. An NBC News/Marist poll released Sunday found that if all the candidates were on the Virginia ballot, Romney would only lead Santorum by eight points. And 50 percent of likely Republican voters said they were unsatisfied with the current field and wished another candidate would run.
Nevertheless, Romney appears to be in strong position to take all 49 of Virginia’s delegates Tuesday.
According to Virginia Republican Party rules, if Romney wins more than 50 percent of the statewide vote Tuesday, he will win the state’s 10 at-large delegates. The state’s 11 congressional districts are worth three delegates apiece, with the leading vote-getter in each district getting all three delegates. The remaining six delegates are controlled by state and party leaders.
Romney has won the public endorsements of several key Virginia Republicans, including Gov. Robert F. McDonnell, Lt. Gov. Bill Bolling — the head of Romney’s campaign in the state — and House Majority Leader Eric Cantor, who announced his support Sunday. A few more party figures, including Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli and former governor George Allen, have remained neutral.