The prevailing wisdom is that Rick Santorum has to win Ohio on Super Tuesday to remain a serious contender in the GOP presidential race. But even if he is the victor in the Buckeye State, chances are good that he won't walk away with a plurality of the 66 delegates up for grabs. (Click here for an explanation of the difference between "majority" and "plurality.") That's because the Santorum campaign failed to submit the necessary paperwork to claim delegates for three important congressional districts. To make matters worse, Santorum is not even on the ballot in Virginia because of another organizational snafu. The Romney camp is pointing to Santorum's 'delegate debacle' as evidence that he is not ready for "primetime," and will be crushed by President Obama's formidable political operation. Could Santorum's unforced errors cost him the primary?
Yes. The delegate advantage is a boon for Romney: Romney is well-positioned to win a majority of all the delegates at stake on Super Tuesday, says polling guru Nate Silver of The New York Times. He'll probably take a plurality of Ohio's delegates, 18 of which could be off limits to Santorum because of his mistakes. Santorum might win the popular vote in Ohio, but Romney's overall delegate advantage will help him "put some further distance between himself and his rivals."
"State-by-state analysis: Romney could win majority of Super Tuesday delegates"
No. The Super Tuesday delegate count doesn't mean much: Romney may "lead his foes in the delegate hunt," but that doesn't change the dynamic of the race, says Peter Hamby of CNN. A total of 437 delegates are at play, "and with most of them allocated according to each candidate's share of the vote," all four GOP candidates will win enough delegates to provide a "rationale, however thin, to move forward." It's going to be a "grind-it-out battle for delegates that could last through well into the spring."
"Don't expect finality on Super Tuesday"
Santorum can regain momentum without delegates: There's one way Santorum could "be declared the [Super Tuesday] winner, regardless of the delegate count," says William Galston at The New Republic. He would have to "win Oklahoma and Tennessee by healthy margins, hold on to beat Romney in Ohio, and squeeze by" Newt Gingrich in Georgia. If that were to happen, "the Republican race would continue without a clear frontrunner." The worst outcome for Santorum? Winning only Oklahoma and Tennessee, "fueling the narrative that he can't expand his base of support much beyond social conservatives."
"Why Super Tuesday won't deliver a knockout blow"