UVA professor Larry Sabato’s crew declares that by failing to get on the Virginia ballot for next week’s Super Tuesday presidential sweepstakes, Great Falls, Virginia resident Rick Santorum may be a big loser when the day is done:
John Bull — the British equivalent of Uncle Sam — was prominently featured on British armed forces recruiting posters during World War I, pointing a finger and asking, “Who’s absent? — Is it you?”
In the case of the Virginia primary, he who is absent is Rick Santorum. And it’s going to cost him, big time, on Super Tuesday.
Because only Mitt Romney and Ron Paul are on the Virginia ballot, Romney — who we expect to sweep the Old Dominion — starts off with a big lead on Super Tuesday courtesy of Virginia. That built-in advantage will make it exceedingly difficult for Santorum to finish the day with more delegates than Romney. In fact, we expect Romney to win more delegates on Super Tuesday than Rick Santorum, probably many more.
We shall see if that prediction holds true.
But does the rest of his point hold water? If it was Newt Gingrich, rather than Sen. Santorum, who was riding the current wave, then the headline would be slightly different, but the narrative would be the same. Not being on the ballot where you live hurts (remember, Newt lives in McLean).
Or does it?
Sabato predicts Romney will win one of the night’s big prizes, Ohio. But the biggest prize of them all, Georgia, looks like it might go for Gingrich, though he won’t claim all 76 of the state’s delegates. Other substantial states are either toss-ups or might go to Santorum. And regardless of the outcomes, just about everybody will pick up delegates — enough to ensure the fight will go on.
Which is a point the good professor makes at the end of his note:
More delegates are at stake in the next week than in the contests held over the past two months. Still, as we have stressed, the Super Tuesday of 2012 is puny compared to 2008’s. In 2008 more than half the convention delegates were picked on that one day, while just a fifth of the 2012 convention will be at stake this March 6. This year, more than half of all delegates will be up for grabs in later contests — another reason why this contest will probably drag on and on. The road to the 2012 GOP nomination is a long one, loaded with potholes for the four remaining candidates.
So any short-term pain Santorum might feel from not being on Virginia’s ballot is probably inconsequential in the long-run.
I’m sure he would prefer to be on the ballot here. I’m sure Mr. Gingrich would, too. But it might not matter, because of the delegate trove yet to be claimed.
And as I noted above, the betting window for who does what on Super Tuesday is now open…