Super Tuesday Race Guide

By

Published March 06, 2012

| FoxNews.com

State Breakdown: Georgia | Ohio | Tennessee | Virginia | Oklahoma | Massachusetts | Idaho | North Dakota | Alaska | Vermont 


 

Georgia Republican Primary 

76 delegates

42 are awarded from the state’s 14 congressional districts, three per district (outright majority wins all three district delegates, plurality win gets two, with one for the runner-up)

31 are awarded proportionately based on statewide vote share (20 percent threshold)

Three are given as a bonus to the state popular vote winner

Open primary

Presidential preference only

963,541 votes cast in 2008 (Huckabee 34%, McCain 32%, Romney 30%, Paul 3%)

Polls close 7 pm EST

Full Super Tuesday Georgia coverage >>

Gingrich Seeks Sprawling Victory

Newt Gingrich represented Georgia’s 6th Congressional district from 1979 to 1999. When he took office, it was a wide-ranging swath of northwest Georgia, starting with the Cobb County and Fulton County suburbs of Atlanta. Georgia and its growing populations have added four congressional districts since then, mostly dividing the explosion of the Atlanta suburbs. Gingrich’s old district is now surrounded by new suburban and exurban districts on either side.

As the Atlanta suburbs have boomed, especially north of town, so have their significance in the state’s Republican politics. In 2008, Mike Huckabee won 80 percent of the state’s delegates with only 34 percent of the popular vote in large part because of his success in the far outlying portions of Atlanta and their congressional clout. By tying together the far suburbs with rural votes, Huckabee cleaned up on delegates four years ago despite a narrow popular vote victory

Huckabee was also helped by the fact that John McCain and Mitt Romney were hemming each other in. McCain scored with the large number of military members around the state, as well as moderate voters in the coastal counties near Savannah. But Romney kept in close in these moderate precincts. Similarly, McCain cut into Romney’s lead where he did best – the most affluent, close-in suburbs of Atlanta.

Gingrich has campaigned so much in Georgia despite a steady lead in polls because he wants to run up the score for the sake of delegates. If Gingrich can dominate his old suburban stomping grounds as well as rural districts around the state he might do even better than Huckabee did last time, even if Romney does well with costal moderates and in the wealthiest zip codes of metro Atlanta.

Remember, 80 percent of Georgia’s delegates would be almost the same size as Ohio’s entire delegation.

The danger for Gingrich, though, is that if downscale exurban voters, rural evangelicals and Democrats (of both the sincere social conservative and mischief-making varieties (watch Clark County, home to the University of Georgia, for evidence of the latter)) keep it close in the upstate and central regions, Gingrich could walk away with a popular vote win but an unimpressive delegate count.

Counties to Watch

Cherokee

This fast-growing exurban county on Interstate 75/575 north of Atlanta was once part of Gingrich’s district, but is now in a new Atlanta exurban district. Cherokee has changed a lot since Gingrich took office 33 years ago. This was Huckabee’s closest encroachment on Atlanta in 2008, fueled by evangelical voters and a mindset closer to an industrial park than a corporate high rise. If Gingrich is winning here, it’s a good sign that he has tied together rural and suburban precincts.

Chatham

Savannah and Chatham County should be Romney country, as should be the whole coastal and islands region. Upscale, more moderate and with a fair number of northern transplants, Romney should be able to post some numbers here. If Romney is performing well Chatham, he might also be doing well in the toniest Atlanta suburbs in northern Fulton and DeKalb counties. That could be enough to pick up some delegates and, more importantly, narrow the margins between Gingrich and Santorum, ensuring nobody walks away a big winner from the former speaker’s former home state.

 


 

Ohio Republican Primary

66 delegates

48 are awarded from the state’s newly redrawn 16 congressional districts, three per district (winner take all)

15 are awarded to the winner of the statewide popular vote

Three statewide party officials (chairman and national committeeman and committeewoman) are automatic, unbound delegates

Open primary

Presidential preference plus congressional and local offices

1.05 million votes cast in 2008 (McCain 55%, Huckabee 32%, Paul 5%)

Polls close 7:30 pm EST

Full Super Tuesday Ohio coverage >>

Santorum Seeks Momentum More than Delegates

Ohio may not be the biggest delegate prize on Super Tuesday, but it is the most important test for the two GOP frontrunners, Rick Santorum and Mitt Romney.

Ohio’s Republicans tend to be of the moderate, Midwestern variety, with most living in the suburbs of the state’s three largest cities: Columbus, Cincinnati and Cleveland. The Buckeye State is, in many ways, the heart of mainstream Republicanism. Advantage: Romney.

But Ohio is also the heart of the Rust Belt and the birthplace, so long ago, of the Reagan Democrat. Ohio has a huge Catholic population, lots of Italian Americans, a strong sense of social conservatism, deep union ties and is next door to the similar precincts of Western Pennsylvania. Advantage: Santorum.

As far as delegates go, Romney has a huge advantage. Voters will technically be selecting individual delegates to the Republican National Convention when they express their presidential preference. Santorum failed to put forward delegates in three districts, making him automatically ineligible for nine delegates. Frustratingly for Santorum, two of the districts are in parts of the state most potentially favorable to him. Santorum failed to field full delegate slates in six other districts, potentially disqualifying him for nine additional delegates, including several more fertile fields for Santorum votes. Starting 18 delegates behind is not how any candidate wants to come into a race.

But that can all be fought over later, as Santorum is now doing over a Romney delegate in Michigan. The imperative for Santorum in Ohio today is to win the statewide popular vote. Not only does the winner get 15 delegates, but it would be proof that the steel-town former senator’s strategy for stopping Romney can work. It might break Romney’s gathering momentum and revive the preferred press narrative of Romney as a weak frontrunner.

But the risk is great, too. Other than Pennsylvania, no other large state should be as conducive to a Santorum win as Ohio. It’s demographically on target, in the backyard of his former home state and has an open primary allowing Democrats and independents, sincere and insincere alike, to some to his aid. After his loss in Michigan, if Santorum can’t win in Ohio, it would be hard for him to argue that there is a path forward for his candidacy.

Remember also that Romney enjoys one advantage in Ohio that he has not in other states. Unlike every contest before Super Tuesday, Ohio is also holding primary elections for state, congressional and local-level offices as well as some ballot initiatives. Romney might not motivate some voters to come out for a presidential preference vote, but if they’ve come to vote for other races, Republican loyalists might settle on Romney as good enough for their presidential vote.

Counties to Watch

Franklin

The heart of the four-county Columbus metro area, Franklin County is the mother lode of Republican votes in the state.

This is a growing region with expanding and affluent suburbs stemming from the multiple top-tier employers in the area: Ohio State University, state government, Nationwide Insurance, Wendy’s corporate headquarters and more.

Republicans here tend to be moderate suburbanites, some of whom may have voted on the Democratic side in the hotly contested 2008 primary. They will be back on the red team this year and can be expected to go for Romney. Romney should be doubling Santorum here and in adjacent Delaware and Fairfield counties in order to offset his opponent’s strongholds elsewhere.

This will be one of the main battleground counties in the fall and is one of President Obama’s preferred stops for campaign visits as he attempts again to woo the moderate suburbanites who were key to his 2008 coalition.

Mahoning

While Romney will likely score big among the Republicans of metro Cleveland, just as he did with Detroit’s upscale suburbs, the rest of Ohio’s industrial northwest provides the best opportunity for Santorum.

The Mahoning Valley (Youngstown and Warren) and the Upper Ohio Valley (Steubenville, Bellaire) and other industrial centers of the northeast (Akron and Canton) look an awful lot like the Pennsylvania district Santorum long represented. Like Santorum’s former home, Democrats may outnumber Republicans, but attitudes are deeply conservative, especially on social issues.

Mahoning County should be one of the very best spots in the state for Santorum since it is stocked with socially conservative Catholics and many of his fellow Italian Americans.

What to watch for in the region is turnout. In 2008, there were 12,186 Republican votes cast in Mahoning County, no doubt held down by voters weighing in for Hillary Clinton, who carried the county by a nearly two-to-one margin. If those voters are surging for Santorum, he might be able to offset Romney’s margins elsewhere.

Jackson

It is no coincidence that Newt Gingrich often refers to Andrew Jackson, the seventh president and the namesake for this town. Across much of the South and Appalachia, Jackson is still remembered for his defiant spirit and hostility to centralized power in Washington.

While Ohio is mostly Midwestern, the southern part of the state has a strong Appalachian spirit. For these voters, many of whom are of Scots-Irish and English extraction and are evangelical Protestants, Gingrich’s pitch may hold appeal.

Like Jackson County, much of the region is rural, with many residents commuting long distances to work in order to keep their homesteads here. Formerly Democratic and now staunchly Republican, this region has been a big part of moving Ohio to the right in recent decades.

With Santorum not qualified for delegates in the 6th Congressional District, which includes Jackson, and facing a shortfall in the neighboring 12th District, this region could be Gingrich’s best chance to poach some delegates in an otherwise difficult state.

Montgomery

Southwestern Ohio is the GOP homeland of Ohio. Cincinnati’s five-county metro area is one of the most solidly Republican parts of the state and the nation five Republican presidents were either born here or lived here, including Ulysses S. Grant and William Howard Taft.

While Cincinnati itself and its nearby suburbs should be good to Romney, thanks to a lot of corporate workers and highly-educated moms, Santorum has lot of opportunities just a few miles north on Interstate 75.

The outer suburbs of Cincinnati are about halfway between the Queen City and the more blue-collar city of Dayton in Hamilton County. While Cincinnati (Hamilton County) has by far the most Republican votes in the region, Santorum success in outlying factory towns like Mason and Sharonville could mean he comes out of the region a winner overall.

The vote in these communities tends to mirror what’s happening in Dayton more closely than it does in Cincinnati, so Montgomery is the county to watch for signs of a Santorum victory.

 


 

Tennessee Republican Primary

58 delegates

27 are awarded from the state’s current nine congressional districts, three per district (proportional among top three finishers per district unless one candidate wins more than 66%)

28 statewide delegates are awarded proportionally (20 percent threshold to qualify; more than 66% wins all statewide delegates)

Three statewide party officials (chairman and national committeeman and committeewoman) are automatic, unbound delegates

Open primary

Presidential preference only

553,815 million votes cast in 2008 (Huckabee 34%, McCain 32%, Romney 24%, Paul 6%)

Polls close 8 pm EST (Eastern counties including Knoxville and Chattanooga close at 7 pm EST. West)

Full Super Tuesday Tennessee coverage >>

Fight for the West

There are three distinct regions of Tennessee – Appalachian east, Cumberland central and Mississippi Delta west. And while the overall population of the state tilts east toward its largest city, Memphis, the highest concentrations of Republican voters are in the central and eastern thirds.

But in 2008, Mike Huckabee scored one of his most significant Super Tuesday wins by grabbing lots of votes from the Republicans who do live around Memphis and in the rest of the west.

That year, Mitt Romney swept through the Republican-heavy suburbs of Nashville in the central region and John McCain did well in the state’s staunchly Republican Tennessee Valley in the east between the Cumberland and Smokey Mountains. With them splitting the GOP’s geographic base, Huckabee slipped through for the win by scoring well in rural counties across the state and in the West where GOP voters are not only of a socially conservative bent but also very familiar with Huckabee from his years as governor of Arkansas, just across the Mississippi River.

While Newt Gingrich will do well in and around Chattanooga on the Georgia border, the state’s politics and geography suggest his southern strategy will have limited scope.

Though the rest of East Tennessee is very socially conservative and consistently Republican, there is a strong strain of moderation. Aside from Scots-Irish Presbyterian roots as abolitionists and unionists during the Civil War, the Knoxville Area has seen a lot of Yankees come to town in recent decades. The University of Tennessee and the Oak Ridge National Laboratories make for a more educated, more moderate electorate here. While Rick Santorum and Gingrich should do well west of town, the more densely populated parts should go to Romney.

Romney’s best part of the state should be in suburban Nashville, especially in the moneyed precincts toward Franklin in Williamson County. He did well here in 2008 and was usually fighting for moderate votes with McCain rather than conservative ones with Huckabee.

But Santorum can still do the job in Tennessee if he racks up big numbers out west. The question here is whether voters who share his socially conservative views will show the same enthusiasm they did for Huckabee for a candidate who is culturally different from them. If Gingrich eats into Santorum’s vote in the outlying counties around Memphis and Romney nabs enough Shelby County suburbanites it could be Santorum’s undoing.

Counties to Watch

Shelby

Memphis is definitely a Democratic place, but out of Shelby County’s nearly 1 million residents, there are bound to be some Republicans. About 50,000 participated in the 2008 GOP primary compared to about 100,000 on the Democratic side, but that still made it the second-largest GOP turnout in the state behind Knox County.

Potent social conservatism characteristic of the Mid-South Region (Johnny Cash and Elvis Presley didn’t sing gospel just because they liked the tunes) means that Republicans here don’t tend to be as moderate as other big-city GOPers. That should help Santorum. But voters have been repeatedly reminded of one particular Santorum Senate vote: for a bill to ease the unionization of FedEx, the flagship corporation of the city.

Rutherford

Part of Rutherford County looks west to Nashville while the other side looks to blue-collar Murfreesboro. These are the socially conservative, evangelical exurban voters that Rick Santorum has been courting across the country. In 2008, most of the Nashville metro area was a battle between McCain and Romney, but this was Huckabee’s best showing in the region. If Santorum can score with plant workers, exurban moms here, he could cut into Romney’s regional advantage and likely large numbers in Nashville/Davidson County.

Knox

While Knox County is the biggest cache of GOP votes in the state it has, in recent election cycles, been politically divided. The fast-growing Knoxville Metro area is the state’s truest GOP stronghold, and home to Gov. Bill Haslam. But Haslam, a moderate and early endorser of Romney, is reflective of the mellower mood among GOPers in this increasingly prosperous region where government entities, including the TVA, are a big part of their success. A big Romney win here would be the key to statewide victory. But if Santorum can keep it close in Knox, he can carry the Volunteer State.

 


 

Virginia Republican Primary

49 delegates

33 are awarded from the state’s 11 congressional districts, three per district (winner take all)

13 are awarded proportionately based on statewide vote share (15 percent threshold, winner-take-all above 50%)

Three statewide party officials (chairman and national committeeman and committeewoman) are automatic, unbound delegates

Open primary

Presidential preference only

489,252 votes cast in 2008 (McCain 50%, Huckabee 41%, Paul 5%)

Polls close 7 pm EST

Full Super Tuesday Virginia coverage >>

Binary Choice

There’s not much to get Virginia voters to the polls today. Only frontrunner Mitt Romney and fourth-place Ron Paul met the commonwealth’s stingy ballot-access requirements. There are no other races on the ballot and only Paul has campaigned here to any significant degree.

It’s possible that with so few voters, Paul’s committed supporters could pull off a surprise win in a congressional district or two thanks to youth and military support. But it’s hard to imagine that well-organized Romney wouldn’t win the statewide vote by a wide margin.

Counties to Watch

Albemarle

Ron Paul took 6 percent of the vote here in the home of the University of Virginia in 2008 by getting fewer than 400 voters to the polls. In an open primary with no Democratic race on the ballot, no other Not Romney options and Paul running better this year it’s hard to think that the Texas congressman wouldn’t improve on his showing from four years ago. A good performance here might help Paul pull off a win in the 5th Congressional district.

Hampton City

Paul outperformed his statewide vote share across the Tidewater region in 2008, thanks in part to the large numbers of colleges and universities (William & Mary, Old Dominion) in the area and Paul’s support among members of the military. Hampton, in Virginia’s 2nd Congressional District, is home to Langley Air Force Base and Hampton University. Watch for a possible Paul win here.

 


 

Oklahoma Republican Primary

40 delegates

15 are awarded from the state’s five congressional districts, three per district (over 50% wins all three of a district’s delegates, otherwise top three over 15% each get one)

25 are awarded proportionately based on statewide vote share (15 percent threshold, winner-take-all above 50%)

Three are given as a bonus to the state popular vote winner

Closed primary

Presidential preference only

335,054 votes cast in 2008 (McCain 37%, Huckabee 33%, Romney 23%, Paul 3%)

Polls close 8 pm EST

Full Super Tuesday Oklahoma coverage >>

Wide Open Spaces

In every contested Republican presidential primary since 1988, at least one contender has been from a neighboring state to Super Tuesday prize Oklahoma (George H.W. Bush, Bob Dole, George W. Bush and Mike Huckabee).

But there’s nothing like a regional favorite this year. Oklahoma isn’t really a Western state, where Mitt Romney does well. And it’s not really a Southern state, where Newt Gingrich does well. Oklahoma is really a Great Plains state and other than some hints from caucus straw polls in southern Minnesota and western Iowa, we haven’t heard much from Plains Republicans so far this year.

Rick Santorum’s success in early polls here can mostly be attributed to the fact that Oklahoma Republicans (and Democrats for that matter) are fierce social conservatives. The state has some of the toughest abortion laws in the country. That’s something they share in common with Plains voters in places like Western Iowa.

But Oklahoma is also a big-time energy state. Technology-driven booms in the production both oil and natural gas have been a deliverance for the state, where fields once thought played out have been returned to viability. It’s no accident that Santorum carries a piece of shale in his pocket when he’s on the stump. Oil and gas derived from shale deposits have been a boon for the state, both in local production and nationally through the energy firms headquartered there, like gas giant Chesapeake in Oklahoma City.

Romney, who finished third with a quarter of the vote four years ago, can hope that without John McCain drawing moderate votes, he can vastly improve his performance with business-minded Oklahomans. Remember, half of the state’s Republican votes are in energy-centric Oklahoma City and Tulsa.

Republicans dominate Oklahoma politics despite lagging Democrats in registration thanks to the conservative bent of the state’s independent voters. But those voters can’t participate in the presidential primary, which might make things a bit harder for Santorum

Counties to Watch

Oklahoma

Oklahoma City in Oklahoma County and its suburbs in neighboring Canadian and Cleveland counties represent the biggest pool of Republican votes in the state and have been with the statewide winner in every contest since Oklahoma joined Super Tuesday in 1988.

In 2008, the three-county region represented a third of the total statewide vote and John McCain’s double-digit win in Oklahoma County was key to his narrow statewide win. He won the county by more than 8,000 votes, but won the entire state by fewer than 11,000 votes.

Tulsa

There are few voters in the sparsely populated counties of eastern Oklahoma, except for Tulsa in the northwest corner of the state. Tulsa cherishes its roots as a rough-and-tumble haven for rig workers, wildcatters and honky tonk aficionados, but it is also one of the capitals of American Christendom as home to Oral Roberts University.

Santorum’s success will depend on a substantial here and even more impressive numbers in surrounding counties like Rogers, Osage, Wagoner, Okmulgee, Pawnee, and Creek.

 


 

Massachusetts Republican Primary

41 delegates

38 are awarded proportionately based on statewide vote share (15 percent threshold)

Three statewide party officials (chairman and national committeeman and committeewoman) are automatic, unbound delegates

Semi-closed primary (Republicans and independents)

Presidential preference only

500,550 votes cast in 2008 (Romney 51%, McCain 41%, Huckabee 4%, Paul 3%)

Polls close 8 pm EST

Full Super Tuesday Massachusetts coverage >>

Home is Where the Delegates Are

Mitt Romney should have no trouble in the Bay State, where he has lived for more than 25 years and served as governor from 2003 to 2007, and with delegates awarded on a statewide basis he needn’t even worry about any congressional districts being picked off.

But as he learned with his 10 point win in 2008, proportional delegate distribution can be a bugger. Despite getting skunked, John McCain still got 18 delegates to Romney’s 22. There’s been no reliable polling on the state, but Romney can be happy about how this year’s race has shaped up for Massachusetts voters.. McCain took his votes away from Romney mostly among the most moderate Republicans in and immediately around Boston. These are not likely Santorum or Gingrich votes.

If Romney can clear 60 percent of the vote and Santorum is the only other candidate over 15 percent, as seems likely, he might take 30 of 38 delegates.

Counties to Watch

Plymouth

This heavily Irish county on the south side of the Boston Metro area was one of the keys to Scott Brown’s 2010, especially in working-class Brockton. Watch for some protest votes against Romney from class-conscious and orthodox Catholic voters here.

 


 

Idaho Republican County Caucuses

32 delegates

All delegates awarded to the winners of the 44 county caucuses (winner take all by county); a candidate winning more than half of delegates at the county level is automatically awarded all of the state’s delegates

Semi-open binding caucus (voters can affiliate at the caucus site, delegates bound to winners)

Presidential preference only

First year for caucus

Polls close 10 pm EST

Full Super Tuesday Idaho coverage >>

Do the Math

Idaho is the reddest of Republican states thanks to conservatives of the libertarian, Western sort and a large Mormon population. And, like the contests in neighboring Washington, Nevada and Wyoming this year, should favor Mitt Romney. And there should be little market among non-Mormon libertarians for Rick Santorum’s emphasis on social issues.

But Idaho Republicans have settled on a complicated means of awarding delegates, which leaves the door open to Ron Paul and, to a lesser degree, Santorum, to claim a partial victory.

Each county will hold its own caucus with successive ballots until one candidate wins an outright majority (candidates receiving less than 15 percent are dropped from the next ballot). The county winner gets the county’s share of the state party’s overall delegation to the Republican National Convention (in case of county-level ties the remaining two candidates split the county’s share).

Quick: How many delegates is half of a .242 of share of 32 delegates? If Romney and Paul were to deadlock in Camas County (pop. 991), party leaders will need their slide rules.

In more populated parts of the state is should be more straightforward, acting, in essence, like a binding caucus. Unlike straw poll votes in places like Iowa, Maine and Minnesota, these votes directly affect delegate distribution.

This is the first time that Iowa has tried a caucus and its first time going so early in the primary process. There’s no precedent for turnout or any experience for the party in administering such a complex process, so it may take a long time to learn just who won what in Idaho.

Counties to Watch

Ada

Ada County, home to Boise, the state capitol and largest city, gets more than twice as many delegates than any other county in the state. Add in adjacent suburban Canyon County (including the city of Nampa; motto: What a Place to Live and Die) and you get almost a quarter of the state’s delegates.

Home to the state’s business community and many Mormons, this should be very good for Romney.

Kootenai

The northern panhandle of Idaho, anchored by Coeur d’Alene in Kootenai County, is oriented to Washington State more than southern Idaho. Kootenai County is really part of the Spokane metropolitan region, and the politics here reflect the orientation. The panhandle region is more moderate socially than the Mormon-dominated south, includes the University of Idaho in Moscow and is a favorite destination of the back-to-nature set. Sounds like Paul territory.

Romney fared well in Spokane’s caucus, but other, more rural parts of eastern Washington were good to Paul. If he’s going to get a taste of Idaho’s delegates, Paul needs to score in Kootenai and the rest of the Panhandle.

 


 

North Dakota Republican District Caucuses

28 delegates

All delegates awarded on a proportional, statewide basis

Open (open to GOP voters from 2010 general election and those who sign an affidavit pledging to do so in 2012)

Presidential preference only

--9,785 votes cast in 2008 (Romney 36%, McCain 23%, Paul 21%, Huckabee 20%)

Polls close 9 pm EST

Full Super Tuesday North Dakota coverage >>

Fracking for Votes

North Dakota has essentially a party-run primary, but it still calls itself a caucus. Voters may go to polling places in each of North Dakota’s 47 state legislative districts and cast secret ballots for their preferred candidates any time between 6:30 pm EST and 9 pm EST. State party rules then award North Dakota’s 28 RNC delegates on a proportional basis from the results of the vote. Delegates could go rouge in Tampa, but there would be a heavy price to pay back home for flouting party protocol.

Mitt Romney, Ron Paul and Rick Santorum have all visited the state and paid homage to its booming gas and oil sector. Romney is hoping to repeat his 2008 win and Paul stands a good chance of improving his showing, which netted him seven delegates and was among his best in the nation. Santorum has worked hard to replicate his success in next-door Minnesota’s non-binding caucus last month. He even visited the sparsely populated far-western oil fields in Tioga.

Because anyone may vote anywhere and results aren’t broken down by district, it’s hard to pinpoint geographic strong points for candidates, but given the state’s penchant for moderate, pro-business Republicanism in recent elections, Romney looks like a good bet for the top spot. The general rule is that the east is more moderate than the west, and the east has more people.

The interesting contest may be for second place between the yin and yang of the GOP: libertarian Paul and social conservative Santorum.

 


 

Alaska Republican District Conventions

27 delegates

24 delegates awarded on a proportional, statewide basis

Three statewide party officials (chairman and national committeeman and committeewoman) are automatic, unbound delegates

Semi-open caucus (voters may affiliate with GOP at caucus site)

Presidential preference only

--13,703 votes cast in 2008 (Romney 44%, Huckabee 22%, Paul 17%, McCain 16%)

Polls close Midnight EST

Full Super Tuesday Alaska coverage >>

Pleading for Palin Voters

Alaska’s district conventions are another election in disguise. Voters are welcome to cast ballots at party-run polling places in each of the Alaska’s 40 state legislative districts. They are encouraged to stay for the actual conventions to pick delegates for the state convention held in April, but don’t need to hang around for their votes to count.

Regardless of who goes to the state convention, the state’s national delegates are apportioned based on the results of the Super Tuesday vote.

Alaska Republicans are a famously conservative and independent-minded lot. Just consider the state’s most famous political export, former Gov. Sarah Palin. And it’s that spirit that the Republican contenders trying to catch frontrunner Mitt Romney will be appealing. Ron Paul’s campaign visit to the state suggests that he may be just the outsider these folks are looking for.

Counties to Watch

Matanuska-Susitna Borough

While Romney can expect to repeat his good showing in more populous precincts in Anchorage and down the panhandle in and around the state capital of Juneau, the Matanuska-Susitna Valley (known as the Mat-Su) just north of Anchorage is a potential storehouse of conservative, ant-establishment votes.

Along with Palin’s home turf of Wasilla the towns of Palmer and Talkeetna represent sort of an Alaska version of exurbs. They are on the road to remote Fairbanks sand sit in the shadow of Mt. McKinley, but are still close enough to the big city to allow for a commute (at least when the roads are open). It has been one of the fastest growing sections of the state.

If Santorum is going to contend for a big chunk of delegates, he will have to do well here. For Paul, who expects to score well in frigid Fairbanks, the Mat-Su represents his best chance to pick up votes around Anchorage.

 


 

Vermont Republican Primary

17 delegates

14 are awarded proportionately based on statewide vote share (20 percent threshold; winner takes all at 50% or more)

Three bonus delegates to the statewide winner

Open primary

Presidential preference only

--39,843 votes cast in 2008 (McCain 71%, Huckabee 14%, Paul 7%)

Polls close 7 pm EST

Full Super Tuesday Vermont coverage >>

Romney Ripple

Vermont, Rhode Island and Delaware, will take the smallest state delegations to the Republican National Convention. Vermont is tiny and overwhelmingly Democratic and therefore won’t carry much weight in Tampa – even less that the District of Columbia.

But in a race that could go down to the convention floor, any delegate is a delegate worth having. Unfortunately for Rick Santorum and Newt Gingrich, these aren’t delegates they can likely have.

Most of the votes here will be split between mainstream Republican Mitt Romney, the former governor of neighboring Massachusetts, and libertarian-minded Texas Rep. Ron Paul. In one of the most culturally permissive states in America and one that hasn’t gone for the GOP in a presidential election since 1988, Santorum and Gingrich look like they’re out of the running.

That would be good news for Paul, except that if Romney gets more than half the votes, he wins all the delegates.

Counties to Watch

Chittenden

Vermont’s most populous county, home to its largest city, Burlington, is enemy territory for Republicans. This is Ben & Jerry country and Howard Dean’s home county. But in an open primary with low turnout, that could mean that a core group of Ron Paul voters, especially from the multiple colleges in the region, could have an outsized effect on the result. If Paul is going to keep Romney under 50%, it would take a miracle, which would have to start in Burlington. But what better place for Democratic mischief makers to do their thing than among the hormone-free pastures and cooperative stores of Chittenden County?


Chris Stirewalt is digital politics editor for Fox News, and his POWER PLAY column appears Monday-Friday on FoxNews.com.

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