Super Tuesday has completely shifted the momentum of the Republican race for the party’s presidential nomination. In only 24 hours, Ariz. Sen. John McCain was catapulted into the lead with 680 total delegates, while Mass. Gov. Mitt Romney trailed in second with only 270 delegates. Ark. Gov. Mike Huckabee remains in the race with 176 total delegates to his name.
Closing remarks from all three candidates showed just how intense the race has become. Mitt Romney portrayed himself as the true conservative alternative to John McCain, attacking McCain for his moderate stances. Romney also expressed his belief that the two candidates were the only viable options for voters, and that Huckabee should withdraw from the race. John McCain fired back, accusing Romney of deliberately shifting his stances to a more conservative position for the presidential race to attract votes, contradicting his more moderate policies as governor.
Huckabee proved Romney wrong by winning the delegates from Arkansas, Georgia, Tennessee, Alabama and West Virginia. Unlike the Democrats, the Republican Party employs a winner-take-all system, meaning all Republican delegates from a state go to the candidate winning the most votes. This means Huckabee gained a substantial number of votes from these states. In his speech, Huckabee stated that he believes the results of Feb. 5 show he still has a fighting chance to secure the Republican presidential nomination, and he intends to stay in the race. His support has primarily come from Evangelicals and strong social conservatives, primarily in the South.
Romney launched various attack ads in the final days before Super Tuesday, even running a commercial in California criticizing Sen. Hillary Clinton’s ability to lead the nation. He also emphasized his ability to strengthen America’s economy in the face of increasing international competition and a looming recession. He feels his experience in the business world gives him the skills needed to lead, skills the other candidates lack. Despite Romney’s tactics and his optimism as a “true conservative alternative,” he performed more poorly than expected. The former governor took home delegates from Massachusetts, Utah, Minnesota, Alaska, Colorado, Montana and North Dakota. While Romney did win a great deal of states, each has a relatively small number of delegates. This huge setback has forced the campaign to rethink its tactics and message in the upcoming weeks.
The key word for John McCain is “momentum.” Gaining steam just before Super Tuesday helped propel the once-struggling candidate into the lead. McCain took home the delegates for New York, Arizona, New Jersey, California, Illinois, Oklahoma, Connecticut, Missouri and Delaware – the most of any Republican candidate this week. Now holding a triple-digit lead over his rivals, McCain is poised to clinch the nomination in the coming weeks. However, many on the right are unhappy with the results of Super Tuesday. Conservative talk show hosts such as Rush Limbaugh and Laura Ingraham have blasted McCain, calling him “too liberal” and believing that a McCain nomination will only split the party because of his disagreements with the strong conservative base of traditional Republicans. However, McCain responded by saying it has always been the job of a presidential nominee to unite all ends of the party. He has shifted his message to promote unity and restore trust in the federal government for Americans, as well as people around the world. Most importantly, McCain has sent the message that the American vote can never be bought. Despite being largely outspent by Romney, McCain has still managed to garner the support he needs to take home the majority of delegates. The senator hopes to carry his momentum from Tuesday into the upcoming contests to secure his nomination.
The Republican race has been a series of ups and downs, but it’s far from over. To secure the nomination, a Republican candidate needs to win 1,191 delegates. Though this past Tuesday has given McCain momentum, there are still over 1,200 delegates to be awarded in the coming months. Only time will tell who Conservative voters choose to take on the Democrats in November.