By DARLENE SUPERVILLE
WASHINGTON - A political tip sheet for the rest of us outside the Washington Beltway.
SUPER TUESDAY: How "super" will it be? With only 10 states voting, Super Tuesday is half the size it was four years ago but nevertheless will dole out one-third of the delegates a candidate needs to win the Republican presidential nomination - 419 when the voting is done. But the day's voting probably won't settle the unsettled GOP race. Yes, Newt Gingrich could be pushed closer to ending his up-and-down campaign. Ron Paul could earn more credibility. But it won't be easy for either of the top two contenders, Mitt Romney or Rick Santorum, to score a decisive advantage because the delegates are handed out bit by bit.
WHERE THE VOTES ARE: Alaska, Idaho and North Dakota hold precinct caucuses. Georgia, Massachusetts, Ohio, Oklahoma, Tennessee, Vermont and Virginia hold primaries. Santorum failed to qualify for the ballot in some congressional districts in Ohio. He's been campaigning hard to win there, but that omission will almost certainly affect his overall delegate haul. Santorum and Newt Gingrich also aren't on the statewide ballot in Virginia. Both failed to qualify. That leaves Romney and Paul alone to divvy up the commonwealth's 46 delegates. Gingrich says he must do well in Georgia, the state he's most closely identified with after representing it in Congress for two decades. The state has 76 delegates up for grabs, the biggest delegate cache of the night. Romney, a former Massachusetts governor, has virtually no competition on his home turf in that state, with 38 delegates, and little in Vermont, with 17 more.
HOW LONG WILL IT TAKE: Stock up for a long night. Polls in Georgia, Virginia and Vermont close at 7 p.m. EST, in Ohio at 7:30 p.m. EST and in Massachusetts, Tennessee and Oklahoma at 8 p.m. EST. Caucuses in North Dakota get under way at 6:30 p.m. and 7:30 p.m. EST, in Alaska at 8 p.m. EST and in Idaho at 9 p.m. and 10 p.m. EST.
DON'T SHUT OUT OBAMA: President Barack Obama will attempt to avoid being left out of the Super Tuesday news cycle by holding a news conference at the White House as voters head to the polls or their caucus sites. White House spokesman Jay Carney took to Twitter to announce what will be Obama's first full-scale news conference of the year. When Michigan held its primary last week, Obama went before a United Auto Workers audience in Washington to tout his decision to extend a federal bailout of the then-ailing Detroit-based, U.S. auto industry.
SUPER TUESDAY-CONGRESS: Veteran Democratic Ohio Reps. Dennis Kucinich and Marcy Kaptur have been friends for years and House members for multiple terms - eight for Kucinich and 15 terms for Kaptur - but they now are locked in a bruising fight for political survival that has been anything but friendly. Their showdown will be decided on Tuesday, the beginning of a series of 11 primary contests in the coming months - seven involving Democrats and four involving Republicans - that are expected to pit House incumbents, and friends, against each other due to the once-a-decade redrawing of congressional districts. Kaptur has tried to link Kucinich to a former Cuyahoga County commissioner facing bribery and racketeering charges. Kucinich has complained about Kaptur's "character assassination" while blasting her in a campaign ad for accepting campaign contributions from defense contractors.
NON 'SUPER TUESDAY' NEWS:
BIRTH CONTROL POLITICS: A rarely contrite Rush Limbaugh apologized, this time on air, for calling a Georgetown University law student a "slut." "I should not have used the language I did, and it was wrong," he said. The student, Sandra Fluke, meanwhile said an earlier written apology from Limbaugh did nothing to change the corrosive tone of the debate over health care insurance coverage of contraceptives. Fluke also said the public has to decide for itself whether to continue to support companies that advertise on Limbaugh's program. Several advertisers, including AOL and Allstate, announced Monday that they will no longer sponsor the program.
By winning GOP presidential caucuses Saturday in Washington state, Mitt Romney added substantially to his lead in the contest to win delegates to the Republican Party convention in late August in Tampa, Fla. Yes, winning primaries and caucuses is important, but racking up convention delegates is even more important. After all, it's the delegates who vote for the nominee. A minimum of 1,144 delegates are needed to win the nomination.
The latest delegate totals heading into Super Tuesday:
- Romney: 203
- Santorum: 92
- Gingrich: 33
- Paul: 25
THEY SAID IT:
- "Other people in this race have debated about the economy, they've read about the economy, they've talked about it in subcommittee hearings. But I've actually been in it. I've worked in business, and I understand what it takes to get a business successful and to thrive." - Romney.
- "Money is not going to buy this election. The best ideas and believing in the American people is going to win this election." - Santorum.
- "Whether someone is a Catholic or a Jew or an evangelical Christian, everyone should vote for liberty." - Paul.