(CNN) — It’s not as super as it has been in previous elections with more states involved, but 10 states have their say Tuesday in one of the most volatile Republican presidential races in generations.
Here are three things to watch for:
Romney’s big day. He’s been the off-and-on frontrunner throughout the race, but a big Super Tuesday could begin an end game toward a sometimes hesitant base coalescing behind former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney.
Romney should win his home state of Massachusetts, neighboring Vermont and Virginia, where he and Ron Paul are the only two candidates on the ballot. His campaign thinks he can win in Idaho with its heavy Mormon population and possibly in North Dakota. That leaves Ohio and Tennessee, where polls show former Pennsylvania Sen. Rick Santorum leading just a week ago.
If Romney can win in Ohio, a bellwether for the general election, and Tennessee, which would help dispel the notion that he can’t win in the South, it would be a big boost in overcoming a balky base and propel him to a huge lead in the delegate race.
Turnout. It’s the biggest dance yet for Republicans, so the number of people who show up at the polls could be an indication of how energized Republicans are now and what that might mean for the fall.
While there have been spikes in turnout in some states — South Carolina was energized to turn out a win for Newt Gingrich in January that helped blunt Romney’s early momentum — overall it’s down nearly 10% from 2008.
There are many factors that influence turnout — local races on the same ballot, weather, polling that suggests the outcome is a foregone conclusion. Watch states such as Ohio and Tennessee for a better indication of how energized Republicans are.
Anyone leaving the race? No.
Even if Romney doesn’t win in Ohio and/or Tennessee, he’ll be able to take the podium tonight and point to wins in other states. Expect Santorum to also declare victory and emphasize that he was outspent by Romney in the states he lost to him.
Newt Gingrich will get a big win in Georgia, which he represented in the House of Representatives, and is already looking ahead to next week’s contests in Alabama and Mississippi to keep his campaign going.
And Ron Paul could finally win his first contest of the 2012 battle for the Republican nomination in one of the caucus states. Even if he doesn’t score a victory, he’ll pick up some delegates, and his passionate core following and low-budget campaign will keep him in the race as long as he wants.