Super Tuesday could muddle the water for Republicans

UNDATED (CNN) -- It's a key day on America's political calendar. But this year, could Super Tuesday be something less than super? Republicans and their presidential candidates could still be struggling long after today's contest.

For months Republicans in state after state hold primary elections or caucuses culminating at a national convention in August when the party officially selects the candidate who will take on President Barack Obama in November's 'general' election.

The Super Tuesday contests have traditionally given candidates a much-needed boost, or knocked them out of the race. But this year, Super Tuesday has fewer than half as many states as 2008, the last time Republicans chose a candidate.

So the results aren't expected to be nearly as dramatic or decisive. Journalist Dan Rather covered politics for 40 years. He says, "It will not mean that the nominating process is over. Far from it. I still believe this will go deep into may and maybe through the early part of June."

Still it's a big battle and a few states are key. The latest Ohio poll shows challenger Rick Santorum in a neck-and-neck race against front-runner Mitt Romney. Another candidate is looking in a different direction. Newt Gingrich says, "I have to win Georgia, I think, to be credible in the race."

Third-place challenger Newt Gingrich is hoping to revive his campaign in the conservative South by winning his home state which has the most delegates, 76, up for grabs today. Patricia Murphy, founder of Citizen Jane Politics, says, "But he also needs to show some strength in other states. you can't just win in your own backyard and say, okay, great, now I'm ready to be the President. "

If Gingrich wins Georgia and picks up delegates in other states too, it will only add to the muddle many Republicans expect. Romney can likely count on Massachusetts where he was governor, and neighboring Vermont, plus add an easy win in Virginia where Santorum and Gingrich didn't collect enough supporters' signatures to get their names on the ballots.

Santorum is expected to do well in Oklahoma and Tennessee. Ron Paul is predicting he will win too, in North Dakota, Alaska and Idaho.

The first time Mitt Romney ran for president four years ago, he had to drop out after Super Tuesday. This time, we could see all four of the major candidates continue, no matter what the outcome. After Supet Tuesday, get ready for a long slog.


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