In most of the Republican Presidential nominating contests in recent memory, the cluster of states voting on Super Tuesday have provided the knockout blow.
With the early voting states of Iowa, New Hampshire and South Carolina setting the stage, Super Tuesday, usually held in February or early March, is the first day in which a large number of states vote simultaneously.
Victory in that kind of a contest is considered a crucial test of the various campaigns' resources and organization for the general election and has usually resulted in most challengers dropping out of the race to provide a unified front behind the victor.
That result, however, seems unlikely from the 2012 Super Tuesday results.
For while former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney scored key wins in Ohio, Virginia, Idaho, Alaska, Vermont and Massachusetts, his emerging chief rival former Pennsylvania Sen. Rick Santorum also racked up victories in a number of states - Tennessee, Oklahoma and North Dakota. Former House Speaker Newt Gingrich also claimed victory in his home state of Georgia.
Romney's rivals will likely dismiss his victories in Vermont and Massachusetts as due to Romney's home field advantage and note that Virginia can't be considered a true contest as neither Santorum nor Gingrich appeared on the ballot there - though the failure to raise enough signatures to qualify could be cast as a decisive organizational failure.
But with his victory in Ohio, snatched with a barrage of late advertising and campaigning in the state, where Santorum held at-times wide leads in the polls, Romney has once again shown signs of pulling away from his insurgent rivals.
In one example of that, Romney has, by some calculations, won 404 of the 1,144 delegates needed to clinch the nomination. Santorum, his nearest rival, has 161 and Gingrich 105.
The news from Ohio is not all bleak for Santorum, who campaigned extensively in the state hoping that a victory there would establish him as a clear and viable - and more conservative - alternative to Romney.
Because, while Romney could claim victory with 37.9 percent of the vote, Santorum was extremely close behind with 37.1 percent.
But Santorum still faces a twin challenge in establishing himself as the only conservative alternative to Romney - Gingrich and the nominating calendar, which puts the next major contests in Kansas, Alabama and Mississippi, southern states where Gingrich has been perceived to have an advantage.
Should Gingrich's perceived strengths in the South prove accurate, his volatile campaign could potentially see yet another surge - and it should be noted that Republican National Committee nominating rules weight extra convention delegates to states that have a record of voting Republican in the general election so victories in the South may prove more valuable than initially perceived.
Even if Gingrich is unable to pull off a Southern Strategy to revive his campaign, it seems clear that neither Santorum nor Gingrich is willing to cede the field and line up behind Romney - at least not yet.
So it remains to be seen which, if either, can build their campaigns into the kind of electoral machine needed to compete against Romney's fundraising and organizational advantages in what will likely prove to be the most drawn out GOP Presidential primary seasons in recent memory.
by RTT Staff Writer
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