NPR Story
4:00 am
Tue March 6, 2012

Super Tuesday: 10 States Holding Nominating Contests

Originally published on Tue March 6, 2012 12:13 pm

Republican presidential candidates have a chance to win hundreds of convention delegates after voters cast their ballots in Super Tuesday contests. The delegate count wouldn't be enough for any candidate to clinch the nomination, but it would help. Mitt Romney is hoping to return to front-runner status but Rick Santorum, Newt Gingrich and Ron Paul are trying to prevent that.

Morning Edition has four reports on Monday's campaigning leading up to Super Tuesday's 10 primaries and caucuses.

NPR's Don Gonyea was traveling with former Senator Rick Santorum in Ohio.

NPR's Tamara Keith was on the road in Ohio with Mitt Romney's campaign.

Matt Shafer Powell of member station WUOT was with former House Speaker Newt Gingrich in Tennessee.

And, Sadie Babits of Boise State Public Radio was traveling with Rep. Ron Paul's campaign in Idaho.

Copyright 2014 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

Transcript

RENEE MONTAGNE, HOST:

It's MORNING EDITION, from NPR News. I'm Renee Montagne.

STEVE INSKEEP, HOST:

And I'm Steve Inskeep. Twenty-four hours from now, at about this time, we'll all be talking here, and we may be talking about a presidential race that looks different than it does today.

MONTAGNE: That's because 10 states vote today in what's known as Super Tuesday. Presidential candidates have a chance to win hundreds of the convention delegates who decide the nominations.

INSKEEP: It's not enough for anybody to clinch the nomination, not even the frontrunner, Mitt Romney.

MONTAGNE: It is enough for Romney to pile up a big lead if he does well. From Georgia to Ohio and beyond, his rivals are looking for strong showings that will keep them in the race.

INSKEEP: We're going to hear from each candidate now, starting with Rick Santorum. NPR's Don Gonyea was with him in Ohio.

DON GONYEA, BYLINE: First it was a Christian School just outside Dayton, then an American Legion hall in Westerville near Columbus, and finally, an evening event in Cuyahoga Falls.

Santorum grumbled about Mitt Romney and his backers outspending him by a huge amount in the state. He once had a big lead in Ohio, but now the race is too close to call. Santorum - fighting a cold and speaking through a shaky sound system - told supporters in Cuyahoga Falls last night that they need to send a message to the establishment.

(SOUNDBITE OF APPLAUSE)

(SOUNDBITE OF SPEECH)

RICK SANTORUM: It's gut-check time.

UNIDENTIFIED GROUP: Yeah.

SANTORUM: Who wants it the most? What do you say?

(SOUNDBITE OF CHEERS AND APPLAUSE)

GONYEA: Santorum needs to do well in Ohio today to regain momentum to demonstrate that he can win a big primary in a big, important state - something he's not yet done. So he focused yesterday on Romney and the area where he sees the former Massachusetts governor as most vulnerable, health care, and the imposition of a state mandate requiring people to buy insurance.

(SOUNDBITE OF SPEECH)

SANTORUM: When he was governor of Massachusetts, he imposed an individual mandate...

UNIDENTIFIED MAN: Right.

SANTORUM: ...on the people of Massachusetts.

GONYEA: And Santorum questioned Romney's honesty on the issue. Romney has always said the Massachusetts approach was never intended to be a model for a national health care law. But Santorum has been highlighting a 2009 opinion piece Romney wrote in USA Today, saying President Obama should learn from Massachusetts.

(SOUNDBITE OF SPEECH)

SANTORUM: Michigan, New Hampshire, Iowa, South Carolina - he went all over, saying, no. I never encouraged anybody in Washington, D.C. to adopt an individual mandate at the federal level. I'm against that - except we found out over the last three days that, in fact, that's exactly what he did.

GONYEA: Though Romney never does say in that USA Today piece the president should adopt a mandate. And his tone in the piece is critical of the White House approach to health care.

Santorum's campaign has been slumping in recent weeks, feeling the combined effects of too little money and an organization with big shortcomings. On the final day in Ohio, he was on the attack, hoping for a new bounce.

Don Gonyea, NPR News, Cuyahoga Falls.

TAMARA KEITH, BYLINE: And I'm Tamara Keith in Columbus, traveling with the Romney campaign. Health care wasn't on the agenda for the former Massachusetts governor yesterday. His focus, as it often is, was on the economy. But at a town hall-style event, two different supporters brought it up.

(SOUNDBITE OF TOWN HALL EVENT)

UNIDENTIFIED WOMAN: I want to know how I can answer to the doubters about the differences between Romneycare and Obamacare.

UNIDENTIFIED WOMAN #2: I need an emphatic yes from you that you will repeal Obamacare.

MITT ROMNEY: Why would I not?

KEITH: And in a response that could've been directed at the criticism from Santorum, he insisted he never intended for a Massachusetts-style health care plan to go national.

ROMNEY: Very early on, we were asked: Is what you've done in Massachusetts something you'd have the entire government do - the federal government do? I said no, from the very beginning. No.

KEITH: Romney has invested heavily in trying to win Ohio. It was his fourth day campaigning here in less than a week.

(SOUNDBITE OF CAMPAIGN RALLY)

UNIDENTIFIED MAN: I would now like us to give a warm Canton, Ohio welcome to the next president and first lady of the United States, Mitt and Ann Romney. So let's give them a warm, Youngstown welcome - Mitt Romney.

(SOUNDBITE OF CHEERS AND APPLAUSE)

(SOUNDBITE OF CAMPAIGN RALLY)

ROMNEY: I'll tell you, we have been all over the state, from A to Z, all right, Akron to Zanesville. We're happy to be here.

KEITH: Last night, he came as close as he's come to predicting victory.

(SOUNDBITE OF CAMPAIGN RALLY)

ROMNEY: Look, if you do your job tomorrow, we're going to win this thing.

(SOUNDBITE OF CHEERS AND APPLAUSE)

KEITH: But a campaign strategist says it's about delegates rather than state wins, saying that's how Romney will wrap up the nomination.

In his prepared remarks, Romney turned most of his attention to the general election and didn't mention any of his primary opponents by name.

ROMNEY: I will focus this campaign on President Obama's failure to lead on the economy and his failure to lead on shrinking the size of the government. This will be a campaign about more jobs and less debt and smaller government.

KEITH: Romney is betting big that his economic message will resonate with voters.

Tamara Keith, NPR News, Columbus.

MATT SHAFER POWELL, BYLINE: I'm Matt Shafer Powell in Knoxville, Tennessee.

With a victory in Georgia looking almost certain, Newt Gingrich spent Monday campaigning across the border in Tennessee, and it's not hard to see why. Rick Santorum's once-commanding lead over Gingrich and Romney in Tennessee has all but evaporated in just one week.

HEATHER JOHNSON: I've listened at all the candidates. I've looked at their positions, and Gingrich just represents how I feel the best.

POWELL: Heather Johnson was one of hundreds of Tennesseans who turned out at a Gingrich rally in Knoxville on Monday. She'd already voted early for Gingrich and was there simply to show support. Ken Daniel, on the other hand, was waiting until Super Tuesday to cast his ballot. And while he was leaning toward Gingrich, he hadn't completely made up his mind yet.

KEN DANIEL: I don't think there's a lot he could say that would make me want to vote for someone else. But there is a few things he could say that would make me for sure want to vote for him, gasoline prices being number one.

POWELL: And Daniel wasn't disappointed. In fact, a good portion of Gingrich's speech focused on his promise to bring down the price of gas to $2.50 a gallon.

(SOUNDBITE OF SPEECH)

NEWT GINGRICH: I think it is totally reasonable to suggest that we can get to 2.50 a gallon for gasoline. And the reason I think that is - it's supply and demand. If we go out and we decide to produce a lot more oil, we are going to bring down the cost.

POWELL: Gingrich's idea is to find that oil right here in the U.S. He says it's a strategy that will bring down the price of gas and release the U.S. from its dependence on the Middle East.

(SOUNDBITE OF SPEECH)

GINGRICH: So, let's have a new American strategy for the Middle East called make enough oil here at home and enough natural gas here at home to tell them they have a problem, because we don't care.

(SOUNDBITE OF APPLAUSE)

POWELL: That drill-now message is a common theme for Gingrich, and it's one he says he'd like to challenge President Obama with in November. Today's contests here in Tennessee and elsewhere may determine whether he'll ever have the chance. For NPR News, I'm Matt Shafer Powell in Knoxville.

SADIE BABITS, BYLINE: And I'm Sadie Babits in Idaho, where Republican presidential hopeful Ron Paul has spent the last 24 hours campaigning around the state. The Texas congressman made four stops Monday, beginning the day with a tour of an aircraft manufacturing facility in the North Idaho town of Sandpoint. Paul then held a town hall meeting at the fairgrounds for more than a thousand people packed into an exhibition hall to hear him.

(SOUNDBITE OF TOWN HALL MEETING)

RON PAUL: It makes me feel good to see the enthusiasm in what some people might call a small town, but a very important town for the cause of liberty. It's great to see everybody out here. Wow.

BABITS: Paul wasted no time getting at his trademark issues. He stressed the importance of upholding the Constitution, which he argues was meant to keep the federal government small. And he pledged that in his first year in office, he'd cut a trillion dollars in government spending.

(SOUNDBITE OF TOWN HALL MEETING)

PAUL: If you cut a trillion dollars out of the government spending, guess what? The people get to spend the trillion dollars, not the government.

BABITS: Paul brought a similar message to more than 2,100 supporters gathered in Moscow, south of Sandpoint, later in the day. Sheena Bengford drove up from the nearby town of Clarkston to hear Paul.

SHEENA BENGFORD: He has a lot of great ideas for the American people, and it's actually for the people, versus for big money.

BABITS: Bengford, who works at a veterinary clinic, said Paul's message resonates with her.

BENGFORD: Because I feel like we're told that we have a lot of freedom and choice, but we're very guided in which way that we are supposed to go about our lives, and we should have that freedom.

BABITS: Analysts believe that Paul's closest competitor in the state is Mitt Romney, who's expected to get a large share of Idaho's Mormon population. But Paul announced on Monday that he'd been endorsed by several distant relatives of Romney. They include Spokane, Washington chiropractor Travis Romney and University of Utah student Troy Romney. Both Romney relatives will speak on Paul's behalf at caucus sites in Idaho tonight. For NPR News, I'm Sadie Babits.

(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC)

INSKEEP: We also heard Matt Shafer Powell, Don Gonyea and Tamara Keith with the candidates right here on MORNING EDITION, from NPR News. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

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