THE MORNING LINE -- March 6, 2012 at 8:56 AM EDT
Super Tuesday Stakes: 424 Delegates in 11 States
Mitt Romney greets supporters at a town hall event in Dayton, Ohio. Photo by Terence Burlij/PBS NewsHour.
Super Tuesday is finally here.
Up for grabs are 424 delegates in 11 states: Alaska, Georgia, Idaho, Massachusetts, North Dakota, Ohio, Oklahoma, Tennessee, Wyoming, Vermont and Virginia.
While Georgia has the most delegates at stake with 76, all eyes are on the general election battleground of Ohio (and its 63 delegates), where former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney and former Pennsylvania Sen. Rick Santorum both campaigned Monday.
A torrent of late polls released Monday in the Buckeye State all returned similar results: Romney and Santorum are locked in a dead heat, but the momentum appears to have shifted in favor of Romney. A similar trend happened in last month's Michigan primary, where early polls put Santorum far ahead, but Romney closed the gap in the final days of the campaign.
Former House Speaker Newt Gingrich has kept his focus mainly on states in the South and proclaimed that Georgia, the state he represented in Congress, is a must-win for his campaign to continue.
Texas Rep. Ron Paul, meanwhile, has targeted caucus states, such as Alaska, Idaho and North Dakota, and he is hoping one of them give his campaign its first win.
The GOP race is likely press on after Tuesday even if Romney has a strong showing, as the delegate front-runner will still be a ways off from the 1,144 needed to clinch the nomination.
Here is the Associated Press' tally of delegates already won, including pledged super delegates who have announced their support for a candidate.
And here is your handy cheat sheet for the evening:
The first wave of poll closings will come at 7 p.m. ET in Georgia, Vermont and Virginia. Only Romney and Paul qualified for the ballot in Virginia.
Ohio polls close at 7:30 p.m. ET.
At 8 p.m. ET, polls will close in Massachusetts, Oklahoma and Tennessee.
North Dakota caucuses begin at 5:30 p.m. and end at 8 p.m. local time. Most caucus locations are in the Central time zone, but a handful of sites in the southwestern part of the state are in Mountain time.
Caucuses begin in Idaho at 9 p.m. and 10 p.m. ET, and in Alaska at midnight ET.
Wyoming Republicans will begin selecting delegates at county conventions Tuesday, but those results won't be complete until the conventions conclude Saturday.
Follow along in our Vote 2012 Map Center all night long. We'll also have live streaming of the NewsHour, candidate speeches and more on our home page. Finally, watch the Election Special at 11 p.m. and then join Christina and Hari Sreenivasan online for NewsHour After Hours starting at 11:45 p.m.
EYES ON OHIO
On Monday's NewsHour, Judy Woodruff (@judywoodruff) took a look at Ohio's economy and talked with the types of voters who will be critical in Tuesday's contest. There are bright signs in the manufacturing industry, she found, but business owners like Dave Dysinger are feeling uneasy that it will keep up.
"I'm very concerned about what's going on politically. I'm not sure what the economy is going to do, especially as we come through the election cycle," he told Judy in Dayton.
Watch her piece here or below:
Team NewsHour's work from Ohio is showcased here.
And don't miss the Political Checklist. Christina may or may not have presented Gwen Ifill and Judy with the delicious buckeyes Terence brought back from Ohio. You can watch here or below:
On the trail Monday, Santorum appeared to mock Romney for his focus on his business background, saying he can do more than the front-runner. He said the nation needs "someone who's got a principled record, someone who is willing to go out and talk about all the issues that are confronting this country, all of the issues, not just how we're going to manage the economy better."
Watch that report here.
LASERS SET TO DESTROY
Both the Obama campaign and Democratic National Committee are going after Romney Tuesday.
Stephanie Cutter, the deputy campaign manager in Chicago, wrote a memo blasting Romney's record in Massachusetts as Bay State voters head to the polls.
(The campaign has also been emailing Massachusetts residents to urge them to vote for Mr. Obama in Tuesday's primary even though he faces no real challenge.)
Cutter wrote that Romney's "empty" promises on the trail today are similar to what he pledged when running for governor:
Ten years ago, Romney pledged to be the top salesman for Massachusetts to bring jobs to the state and used platitudes to describe how he'd cut budget deficits. What happened next? In some ways, Romney's predictions that his public-sector record would match the one he compiled in the private sector became true - but in all the wrong ways. At Bain Capital, Romney made millions by closing plants, laying off workers and shipping their jobs overseas. As Governor, Romney's Massachusetts was 47th out of 50 in job creation. At Bain Capital, Romney ran companies into debt and bankruptcy. As Governor, Romney ran up debt in Massachusetts, even as he raised taxes and fees on middle-class families and businesses....
Today, Romney is hitting the "repeat" button. He is making the same case to America that he made to Massachusetts a decade ago. He is promising to grow jobs and shrink deficits, even though his past record fails to support his ability to do so. What's worse is that his current policy promises run counter to these goals.
The rest of the memo contrasted Romney's record with current Democratic Gov. Deval Patrick's and suggested that Romney's economic plan would hurt the middle class. Cutter concluded, "Past is prologue, and Americans can learn a lot from Romney's record in Massachusetts."
DNC executive director Patrick Gaspard also knocked Romney in a memo Tuesday, focusing on the elections held around the country and suggesting he can't win a general election.
Gaspard writes about the numbers in the NBC/Wall Street Journal poll the Morning Line noted Monday, suggesting "damage" has been done to the GOP thanks to the long primary. He wrote:
When asked to describe the Republican contests in a word or phrase, respondents offered such choice answers as "painful," "lesser of two evils," "uninspiring," "poor choices" and "depressed."
But Mitt Romney ought to be more worried than anybody. Results of the new poll show Romney's favorability rating has dropped to an anemic 28 percent, with 39 percent having an unfavorable impression of Romney. He's faring even worse among independent voters, with just 22 percent having a favorable impression of Romney while 38 percent view him unfavorably. What might cause such a strong unfavorable view of Mitt Romney in the last few weeks? Perhaps it's the fact that he's running an almost entirely negative campaign; or, that he's pandering to the far right and in the process demonstrating that no one can trust him; it may also be attributed to his being incredibly out of touch.
Gaspard offered up a line voters can expect to hear many times for the next eight months: "Mitt Romney will say anything to get elected." He also suggested Romney has taken "extreme" positions during the primary.
"While Super Tuesday represents a pivotal moment in the race for the Republican nomination, tonight is hardly the end of the battle for Mitt Romney," Gaspard concluded. "And while he may find himself on top in any number of contests this evening, make no mistake: with the millions upon millions in outspending his opponents and the laundry list of extreme, out-of-touch positions that have characterized Romney's campaign since day one, Mitt Romney will emerge from Super Tuesday badly wounded among general election voters -- and tonight will be anything but a victory lap."
The pro-Obama super PAC Priorities USA also joined in the Romney pile on, drawing attention to the Republican's support among high-wage earners. Bill Burton writes:
While Romney seems likely to limp to the Republican nomination with this monopoly on the wealthiest voters, he will enter the general election as a millionaire whose nomination was ensured by millionaires after he promised policies to benefit millionaires.
2012 LINE ITEMS
Former President Bill Clinton will join President Obama for a series of fundraisers in the coming months in Chicago, New York and Los Angeles, reports Jeffrey McCracken and Hans Nichols of Bloomberg News.
Former first lady Barbara Bush weighs in on the 2012 presidential race, calling it "the worst campaign I've ever seen in my life," reports the Dallas Morning News.
A Fox News Latino poll released Tuesday showed the Republican presidential candidates losing ground to President Obama among Latinos. None of the contenders takes more than 14 percent from Latino voters in a hypothetical general election match-up against the president.
Asked Monday about criticism that her husband has trouble connecting with average voters, Ann Romney said that she does not consider herself wealthy. Mrs. Romney's response came as she talked about her struggles with multiple sclerosis. "We can be poor in spirit, and I don't even consider myself wealthy, which is an interesting thing," she said. "It can be here today and gone tomorrow."
Karen Santorum, meanwhile, sat down for an interview with Jan Crawford of CBS News and defended her husband on women's issues.
Politico's Manu Raju reports that Sen. Joe Lieberman, I-Conn., might be willing to back a third-party candidate if one decides to run in the upcoming presidential election.
For this Super Tuesday, the NewsHour collected the most recent tweet sent out by each presidential hopeful's feed. In Gingrich's case, that was a retweet of a photo that his wife, Callista, sent out following a campaign rally.
.@BarackObama again playing the politics of class warfare while proposing large tax increases. I will cut tax rates for all Americans.— Mitt Romney (@MittRomney) March 6, 2012
Our country was founded on idea of God-given rights, not govt-given rights. We need leader who holds this as core belief.— Rick Santorum (@RickSantorum) March 6, 2012
OUTSIDE THE LINES
Rep. Donald Payne, the former chairman of Congressional Black Caucus and New Jersey's first black congressman, died Tuesday at age 77 after a battle with colon cancer.
Roll Call's Shira Toeplitz looks at the 13 member vs. member primaries this cycle, including Tuesday's headliner between Reps. Marcy Kaptur and Dennis Kucinich in Ohio.
In other member vs. member primary news, the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette's Timothy McNulty reports that a commonwealth court judge in Pennsylvania rejected a challenge to Democratic Rep. Jason Altmire's nominating petitions. Altmire squares off against fellow Democratic Rep. Mark Critz in an April primary.
Watch the NewsHour's report on the president's meeting with Netanyahu.
Former independent Gov. Angus King announced Monday he would run for the open U.S. Senate seat in Maine being vacated by moderate Republican Olympia Snowe. http://articles.boston.com/2012-03-05/news/311248551independent-voters-republican-
Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., called for U.S.-led airstrikes in Syria against President Bashar al-Assad's forces to protect key population centers, reports Yahoo News.
Christina is moderating a panel at South by Southwest in Austin this weekend. Here are the details, tell all your friends.
ON THE TRAIL
All events are listed in Eastern Time.
President Obama holds a news conference at the White House at 1:15 p.m. and a fundraiser in Washington at 5:30 p.m.
Newt Gingrich delivers remarks in Duluth, Ga., at 8:30 a.m., addresses AIPAC via satellite at 10:10 a.m., holds a rally in Huntsville, Ala., at 1:30 p.m. and attends an election night rally in Atlanta beginning at 7:30 p.m.
Rick Santorum addresses AIPAC in Washington, D.C., at 8:45 a.m. and holds an election night rally in Steubenville, Ohio, beginning at 8 p.m.
Mitt Romney addresses AIPAC at 9:20 a.m. via satellite, votes in the Massachusetts primary at 5:15 p.m. and holds an election night event in Boston beginning at 8 p.m.
Ron Paul holds a town hall in Nampa, Idaho, at 2 p.m. and addresses caucus-goers in Fargo, N.D., at 6:30 p.m.
All future events can be found on our Political Calendar:
For more political coverage, visit our politics page.
Sign up here to receive the Morning Line in your inbox every morning.
Questions or comments? Email Christina Bellantoni at cbellantoni-at-newshour-dot-org.
Join PBS NewsHour's live coverage of Super Tuesday from 6 p.m. ET to 12:30 a.m. ET here