5 Things to Watch on Super Tuesday

BY Gwen Ifill  March 6, 2012 at 9:36 AM EST

At the end of a long evening of introductions and speeches, President Bill Clinton liked to say that everything had been said but everyone had not yet said it.

If you follow politics, you already may have read all the pregame analysis you can stand in advance of the pivotal Super Tuesday primaries.

What? You say you haven’t? Then please allow me.

1. How weak or strong will Mitt Romney be on Wednesday morning?

It’s hard to see a scenario in which the former Massachusetts governor will not still be the front-runner. But polls show he has been significantly weakened by the battles of the winter primaries. Losing Ohio and any other key state — say Tennessee — would raise old questions again for Republicans who have taken their sweet time settling on Romney.

2. What is Rick Santorum’s path come Wednesday morning?

If he holds on to what polls show is an ever-narrowing lead in Ohio and ekes out a Tuesday night Buckeye win, there will be every reason for him to fight on. It will look even better if he can surprise with a victory in another state. But if Santorum can’t win in some place on Tuesday, even a new infusion of super PAC money won’t keep him from losing the vital free media coverage he needs to keep him in the public eye as the race moves on.

3. Newt Gingrich has said he is not credible if he does not win his home state of Georgia. The question Wednesday morning: Will Gingrich be credible as a likely nominee even if he does?

The Romney campaign has demonstrated a ruthless facility for crushing political threats. But without any debates on the horizon, any front-runner will want to turn his attention to defeating President Obama rather than engaging in extended intra-party competition. Plus, if Gingrich continues to appeal to the same people who support Santorum, Romney benefits from the divided house.

4. How vigorously will President Obama try to use his White House bully pulpit to stomp on the GOP’s big day?

Much as he did when he delivered a full-throated, campaign-style speech to the United Auto Workers while Republicans were voting last week, the president will command the cable airwaves Tuesday afternoon in a full-bore news conference. He doesn’t have to talk politics to snatch a piece of the story while voters are dutifully heading to the polls.

5. Will Republicans begin to coalesce around a winner?

If Romney wins everywhere but, say, Georgia, will the grumbling stop? Or will he have to start buying ad time in Illinois, Alabama and Mississippi? (I’m hearing he already has.) Or maybe Hawaii? That looks like a race that needs covering. Me! Me!

Gwen’s Take is cross-posted with the website of Washington Week, which airs Friday night on many PBS stations. Check your local listings.

Join PBS NewsHour’s live coverage of Super Tuesday from 6 p.m. ET to 12:30 a.m. ET here