Don Emmert/AFP/Getty Images
Republican presidential candidates Ron Paul (L), Rick Santorum (2nd L), Mitt Romney (2nd R) and Newt Gingrich during their debate on February 22, 2012 in Mesa, Arizona.
Super Tuesday is the portentous day when a large number of U.S. states hold their contests for the presidential primary season. The "super" part is that big delegate counts can mean a clear frontrunner emerges.
This year, the Republican field has seen many front runners catch fire – and then slowly fizzle out. This election year, Ron Paul, for one, has made it clear that, regardless of what happens on Super Tuesday, he will carry his campaign on to Republican National Convention in August in Tampa, Florida.
In the last presidential election cycle, 24 states held primaries or caucuses on Super Tuesday, but several states, including Florida and Michigan, leapfrogged their primaries ahead to try to have a bigger say in the process.
And there’s no "winner takes all" sweep for eight of the ten states voting Tuesday: They’ll distribute their delegates proportionally. Mitt Romney is hoping to nail the "frontrunner" label with the lion’s share of delegates, and to add ‘electable’’ to the list. Santorum’s campaign is about staying on Romney’s heels in spite of recent statements that have raised some voters’ eyebrows. Ohio, next door to Rick Santorum’s home state of Pennsylvania, may be his biggest stronghold on Super Tuesday. Newt Gingrich needs his A-game if he is to keep playing at the big table, and Ron Paul, with 18 delegates, is “staying the course” even if he winds up in last place. There are 437 delegates in play on Super Tuesday 2012.
What will the divvy look like, come Wednesday morning?
Mike Memoli, politics reporter, Los Angeles Times Washington bureau