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What's so super about Tuesday? 419 GOP delegates

By Connie Cass

Associated Press

Published: Monday, March 5 2012 2:01 a.m. MST

Republican presidential candidate, former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney serves food a pancake breakfast at Brookwood High School in Brookwood, Ga., Sunday, March 4, 2012.

Gerald Herbert, Associated Press

WASHINGTON — Super? Maybe not this time. But it is a Tuesday, one with the biggest payout of the Republican presidential primaries.

Super Tuesday, slimmed down to half its 2008 size but still doling out one-third of the delegates needed to win, probably won't settle much.

Sure, it could nudge Newt Gingrich out of the race, or lend Ron Paul more credibility. But it won't be easy for either Mitt Romney or Rick Santorum to score a decisive advantage, because delegates are handed out by share. A close second in a state can pay off almost as well as first place.

Win some big states, especially Ohio, and the symbolism is powerful, of course.

Romney might cement the front-runner status that keeps slipping through his fingers. Santorum could prove he's the real thing.

What's at stake, what's it mean and what might happen? A Super Tuesday tip sheet:

Delegates for grabs Tuesday: 419.

Delegates already won: 353. Romney, 203; Santorum, 92; Gingrich, 33; Paul, 25.

Delegates needed for the nomination: 1,144.

Super Tuesday is super expensive:

A week's worth of heavy advertising in all 10 states would cost a candidate about $5 million.

That's a lot even for Romney's well-financed campaign, prompting him to make a plea for donations amid his Michigan victory speech. Gingrich is getting another multimillion-dollar boost from Las Vegas billionaire Sheldon Adelson, who donated the money to a special type of political action committee, known as a super PAC, that will run advertising in key states.

Ohio, Ohio, Ohio:

It's the race to watch. Political junkies get all misty-eyed over this Rust Belt swing state, and not just because of the 63 delegates.

No Republican nominee has ever become president without winning the state. That makes it a powerful proving ground for the men trying to show they can take on President Barack Obama.

It's home to Joe the Plumber and tens of thousands of auto workers, but Ohio's not all blue-collar. It's also the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, high-tech science, medical and energy workers, suburbanites, soybean farmers and a quarter-million dairy cows (OK, the cows can't vote). The big issue is the economy, including Obama's bailout of the auto industry.

Santorum and Romney are duking it out in Ohio. Look for the outcome to generate more buzz than any other Super Tuesday contest.

Newt's last stand or Gingrich rises again?

Get out the hook for Newt Gingrich if he loses in Georgia, the state he represented in the U.S. House for two decades.

Gingrich hopes to win decisively here and pick up enough other delegates to relaunch his up-and-down campaign, which has been mostly down-and-out since he lost Florida in January. He's got endorsements from Gov. Nathan Deal and Herman Cain, a fellow Georgian. He's got a new pitch, claiming he can bring the cost of gas down to $2.50 per gallon.

Santorum is pushing hard to wrest the state's Christian conservative and tea party voters away from Gingrich. Romney remains a force, even if the state is outside his comfort zone. Georgia boasts the day's biggest cache of delegates: 76.

Elsewhere in the South:

Two other Bible Belt states, Tennessee and Oklahoma, are central to Gingrich's hopes of revival. But Santorum insists he'll be the big story in both.

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