Today is the first multi-state event in the 2012 Republican primary schedule, and I am shocked -- shocked! -- that the punditocracy has miserably failed to come up with a cutesy-poo name for today's voting.
Back in 2008, for instance, we had events such as the "Crab Cake Tuesday" (my favorite) in Maryland, Virginia, and the District of Columbia. Now that's a tasty name we can all sink our teeth into!
But today? Nothing. Maybe I'm reading the wrong news sources or something... somewhere, somebody's got to have dubbed today "[fill-in-the-blank] Tuesday," right? Well, heck, we can do something about it if we put our minds together here... let's see, we've got Colorado, Minnesota, and Missouri all on the slate today. Hmmm... that's a bit tough, because it's hard to run a connecting thread through such diverse states. How about "MinneMizzouRocky Tuesday"? Well, a bit tough to say, I'll admit. Or maybe we could go with state nicknames... the "Show Me The Rockies And 10,000 Lakes Tuesday"... well, maybe not.
I throw it open to the readers in the comments, somebody's got to have a better idea than either of those, right? With that out of the way, let's take a crack at predicting the races.
Back in 2008, Super Tuesday actually happened around now. This time around, it has been set back a month, until early March. In 2008, I stopped predicting the top three in all the races around now, but I think I'll continue to call the top three until Super Tuesday dawns this year, or perhaps until someone else drops out of the race. Since I only got one right in Nevada (which was kind of an afterthought last Friday, sorry about that), my record so far for the race:
Total correct 2012 primary picks so far: 9 for 15 -- 60%.
Polling on all three states is limited, or non-existent. The polls which do exist all seem to be from PPP, which is a Democratic polling operation. Which makes calling all three races somewhat of a dart-throwing exercise.
Colorado, if polling can be trusted, looks to be the easiest race to call. Romney seems likely to gain a comfortable win here, followed by Santorum and Gingrich, in that order. Seems like this state should be a strong point for Ron Paul, but I guess there are more Christian conservatives in the state than Libertarians.
I'm going to play it safe in Colorado, and go with the polling: Romney, Santorum, Gingrich.
The other two states are more interesting, because Rick Santorum seems poised for a comeback. Perhaps Republican voters are getting fed up with Newt's antics, or perhaps they've been Santorum supporters all along, take your pick.
In Minnesota right now, Santorum is polling at 33 percent, Romney at 24 percent, Gingrich at 22 percent, and Paul at 20 percent. That's a pretty tight race, especially when you see the poll from just a few days ago as well.
Minnesota is Tea Party country, or at least the Republican parts of it (Michele Bachmann is from here, remember). Santorum voters may be energized to "send a message" to the media that this race is not over, and indeed isn't even the two-man race they've been concentrating on between Newt and Mitt.
I'm going to go with Santorum for the win, here, and trust the polls. Romney will place second, but just barely. For third place, I'm going to go rogue (as Sarah Palin might put it), and predict that Ron Paul edges out Newt Gingrich. Paul's voters are the most committed of the bunch, and this can matter a great deal in lightly-attended caucus states. So, for Minnesota: Santorum, Romney, Paul.
Can somebody please explain to me what, exactly is the point of Missouri voting? Terms like "non-binding" and even "beauty contest" have been applied to this race, because the voters won't actually be voting for delegates, making the entire exercise seemingly a waste of everyone's time and money. But then, what do I know?
Missouri's easier to call, because Newt Gingrich isn't even on the ballot (whoops!). I'm going with the same order as Minnesota here: Santorum, Romney, Paul.
Santorum is definitely going to gain some momentum tonight, but it remains to be seen whether he can build on it or not, since February's a long month with not many states (or territories) voting after today -- Maine, the Northern Marianas, Arizona, and Michigan round out the month. Romney's going to have a slightly disappointing night, and Newt Gingrich is going to be the big loser -- which should be entertaining, since Newt isn't exactly the poster child for being a good loser. Who knows what he'll say when the results are in? Heh.
Anyway, those are my picks, what are yours?
-- Chris Weigant
Follow Chris on Twitter: @ChrisWeigant