It's come down to this: There's the establishment candidate, the working-class candidate, the Southern candidate, and the libertarian candidate. The trouble for the Republicans is that there is no consensus candidate in the GOP presidential field, and the outcome on Super Tuesday did little to change that dynamic. The result is that the GOP race will keep going, with all its bitterness and dramatic permutations, for many more weeks.
Mitt Romney, the former governor of Massachusetts, remains the front-runner and the establishment favorite after he scored wins in six of the 10 nominating contests that were held yesterday--Ohio, the most hotly contested primary of all, Massachusetts, where he was governor, Virginia, Vermont, Idaho, and Alaska. He widened his lead in nominating delegates to more than 200 over former Pennsylvania Sen. Rick Santorum, his closest competitor, but still faces a hard slog to reach the 1,144 majority that will be necessary to win the GOP nod.
As of Wednesday morning, Romney had 415 delegates, Santorum 176, former House Speaker Newt Gingrich 105, and Rep. Ron Paul of Texas 47, according to the Associated Press.
Santorum is campaigning as the true conservative who best understands everyday Americans and who has never lost his connections to working-class people. That message won him the states of North Dakota, Oklahoma and Tennessee, and almost brought him victory in Ohio.
Gingrich won his home state of Georgia, which he represented in the House of Representatives for two decades. Earlier, he won the South Carolina primary and is expected to do well in a series of Southern states over the next several weeks.
Paul is still looking for his first win, but his themes of less government and fewer U.S. military interventions abroad have kept him in the race with a relatively small but steady harvest of delegates.
The next contests will be the caucuses in Kansas March 10, primaries in Alabama and Mississippi March 13, the primary in Puerto Rico March 18, the primary in Illinois March 20, and the primary in Louisiana March 24.
The prospect is for more split decisions, more infighting, and a longer race, with Romney in all likelihood moving ever closer to the nomination but absorbing serious damage from the attacks of his critics and his own negative approach to his rivals.