Although more hotly contested primaries overshadowed the Mitt Romney-Ron Paul matchup in Virginia on Super Tuesday, Romney's victory in the Old Dominion State is anything but unimportant.
For one, the sheer number of delegates Romney amassed as part of his Super Tuesday haul—the former Massachusetts governor took his home state as well as Vermont, Ohio, Idaho, and Alaska—wouldn't have been nearly as impactful without Virginia's 46 delegates.
Although Romney suffered losses to Gingrich in Georgia and to Santorum in Oklahoma, Tennessee, and North Dakota, locking down Virginia gave him a nice feather in his cap.
"He gets the delegates, he gets to call it a win, which is psychological, he gets to put it in his column," says Toni-Michelle Travis, associate professor of government and politics at George Mason University. But it also reveals some of his weaknesses, she says, compounding doubts after Romney's super close call in Ohio.
Shift to Virginia and consider the paltry number of voters who actually turned out for the primary and it somewhat dampens the image of Romney as the overwhelming first choice of Virginians. According to the State Board of Elections, fewer than 6 percent of all active voters came out to cast their ballots on Super Tuesday.
With nearly all the votes counted, Romney easily edged Ron Paul for the victory, but the fact Paul was able to collect more than 40 percent of the vote in Virginia with virtually no campaigning is a bit embarrassing for Romney, Travis says.
"You need to look at Paul getting 40 percent [of the vote] and not doing anything," she says. "It's amazing. The students and young people are very devoted to him."
Can Romney patch up the hairline cracks in his campaign exposed by Super Tuesday? Experts aren't sure, especially since the next battlegrounds are in the South, not exactly Romney country, Travis says.
"As we go into the South, Romney may not do as well," she says. "I don't see him carrying the South. His image is a little too upper class, and there are still questions about his religion."