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Caliendo: GOP Race Still Very Much Up In The Air

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Mitt Romney, Rick Santorum

Mitt Romney won six states in Republican primaries and caucuses on Super Tuesday, while Rick Santorum won three. (Credit: CBS)

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CHICAGO (CBS) — Mitt Romney and Rick Santorum both chalked up some wins in the Republican primaries Super Tuesday, but the presidential race is still very much up in the air, says political analyst Stephen Caliendo.

CBS News projected that Romney won primaries in Ohio, Virginia, Massachusetts and Vermont, and the caucuses in Idaho and Alaska. Santorum won the primaries in Tennessee and Oklahoma and the caucuses in North Dakota, while Newt Gingrich won Georgia – his first primary victory since South Carolina back in January.

Caliendo emphasizes that Romney is still having a very hard time connecting to the electorate, particularly the most conservative wing of the GOP. His ability to raise funds is the factor that is keeping is campaign alive, Caliendo said.

“Certainly, he outspent everybody in Ohio, but squeaked out a very narrow victory. If he wasn’t able to spend that much, he might have trouble,” Caliendo said. “(He’s) not connecting with the folks that are further to the right – that’s for sure.”

But none of the candidates are generating a great deal of excitement, Caliendo said.

“I would say Ron Paul is the one that gets the most excitement,” Caliendo said. “I mean, if you sort of look at his events, he may not have quite as many people all the time, but they’re really fervent supporters. But he has no chance of getting the nomination. He’s not getting enough delegates. So it’s tough to energize folks with a guy who doesn’t really connect with anybody.”

Many experts say while Santorum is racking up some wins, they still expect Romney will end up being the nominee. But is it possible that Santorum could, in fact, win the nomination?

“It’s possible, but I think it’s increasingly unlikely if Newt Gingrich stays in the race,” Caliendo said. “If you think about the folks that are voting for those two, they’re different than the folks that are voting for Romney. I think if Santorum could figure out a way to get Newt Gingrich out of the race – I don’t think he can do it – that would make a big difference. The only thing that would happen is if Gingrich runs out of money.”

And Caliendo says many states that otherwise would have been afterthoughts this late in the season might factor into the greater race, including Illinois.

“Usually, the common wisdom is states that go later in the process don’t matter that much because by the time we get to early March, the whole thing’s done. But that’s not the case now. And we have some even bigger delegate-rich states coming up even later than that – Texas, California – sort of coming in later in the season.,” Caliendo said. “They might matter.”

Meanwhile, there are questions about whether Sarah Palin might end up getting into the race after all.

“She’s still leaving the door open that she might be available. She was saying that she was at the convention; she’ll be in Tampa – if anybody needs her, she can be called. She wouldn’t say who she voted for,” Caliendo said.”I think she’s good at generating attention – that’s for sure. But we’ve talked about this, that there’s a possibility of that knight in shining armor candidate coming in later on. I don’t know if it would be her, but it’s possible.”

More about Stephen Caliendo.

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