Tuesday’s Alabama and Mississippi primaries are all-important for Republican presidential candidates Newt Gingrich and Rick Santorum. Each are staking their campaigns on how well they perform Tuesday night, and bolstering that whoever loses should drop out.
Gingrich has essentially been banking his campaign on his performance in the South since the Florida primary loss to Mitt Romney. Gingrich at the time knew the northern contests in Michigan and Ohio would not play well to his favor and never put much into those primaries. Now Gingrich has a chance to prove his candidacy, and legitimize his reluctance to drop from the race, by showing he’s a strong favorite through the south and that, for instance, if Rick Santorum were to drop out, Gingrich could sway a large portion of Santorum’s voters his way to defeat Romney.
This is ostensibly the same argument Rick Santorum is making. In light of last week’s primary wins in Tennessee, Oklahoma, and North Dakota, and his near victory in Ohio, the Santorum campaign has publicly pressured Gingrich to drop out, arguing voters will coalesce behind him to defeat Romney.
Both candidates have strong cases for the other to concede defeat. Anti-Romney sentiment runs high in the GOP, seeing his wealth as a bulwark to connect with the average voter – and his gaffe-prone campaign cements that image nearly every day. Romney also does not have strong support in the south. Gingrich is from Georgia and can easily wrap up several southeast states in the general election. If voters are given Romney as the candidate, they may be willing to vote for Obama simply based on the improving conditions of the economy. Santorum, in contrast, polls well with southerners on social issues and can pull the evangelical vote his way throughout the south and the beltway. The evangelical voting-block could be essential for republicans this fall if they stand any chance of winning the White House. A poll today of likely GOP voters shows that a large majority of Alabama and Mississippi voters do not believe the President’s continued stated admission of his Christian beliefs and think he is a Muslim. But let’s be honest, Mississippi and Alabama also rank in the bottom 5 in education with some of the lowest high school graduation rates in the country. So, there’s that.
But maybe Romney still has the best argument for both Santorum and Gingrich to drop out. According to weekend polling in Mississippi and Alabama, Romney is virtually in a dead-heat with these other candidates. If he doesn’t win either state outright, he’ll still secure some delegates and inch ever-closer to the magic 1,144 needed for the nomination. And after last week’s big Ohio victory, the Romney campaign began making their case that they should be the nominee. Of course, it’s not about policies or that he really is the better candidate. It’s math! The Romney campaign thinks the others should drop out because they can’t possibly reach 1,144 delegates now, so, just get out! I know nobody wants me to win, but I’ve got a twenty run lead. You should just forfeit now in the bottom of the third. I’ll pay you…
Jason Owen with TJ Walker and AmericanLP