Posts Tagged ‘Alabama’

Santorum’s Southern Knock-Out

Wednesday, March 14th, 2012

Knock-Out in Deep South

I watched a little bit of the election coverage as the results came in from Alabama and Mississippi.  This has turned out to be a big night for Rick Santorum, winning both Southern contests, and showing his viability in the South.  Newt Gingrich finished a close second in both states, while Mitt Romney was a point or two behind Gingrich in both of the primaries. What’s important to note about the contest is that Gingrich has demonstrated that he can still beat Romney in the South, but for Santorum, he’s delivered a one-two punch because he beat both the former speaker, who represented Georgia, and Mitt Romney, who still doesn’t seem to find any traction in the South, or in heavily conservative states.  Mitt Romney is the alleged “front-runner,” but as Gingrich pointed out cheerfully in post election remarks, it’s not much of a “front-runner who keeps finishing third.”

To finish in third is a real defeat for Romney, because what it demonstrates is that he’s not getting it done with conservatives. More than seventy-five percent of the Republican electorate in either state considers themselves ‘conservative,’ but with Romney capturing no more than 30%, it’s clear that Romney has some real work to do in the South.  Put another way, in the South, it was Non-Romney 70% to Romney’s 30%.  This late in the game, that’s a pretty stark beating.  While the delegates gained will be split three ways with Ron Paul capturing none(barely breaking 5% in Alabama,) what you really have here is an indication that Romney isn’t the inevitable nominee after all.  He certainly remains in the lead in delegates, but let’s keep this in context.  Taking Mississippi as an example, Non-Romney captured 24 delegates to Romney’s 12.   If it continues at this pace, he will never attain the 1144 mark, and we will have a brokered convention unless one of the other two can pick up significant momentum and finally push Romney down.

I don’t know if that’s possible, but Romney’s camp is clearly worried.  They’re out-spending all competitors at a rate of 20-to-1 in most of these contests, meaning that his return on contributors’ investments in his campaign is pretty low.  Meanwhile, the much more frugal Gingrich and Santorum campaigns are getting much more bang for their bucks.  If Santorum keeps edging out Romney like this, it won’t be long before some money starts moving his way, as the aura of “invincibility” that the media has projected around Mitt Romney begins to fade.

This also means that from now until the convention will become a much more expensive road for Mitt Romney, and rather than sewing this up early as had been his plan, the big money spent in Florida might have given him some momentum, but with narrow victories in Michigan and Ohio, and losses in Colorado, Tennessee and Kansas, but now also these two Southern contests, suddenly, it’s not over, and not nearly so.  It also offers him some serious trouble in Louisiana, Arkansas, Texas, although he’ll probably fare better in New York and New Jersey among remaining Northeastern States.

If this is any indication of what lies ahead, Rick Santorum may get another bump in momentum, and even Gingrich, though finishing in second in both contests, because it was so close, and because he effectively scored as many delegates as either of the other remains alive.  Romney probably takes the biggest black eye out of Tuesday’s Southern contests.  The other thing this indicates is that in the South, money isn’t everything.  If it were, Romney would have cleaned up, having the huge money advantage he has exploited to great advantage throughout this campaign.

The question remains: What will run out first?  Romney’s money, or the pure passion of Non-Romney voters?  After tonight, it looks like it will be a test of cash versus passion, and conservatives are known to have large reserves of the latter.  If Romney can’t start winning in the South, he may find himself in serious jeopardy even if he ultimately wins the nomination.  Conservative voters simply aren’t motivated in the same way Democrats are, and they aren’t driven by fear.  The desire to defeat Obama may not be enough to get them all to the polls in November, and if it doesn’t, Romney has no chance of winning.

I also think this points out the flaw in many Republican strategists’ view of the South, or of the election altogether:  They want to nominate a guy who may win the nomination mostly on the strength of wins in states where that same candidate will have difficulty against Obama in the Fall, if he can win in them at all, meanwhile, he can’t motivate Southern voters.  I would love for one of these well-compensated professional political consultants to explain to we conservatives how that is a winning strategy against Barack Obama.  It’s predicated on winning without us in the primaries, and taking us for granted in the general.

 

Advertisements

Newt Tuesday?

Tuesday, March 13th, 2012

Will This Be His Day?

In the hours before voting is set to start in Alabama and Mississippi, one can almost feel the tension.  Many believe the primaries in these two Southern states is the ultimate test for Newt Gingrich.  In fact, this could be seen as a serious test for any of the three leading contenders.  Rick Santorum would break new ground by winning in the South, perhaps consolidating his position as the anti-Romney.  Meanwhile, Mitt hopes to break new ground, because he’s had significant trouble in the South to date.  Meanwhile, the viability of Newt Gingrich’s candidacy is on the line in these two Southern states.  If he were to lose in both, it could be said that he is all but finished.  If he wins in one, but not the other, it will depend on who the winner is in order to sort out the meaning.  If it’s Santorum, it slams the door in Romney’s face.  If it’s Romney, it signals he’s picking up steam. This is going down to the wire, and Alabama and Mississippi may turn out to be the battleground around which this entire primary season turns.

I expect Mississippi to be the real point of contention, because Romney has support there in the form of Governor Haley Barbour.  Barbour served as Chairman of the RNC back when Newt was Speaker of the House, for context, so these two are well acquainted with one another, but Barbour has sided with Romney throughout the primary season.  Barbour recently ran afoul of Mississippians by pardoning some convicted murderers, and this didn’t sit well with many victims’ groups, and indeed families of the victims.  In the end, the State’s high court upheld the pardons after they were challenged, but sometimes, it’s not about whether a thing may be done, but whether it should be done.

Newt is leading in Mississippi in the polls, although only by the slimmest of margins.  Santorum is talking down expectations, apparently because polls show him shading toward third in both states.  Still, it looks like a virtual three-way tie, with all three men within the margin of error.  This will offer another nail-biter, particularly for the Gingrich camp that must get every voter they can to the polls, needing two wins more desperately than either of the other two.  If Gingrich does prevail in both states, this will change the character of the race somewhat.  Seeing a Gingrich ascendancy from what has been thought to be a doomed candidacy at least three times would be quite a feat, and it would speak to the resiliency of Gingrich as a campaigner.

These will be tight contests, and you can imagine that whomever prevails, it’s going to generate some sort of change in the race.  If Romney wins in either, it will be seen as a breakthrough for him, and if Newt loses both, it will be seen as the end.  If Gingrich can win one, he will be seen as still in but still the man on the bubble.  Santorum is the only one of the three who doesn’t get a terrible beating if he loses in both states.  I’ve made no secret of the fact that among these three, I’d pick Newt, and Rick, in that order.  That’s based on my view of who is more able to articulate conservatism, and who is better able to make the kind of dramatic changes we need in the way things are done in Washington.

I’ll say this much:  If Gingrich does manage to pull off wins in both states Tuesday, he will be seen as having gained momentum in the South, and if he can sustain it through the end of May, Texas will be a big prize that will move within reach.  If Santorum can pick up either state, he can legitimately claim a breakthrough in the South, but the same is true for Mitt Romney.  This is a real three-way race and that’s going to make the outcome all the more exciting in terms of the ‘horse-race’ aspects.  It’s Newt’s best chance to recapture the momentum, and if he does, this race will move from “all but over” to “it ain’t over yet.”