Two nights ago, Republican Primaries were held in Alabama, Mississippi, Hawaii and the American Samoa. The polling from Rasmussen and PPP had indicated that there might be an unexpected upset brewing for Mr. Santorum and Mr. Gingrich, with Mr. Romney proving he finally may have been able to pick up momentum in a region where his support is lacking. However, last night appeared to be a repeat of the Colorado primaries, as Santorum went on to win two very close races in two very conservative states. Santorum won both states by single digits, 2% and 5% for Mississippi and Alabama, respectively.
It wasn’t a totally devastating night for Mr. Romney, even though a majority of the media will tell you otherwise. While Romney would have greatly benefited from a victory in the South, he still ended the night with picking up a total of 40 delegates, thanks to his victories in the Pacific (American Samoa and Hawaii). Moreover, he is very close to approaching the halfway mark to 1,144 delegates and one glance at the upcoming primary schedule shows three winner-take-all primaries that will be favorable to him. But the bad news for Romney is that the media will still perceive him to be a weak candidate, as his losses in the Midwest and now the Deep South will only enflame the rhetoric of his inability to cinch a national victory in November.
So why was Romney unable to seal the deal with the most conservative voters in the nation last night? Well, looking at the county results, the most evident conclusion is that Romney’s greatest struggle is with rural voters. According to the CNN exit polls, he did get over 30% of their vote, but Santorum plays much better to crowds in that demographic. Blue-collar voters typically earn less money and are not as affluent as moderate suburban voters. They also typically lack either the means or the interest in pursuing higher education. Naturally, Santorum’s ability to court this crowd is proving to be very beneficial to his campaign. It allows him to bolster his “grassroots” reputation and connect on a more personal level with blue-collar voters, especially since he’s campaigning as a “Main Street” candidate and not a “Wall Street” guy like Mr. Romney.
So what about Gingrich? Where does he go from here? The answer is nowhere. His campaign has been going off the rails for the last 90 days and has very little support left, save for Chuck Norris. Not to mention he has only been victorious once since the South Carolina primary, and it was in his home state of Georgia. That’s not really a convincing argument that your appeal in ubiquitous, regardless of whether Mr. Gingrich chooses to accept it. Now, while Georgia did provide him with a heaping number of delegates (54), his inability to earn a single victory (by popular vote) in states that are supposedly friendly territory shows that his candidacy is coming to an end. He appears to be the ringleader of an unorganized and dysfunctional campaign, and I don’t know anyone who is optimistic that he can win any of the upcoming states. Sure, he picked up some delegates from Mississippi and Alabama, and he is bound to pick up a few in Louisiana next Saturday. But the problem is Mr. Santorum’s campaign has generated so much traction that it completely overshadows Gingrich and he loses the honorary title of the “Not-Romney” candidate.
Despite how badly Mr. Gingrich wants the nomination, Santorum has proven time and time again why he meets the requirements as the “Not-Romney” candidate. As he persistently explicates, he has never advocated for a Government mandate with regards to Health-Care, either at the State or Federal level. As stated above, he resonates with blue-collar voters in a much more proficient manner than Mr. Gingrich or Mr. Romney. And unlike Mr. Gingrich, he actually has won significant victories in the Midwest and now in the Deep South. With the Louisiana primaries right around the corner, Mr. Santorum is bound to win the popular vote there, which will only further the argument that Mr. Gingrich has nowhere left to go.
With the Puerto Rico and Illinois primaries on Saturday and Tuesday, we will see where this fight for the Republican nomination takes us. If Mr. Romney can pull off a win in Illinois (even a close one), that will greatly enhance his chances of winning the nomination. A victory there and in Puerto Rico would finally take him past the half-way mark in acquiring the number of delegates he needs to win. However, if Mr. Santorum’s momentum continues through Illinois, this will have devastating consequences for the Romney campaign, and possibly even the Republican Party’s chances of stopping Obama in November.
Also, if you’ve noticed by now that I neglected to mention the status of Mr. Paul and how he is faring in the race, there’s a reason for that.