Florida and Virginia don’t count as Deep South states. Alabama and Mississippi, as Dixie as it gets.
And when they vote next Tuesday, they’ll provide the undeniable verdict on whether Mitt Romney can ply his decidedly Northern persona there. Less important than the delegate count out of next week, which will again show Romney with a sizable lead, will be the ruling on whether Romney can sell the South, which he today called "a bit of an away game." Also voting between now and St. Patrick’s Day: Kansas, the U.S. Virgin Islands, Guam, and Missouri.
“Not such good states for Romney,” Republican strategist Alex Castellanos, who advised Romney’s 2008 campaign, told National Journal of the next voting cluster. “The fundamental dynamic doesn’t change. There’s nobody left who can get the nomination but him. He just can’t win it.”
Four years ago, Romney went oh-for-the-South, a geographic imbalance he's corrected to some extent with Florida and Virginia. This year, his most promising state of import in the near future is Illinois, which votes March 20, carrying 69 delegates and a pricey media market that will give the former Massachusetts governor an advantage over his lighter-walleted rivals.
In the interim, he'll have to rely on the kindness of strangers.
— Jim O’Sullivan
NATIONAL JOURNAL’S PRIMARY REPORT
Faith, Hope, and Santorum
[New Yorker, 3/8/12] Where Obama's 2008 campaign was couched in terms of hope and change, the GOP candidates have largely focused on preserving an America that's currently experiencing a destructive siege from Obama's left. But Santorum's take on the troubles facing America is distinctly unique.
Lawmakers Have an Eye on Presidential Race
[Wall Street Journal, 3/8/12] Wonder why so few laws are coming out of Congress? Perhaps its because so many of those proposed have purely political, rather than governing, aims, as the Wall Street Journal's Naftali Bendavid reports. On the Hill, lawmakers from both sides are proposing legislation that would highlight the flaws and failings of the other side's presidential candidate.
Delegate Math Challenges Romney’s Rivals
[The Wall Street Journal, 3/7/12] Romney’s campaign estimates that he needs 48 percent of the remaining delegates to clinch the nomination, while Santorum needs to win 65 percent and Gingrich 70 percent of the outstanding delegates. The message: Math, not passion, will decide the nomination.
How Would Santorum Do Without Gingrich?
[The New York Times, 3/8/12] His campaign keeps calling for Gingrich to drop out, with the unspoken reason being Santorum thinks he could win if Gingrich wasn't splitting the conservative GOP vote. Nate Silver finds that Santorum would have won four states he lost if Gingrich hadn't been in the race, but it wouldn't have been enough to overtake Romney in delegates.
Report: Santorum's $2 Million House and Refinancing Deal
[National Journal, 3/8/12] Santorum recently said he didn't give as much to charity as his fellow GOP candidates because he had to stretch funds to take care of his large brood. A report from the Washington Examiner reveals Santorum owns a $2 million, five-acre home in the high-priced suburb of Great Falls, just outside D.C.
Reality Check: It's Not Romney, It's the Rules
[National Journal, 3/8/12] National Journal's Josh Kraushaar notes that Romney is having basically the same troubles as McCain did in 2008, but McCain received far less criticism for his poor performance. So what gives? This time around, Romney hasn't locked up the nomination because most states are awarding their delegates proportionally, causing the long slog and making Romney look like a worse candidate than he actually is.
Sabato: Six Days on the Road to Tampa
[The Wall Street Journal, 3/7/12] Political analyst Larry Sabato assesses a half-dozen pivotal dates in the GOP nomination fight, and says if Santorum somehow loses his home state of Pennsylvania in April, the race will be effectively over.
Romney's Struggles in the South Concern Some in Republican Party
[The Charlotte Observer, 3/8/12] Romney has only been able to win Florida and Virginia in the South, which is headache enough for the Romney campaign's trek to the nomination. But some Southern GOPers are concerned that Romney's Southern weaknesses could be his fatal flaw in the general election come November.
Romney Tries to Break Southern Losing Streak
[Politico, 3/8/12] Even if the delegate math doesn’t add up, a Santorum win in Saturday’s Kansas caucuses or Tuesday’s Alabama and Mississippi contests would further underscore Romney’s problems among the GOP’s Southern conservative base.
Gingrich Cancels Kansas Trip to Focus on South
[National Journal, 3/7/12] Gingrich is canceling his planned trip to Kansas this week and will instead campaign entirely in Alabama and Mississippi, two states that go to the polls next week — and which are must-wins if his presidential campaign is to continue.
Gingrich’s Future Hangs on Successful Southern Strategy
[The Hill, 3/7/12] A spokesman for Gingrich acknowledged on Wednesday that the former House speaker needs to win both of Tuesday’s primaries in the South — considered Gingrich’s stronghold — to remain a credible candidate. But the lure of battle might be too strong for Gingrich to stop now.
New Poll Shows Rick Santorum Leading in Alabama GOP Primary
[Press-Register, 3/7/12] A new poll in Alabama shows Santorum leading in the state. The statewide poll conducted by Alabama State University showed 22.7 percent of likely Republican voters supported Santorum. Romney trailed Santorum with 18.7 percent, followed by Gingrich with 13.8 percent.
Santorum Optimistic: 'We're Going to Take Mississippi'
[Clarion-Ledger, 3/7/12] Speaking at a rally in Jackson on Wednesday, Santorum brushed off naysayers who suggest he should end his White House bid and predicted a win there next Tuesday. In Tupelo earlier in the day, he told Mississippi supporters that they could make the contest a two-man race if they deliver him a victory in the state next week.
Rick Santorum Will Face More Ballot, Delegate Problems
[ABC, 3/8/12] Due to filing mistakes, Santorum won't be on D.C.'s primary ballot, meaning he'll lose out on the District's 16 delegates. And Santorum made the same mistake in Illinois that he made in Ohio — he won't be eligible to win 10 delegates out of the 54 at Illinois' congressional-district level.
Rick Santorum’s Dead End: Evangelical Voters NEW!
[The Daily Beast, 3/8/12] They've made up a large part of his momentum thus far, but evangelical voters alone can't bring Santorum the nomination. But as he's increasingly shaped his campaign to cater to them, will he be able to widen his appeal?
Santorum, Romney Make Push for Guam
[Pacific Daily News, 3/9/12] The battle between the two GOP front-runners has been pushed to the Pacific Rim, as Romney’s son Matt plans to make a trip to Guam in hopes of winning its nine delegates in a caucus to be held on Saturday; meanwhile Santorum held an hour-long telephone call Thursday with GOP leaders there. Ron Paul’s son Ronnie is making a trip to Hawaii, which will award 20 delegates at its caucuses Tuesday.
Obama Cash-on-Hand Dwarfs Romney's
[National Journal, 3/8/12] Romney’s campaign on Thursday released more February financing numbers, including the fact that it had nearly $7.3 million cash on hand – more than 10 times less than the $75.9 million that President Obama’s reelection team reported at the end of January.
Super PACs Outspent Candidates in Run-Up to Super Tuesday
[The Wall Street Journal, 3/7/12] In the two weeks leading up to Super Tuesday, outside political action committees supporting the GOP presidential hopefuls spent three times as much as the candidates themselves, the latest sign of how these new super PACs are transforming the election.
Romney Lags in Small Donors As Big Givers Hit Limits
[New York Times, 3/7/12] While Santorum and Gingrich have enjoyed surges of small checks, Romney has relied overwhelmingly on a network of high-dollar donors. But with a less-than-convincing Super Tuesday and no quick finish in sight, Romney is struggling to match the enthusiasm and money his rivals have harnessed from grassroots donors.
Mitt Romney’s Most Awkward Moments NEW!
[Washington Post, 3/8/12] Was Romney's comment that "the trees are the right height" in Michigan too painful for you to watch again? Of course not. So chuckle – or cringe – at that and seven more of Romney's most awkward campaign moments.