Skip to comments.GOP bid down to Southern 'do or die' - Santorum, Gingrich face long odds with Tues. loss
Posted on 03/12/2012 7:02:43 PM PDT by SmithL
WASHINGTON -- Mississippi has not been "used to mattering" in presidential politics, according to one close observer.
But on the heels of hosting 2008's most important presidential debate, along comes Tuesday's Republican presidential primary with the potential to alter the course of the 2012 race for the White House.
Along with Alabama, Tuesday's primaries in the Deep South are "do or die" contests for both former Pennsylvania senator Rick Santorum and former House speaker Newt Gingrich and should shape the race as either a three-way long slog into summer or a two-person contest going forward.
Few expect front-runner former Massachusetts governor Mitt Romney or regular fourth-place trailer Texas Congressman Ron Paul to do well Tuesday, and some are anything but subtle about why.
"This is going to be very controversial but I'll tell you what I think," said Vivian Berryhill, 58, of Olive Branch, the wife of a Baptist preacher and a 2004 delegate to the Republican National Convention.
"I think that for the conservative faithful -- the people who are really diehard Christians and diehard evangelicals -- there's a question about the Mormonism. People aren't going to say that, but it really is a question. It shouldn't be, and people shouldn't look at a person's religion but, realistically, they do," she said.
Romney's religion matters in a region where many voters, especially those most enlivened to participate this year, are Southern Baptists or conservative evangelicals. That the two chief alternatives are Roman Catholics seems less an issue, observers say.
Berryhill will be voting for Gingrich, whom she considers a friend. She attended his rally at the Landers Center in Southaven on Thursday night and was impressed at the crowd that came out, braving the downpours.
"Real friendships mean a lot where we come from," she said.
"Realistically," she added, "Tuesday is do or die for Newt or Santorum. Both of them are going to have to carry both states or look at turning over their delegates to the other."
For Curtis Wilkie, a former national political reporter for The Boston Globe and a professor of journalism at the University of Mississippi, the contests are Santorum's or Gingrich's to lose, with most voters "not being too hospitable to a former Massachusetts governor." Romney himself conceded the region's contests felt like "a bit of an away game" last week.
Several observers, including Wilkie, expected Texas Gov. Rick Perry to still be in the race at this juncture, and expected him to win Mississippi.
State Sen. Merle Flowers, R-Southaven, said he hoped former Mississippi governor Haley Barbour would commit to the race, then backed Perry, and now supports Romney.
Romney may have the endorsements lined up, including from current and former governors -- as he did, to little effect, in South Carolina and Tennessee -- but "endorsements historically don't mean much outside a place like Chicago," Wilkie said.
Like others, Wilkie said: "Mississippi is enjoying getting a little attention for the first time in years."
Caucuses are also taking place in Hawaii and American Samoa on Tuesday.
There's been a Ron Paul for President tent on the Mississippi State campus in Starkville for weeks and students "risked life and limb" to see him speak last fall as tornadoes threatened in the area, said political science professor W. Martin Wiseman. But what he called "almost a groupie-like thing" and a "college campus phenomenon" probably won't matter much Tuesday, he said.
Wiseman said he expects voters to pick Gingrich, in part because of his 30 years representing a congressional district in nearby Georgia. He said he hesitates to call Gingrich a Southerner -- he was born in Pennsylvania -- but that he has more claim to the distinction than Romney or Santorum.
Wiseman, too, noted that Romney has picked up significant, high-level endorsements and has Barbour behind the scenes "pulling lots of strings." But he said that's more for Magnolia State leaders "to identify with ... what looks like will be the nominee" and won't have much impact on voters.
Mormonism will be a major negative for Romney, Wiseman agreed. Romney is not only "a patrician New Englander . . . but then you throw in the Mormon thing, which is much more than a passing curiosity in this part of the world, (and) you're asking a lot of very conservative Southern Baptists and independent evangelicals to vote for somebody that they believe is a non-Christian, that's asking a lot of their faith."
Wiseman said Mississippi is "Gingrich's to lose, and it looks like he might lose it." But he said if Santorum wins both Alabama and Mississippi and Gingrich is persuaded to drop out, "the rank-and-file in the Republican Party may see him (Santorum) as an alternative and it may get very problematic for Romney.
"If Romney can survive till the end of March, he has clear sailing," Wiseman said.
But if Mississippi shakes things up, other calculations will have to be made.
"Mississippi is not used to mattering," Wiseman said. "We're used to being spectators and watching what the rest of the world does. All of a sudden, we get to cast the vote that counts."
I disagree about the south being a big issue for Santorum, but for Gingrich this is do or die. He needs a solid south. If he can’t win there, then he can’t win.
Santorum’s base is the Pennsylvania and the mid-west. He did well in Ohio and Michigan.
Santorum has made a huge mistake campaigning extensively in the south. He should have left that for Gingrich, and all Santorum supporters should support Gingrich in the same way all Gingrich supporters in Ohio and Michigan should have supported Santorum.
These two stubborn blockheads are throwing the race to Romney.
The race has gone on long enough that I am less inclined to give them ANY benefit of the doubt.
They know exactly what they are doing. They are not political neophytes.
I will NOT support Romney. Prepare to suspend me if FR becomes a “Romney OK Zone.”
If Alabama or Miss go for Willard the liberal morman the states will be the laughing stock of the rest of the South.
I can’t see it happening, but once again the rich liberal Morman is running lying negative ads against Newt and Santorum 24 hour a day. It never ends with the low-life creepy closet democrat liberal Romney. I feel like throwing up when I see his smirking mugg. He’s nauseating.
Our two muleheaded candidates are splitting the vote 3 ways, so even that makes Romney look competitive.
Santorum and Gingrich should be ashamed of themselves.
That’s my take. I don’t apologize for it. In fact...I’M RIGHT, and conservatives know in their hearts that I’m right!
I think the party has made it very clear they want Romney. VA kept both of these guys off the ballot. In several states they have been unable to get on the ballot in all the districts. The deck has been stacked.
If Romney is the candidate it will be the first time in my life that I don't vote for a Pub POTUS candidate.
My greatest hope now is the SCOTUS throws out obamacare in it's entirety, not just the mandate. No one seems interested, but IMO it's obamacare that changes everything.
Newt stomped Romney by 15 points in SC. He did the same thing in Georgia. Santorum competed in both states. He stomped him too. “Splitting the vote” should not matter one bit in any Southern state because Romney is a liberal New England elitist and Southerners can see right through his pandering.
Wait until NBC, CNBC, MSNBC and CNN start reporting that as a Mormon Romney believes that in eternity he will have his own planet and sends out a “Man on the Street” like Bill O’Reilly did asking people: “Would you want a President who believes that in eternity he will have his own planet?”
Just wait. They have not begun to fight. Obama’s teams prays that Mitt Romney will be the GOP nominee.
Would you want a President who believes that in eternity he will have his own planet?
And there will be no turn-about treatment because hussein’s cult is untouchable.
I strongly agree that the only way Romney can be stopped is if either conservative candidate withdraws - and it may already be too late, in which case they, not the voters, gave it to Romney.
LOL! Yeah -- like Chickamauga, you sorry Yankee b*stard!
Come and get some!
As for the lady who said people's religion should not matter, I'd have to try her patience a bit and ask her if she wouldn't mind having an America-hating Mohammedan in the White House.
One of the TV news shows last night showed polling data about Obama, that 45% of Alabamians and 52% of Mississippians think that, in fact, Obama is a Moslem despite his claims to be Christian.
May I disagree?
If Santorum quits, his voters in future primaries stay home, advantage Romney. They don't automatically vote for Newt, and vice versa.
Both conservatives staying in continue to draw conservatives to the polls, dilute Romney's vote, and pave the road to a convention fight with 1000 conservatives in the delegations that will reject Willard.
I seriously doubt that. Discouraged Santorum voters (who are NOT "moderates" or RiNO's) might stay home, but no way would they choke down Willard and affirmatively vote for him.
If BOTH Santorum and Gingrich dropped out, their voters would stay home, and Romney would look like the walking god he thinks he is.
More competition for Romney is good, it brings out more voters who don't like him. What has to be attacked is the LSM lie that Romney getting "a plurality" when in fact he's being rejected by 70% of the electorate is somehow a "win" for Willard.
Yes but if ONE dropped out the other would gain the vast majority of their votes suddenly catapulting them to the top vote getter and thus gaining the lions share of the delegates. Romney would gain fewer dlegates and lose if it happened early enough.
Thank you for sharing your views!
With all due respect, like hell.
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