Monday, March 12, 2012



Conventional wisdom seems to be that a Mitt Romney win in Alabama tomorrow “could all but bring the GOP nominating contest to a close,” as an AP article (Monday, 3/12/12, Chicago Sun-Times, page 8) put it. The thinking is that a win in Alabama or, presumably, Mississippi, which is less likely, would give Mr. Romney a win in the South outside Florida and thus establish that his appeal extends beyond the northeast and industrial Midwest and that he can indeed carry the South, where a Republican must win in order to win the presidency. This line of argumentation is faulty for a few reasons.

A Romney win in Alabama and/or Mississippi will not end the GOP contest. Say Mr. Romney carries Alabama and/or Mississippi with a plurality of the votes, with the combined Santorum/Gingrich total exceeding his. (He will not win either state with an outright majority.) Rather than alleviate the perception of Mr. Romney’s weakness among “conservatives,” Southern or otherwise, such an outcome would more clearly demonstrate that one “conservative” could have won both states, thus substantially ramping up the pressure on either Mr. Santorum or Mr. Gingrich (almost assuredly the latter) to drop out, leaving Mr. Romney facing one “conservative” opponent in the race for the nomination of a conservative Party. Thus, such an outcome would only intensify and prolong, rather than end, the race for the GOP presidential nomination.

Approaching this subject from another angle, Mr. Romney does not have to win any Southern primaries or establish that he can win in the South in order to win the nomination and be a viable Republican candidate against President Obama. As I’ve said in prior posts (most recently in 3/7/12 post, “I’VE BEEN IN SOME BIG (METROPOLITAN AREAS)…”), any Republican is going to carry the reddest of red states, a pretty good description of Alabama, Mississippi, and the rest of the South, simply because of that region’s antipathy toward President Obama. Simply put, given where the delegates are, and how they are selected, Mr. Romney could win the nomination without winning a single Southern state outright. And, if he does so, he will most assuredly carry the South over Barack Obama simply because he is not President Obama.

Therefore, we have a great irony here. A win by Mr. Romney in Alabama and/or Mississippi would hurt his chances at the nomination by hastening the departure of one of his chief opponents, placing Mr. Romney in a one-on-one battle with an opponent whose philosophy is more in line with that of most of the GOP primary electorate. A loss by Mr. Romney in the South, and especially a loss to Newt Gingrich, could help the former Massachusetts governor by keeping both of his chief opponents in the race, splitting the “conservative’ opposition to Mr. Romney. Further, should Mr. Romney win the nomination, as is still at least highly likely, a failure to win Alabama, Mississippi, or any Southern primary should not hurt his chances at defeating President Obama because the Republican standard-bearer is going to carry the South regardless of who he is.

No comments: