A week after Super Tuesday the primary moves south with voting in Mississippi and Alabama and also way down in the south Pacific with Hawaii. All in all, 110 delegates are up for grabs (116 if you add in American Samoa). But will anything change? Maybe. Here is what I am watching.
Newt Gingrich – If anyone is under pressure today, it is Newt. Wins in Mississippi and Alabama or at least a very strong showing are needed for him to justify continuing his Southern strategy. His only other two wins were in South Carolina and his home state of Georgia. He needs to continue his Southern sweep to stay viable. He has pledged to continue on either way, but everyone says that. Remember when Michele Bachmann said she already had booked her flight from Iowa to South Carolina? It turned out that flight must have been refundable because she dropped out after a poor showing in the Iowa Caucus. Today is Newt’s Alamo.
Rick Santorum – A week ago, it was almost assumed Santorum would easily win both Alabama and Mississippi, but after several million dollars in negative ad buys from Romney’s super PAC, his numbers have declined where most polls have him third, albeit slightly. He could pick up a boost from his very strong showing in Kansas on Saturday, and Alabama Gov. Bentley’s election day support but a win for Santorum would be a comeback at this point. He will likely move on to Missouri (3/17), Illinois (3/20), and Louisiana (3/24) either way, but at least a second place showing or a surprise win would certainly help his campaign.
Mitt Romney – Romney is sitting pretty going into today. He has not yet won in the South, so no one expected him to even have a chance until the polls that came out in the last few days – some of which showed him in the lead and all of them showed him within striking distance. After a week of talking about eating grits, saying ya’ll and pal-ing around with Jeff Foxworthy, he could surprise folks tonight. A win in either Alabama or Mississippi would be a sign that Republicans are coming around to accepting Romney as the nominee.
Ron Paul – Paul is Paul and will always be Paul. He will pick up a few delegates in each state as his libertarian movement within the primary continues. He has yet to win a state and that will likely not change tonight.
Result – For the most part, today is likely a draw as the primary slowly slogs on. Delegates are proportional, so no one will likely win by a margin big enough to claim the lion’s share of Alabama or Mississippi. Romney will likely net the most tonight overall due to his expected win in the Hawaii Caucus and a few extras from American Samoa, which should overcome any deficits in Mississippi and Alabama.
A draw is also a win for Romney. The real danger for him tonight is if conservatives looking for an alternative coalesce behind Santorum and drive Gingrich from the race. Barring some sort of unexpected collapse by Newt, this does not look likely.
As in baseball, a tie goes to the (front)runner.