Had I not seen polls earlier this week showing a Mitt Romney surge in Alabama and Mississippi, I might have more closely forecast last night’s result. It was, to be sure, a good night for Rick Santorum and a lousy one for Newt Gingrich.
Mitt Romney ran almost exactly as he has run in other Southern states, capturing, as Jay Cost put it, “roughly the same share of the vote in all four states [South Carolina, Georgia, Alabama and Mississippi] – something within a very narrow band of 26 percent and 30 percent of the vote.” I would add also Tennessee where he won 28% of the vote.
Interestingly, as well as Santorum did last night; he fell short of his Tennessee tally, winning 34.5% of the vote in Alabama and 32.9% in Mississippi. (He had snagged 37.2% in the Volunteer State.) Romney ran a close third in both states, fewer than 3,000 vote behind Newt in the Magnolia State and fewer than 2,000 behind in the Yellowhammer State.
He did very well in urban areas, winning the metropolitan areas of Biloxi, Birmingham, Jackson, Mobile and Montgomery. Santorum pretty much cleaned up in the rural areas.
Had Mitt managed a win in either of the two states, even by the slightest of margins, he could have pretty much ended the contest. Santorum did what he had to do to keep the contest going.
Earlier yesterday, Jim Geraghty (in his Morning Jolt available by subscription) linked a report that the former Massachusetts governor was spending the day in the Show-Me State which caucuses this weekend:
Weeks after Santorum overwhelmed Romney in Missouri’s “beauty contest” primary, Romney campaigned in a St. Louis park Tuesday, ignoring his Republican rivals and training his rhetorical fire on President Obama. He accused the president of failing to fix the economy and allowing America’s military superiority to slip.
. . . .
His decision to skip Alabama and Mississippi on Tuesday may also be an effort to lower expectations in the two states, where some polls have indicated that Romney could perform better than expected as Santorum and Newt Gingrich split the conservative vote. Romney did not mention the Alabama and Mississippi ballots during his St. Louis appearance.
Wonder if Santorum was helped by his continual attacks on “Romneycare” and wonder if Mitt was hurt by his negative ads. If a report I had read on the Alabama campaign were true, his team is still attacking his Republican rivals. With a successful Super Tuesday behind him, he might have been wise to make the case for his leadership rather than against his rivals.
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