Dog Bites Man: Santorum Wins in South


By: Craig Chamberlain

The anti Romney faction in the GOP and the media thinks that Rick Santorums victories in Alabama and Mississippi were earth shattering events. Please. Did anyone really think that a New England Mormon had a chance in the deep south? Romney’s two victories in the south could both have asterisks beside them. In Virginia his only opponent was Ron Paul. Though, come to think of it, how dumb do the Santorum and Gingrich campaigns have to be not to get 10,000 signatures in the Old Dominion? His victory in Florida is due to the fact that the Sunshine State isn’t a traditional southern state anymore. The counties where the old south lives on were won by Gingrich whereas Romney won the central and southern counties. If you’re a Santorum supporter you have to be worried: there aren’t very many southern states left. Santorum’s remaining victories are probably in Louisiana, Arkansas, Kentucky, North Carolina, Texas, and Pennsylvania. To be honest, that’s not enough to get him to the nomination.

So why does Romney have such trouble in the southern states?  Is it conservatism, is it Mormonism, or is it personality? In truthfulness it’s probably a combination of all three. The perception, rightly or wrongly, continues to chase Romney that he is a RINO squish. That’s probably not fair. After all we need to remember that he was governor of Massachusetts. It’s impossible to govern a New England state from the right, just as it would be impossible to govern Wyoming from the left. Romney, for all of his supposed liberalism was the most conservative Republican to govern the Bay State. He was well to the right of Jane Swift, William Weld, or Paul Cellucci,  which might not be enough to placate the anti Romney crowd, but it should be kept in mind.

Romney is reserved, introverted, and calm. It takes a lot to rattle his cage. As a native of West Virginia I can tell you that southern don’t appreciate calm introverts. Southerners like  politicians, like their preachers, to be of the fire and brimstone variety. That’s not Romney. His attempts to fit in with the southern crowd come off as awkward and embarrassing. Gingrich and Santorum know how to speak southern and give them what they want.  Romney comes across as if he is talking to the people from an english to southern translation book.

What about religion? His membership in the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints is an issue, no matter what the people say. Southerners don’t like Mormons, never have and probably never will. Though there was a time when they didn’t care for Catholics either, and they’re finally starting to get over that. Will that stop them from voting for him if he’s the nominee? Probably not, I can’t see President Obama winning states like Georgia or Alabama in the general election. But that doesn’t mean that they want Romney for the nominee. They’ll protest all the way to the convention in Tampa to voice their displeasure about having a Massachusetts Mormon heading up the ticket.

We’re told by the anti Romney faction that his wins are unimpressive, and that it is proof that Romney doesn’t have the support of the party. Maybe, but if Romeny’s victories are unimpressive, then Santorum’s are equally so. While Santorum won both Mississippi and Alabama his victories were razor thin. Both states were essentially three way ties. He’s able to get away with it by lowering expectations. He doesn’t have the money Romney does, so any victory for Santorum is akin to Wellington winning at Waterloo. His victory in Iowa was by a whopping 34 votes(and let’s remember that it was awarded retroactively by the state GOP which was no fan of Romney). So if Romney is failing to land a knock out punch then so is Santorum.

The anti Romney forces tell us that if it were a two way race then there is no way Romney would win. Well, first of all, it isn’t a two man race. Take it up with Newt Gingrich if you’re unhappy about that. Secondly such reasoning is going on a faulty presumption. While it’s likely that most of Gingrich’s voters would go to Santorum Romney would get a share of them as well, as would Ron Paul. Even if it were one on one it wouldn’t really change too much. Santorum, and Romney are still regional candidates. Romney with his base in the northeast and in the west, Santorum in the south, with Romney and Santorum battling it out over the Midwest.

So what do Santorum’s wins tell us? Not much. Santorum will still do well in the south, probably sweeping the rest of the southern states, Romney will do much better out of the south, and they’ll split the Midwest between them. With Romney winning Illinois, Indiana, and Wisconsin, along with his victories in Ohio and Michigan. Santorum will win South Dakota, along with his victories in North Dakota, Minnesota, Iowa, Missouri, and Kansas. Santorum and his supporters might not want to hear it but there aren’t too many states that are safe territory for Santorum.

Romney is going to be the nominee, no matter what Mississippi and Alabama think about it.

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