Santorum number one in MS and AL primaries, Romney wins Hawaii caucuses (updated)

Rick Santorum picked up media momentum in yesterday's Southern primaries, but did not narow Romney's lead in the delegate count.  Mitt Romney came in third, a big disappointment considering poll numbers reported before the election indicating a close race.  Santorum's margin in Alabama was about 5 percent over Gingrich, and 7 percent over Romney, a clear win. In Mississippi, he enjoyed 2 points over Gingrich, and 3 over Romney.

But because of proportional distribution of delegates, Santorum's first place status in the Southern state does not yield significant gains on front-runner Romney, while Romney's bigger victory in Hawaii's caucuses actually will enlarge his delegate lead.  Andrew Malcolm of IBD notes:

Due to the new proportional allocation, Santorum, Gingrich and Romney will each get about a third of the Alabama and Mississippi convention delegates. And Romney's lead of about 250 delegates remains intact.

Except -- oh, wait! -- after everyone went to bed on the mainland, Romney won all nine delegates from American Samoa. And in the Hawaii caucuses, he won again, capturing 45% of the votes and the lion's share of the 17 delegates. Santorum trailed with 25%, followed by Paul at 19% with Gingrich back at 11%.

So once again, the results of Santorum's big wins are that Romney's lead widens a little more. 

The New York Times' delegate count has Romney in a solid first place, with 495, Santorum at 252, Gingrich at 131, and Paul at 48.

Perhaps most disturbing to Romney supporters is the gap between polling and actual results in the South, where evangelical Christians are particularly numerous. One hypothesis to explain this phenomenon is that people might lie to pollsters because of religious bigotry against a member of the LDS church.

While Santorum has bragging rights, and will no doubt be able to raise further cash, Newt Gingrich faces a much more problematic situation this morning. The South is his native territory, and his inability to win there cannot help him gain momentum. Not surprisingly, his camp is now discussing possible joining of forces with Santorum.

The bottom line:  the GOP contest will continue with Romney unable to close the deal. 

Update from Rosslyn Smith:

Part of Romney's under performance in Southern polls may not be religious bigotry.  Romney's plastic persona would seem to invite the Southern redneck habit of dissembling to outsiders, particularly Northerners   I have watched with a great deal of amusement over the years as my neighbors deal with know-it-all city folk and Yankees.  If it's just conversation the tendency is to say what they think the person wants to hear.  Part of it is a conviction that it's the most Christian way to get rid of crude and pushy people. Part of it is amusement at the stereotypes of the South combined with a desire to yank chains. 

Any whiff of either paternalism or insincere flattery tends to bring out the worst of the chain yanking. Think Margaret Mead in Samoa. A book on the history of this county reports that the stories of low behavior in these mountains trace to Post Civil War Northern do-gooder missionaries predisposed to believe the very worst.  If the worst seemed to be sex the missionary was told shocking stories of incest.  If the missionary was  obsessed with Demon Rum, he was told papa ran moonshine, got drunk every night and beat mama.  Old habits die hard.  The locals had a field day five or six years back when the people now featured in the show Finding Bigfoot came through here in their breathless search for evidence of Sasquatch. 

If the conservation asks for something in the nature of a positive recommendation the response depends up the asker's reputation,  Southern rednecks can be dumber than a box of rocks to someone they dislike.  When I go to the local country store and I ask one of the good old boys who is the best person to fix my well or remove a tree I get a good solid recommendations.  When the jackass from New Jersey who has a reputation of being impossible to please asks, he gets dumb stares.  Six years later he still hasn't figured out that it isn't a bias towards outsiders.  It's a bias against aholes.  

Perhaps the highest expression of this art came from a local friend. He had attended Virgina Tech and spent summers working for his aunt, a food service manager at socially exclusive Sweetbriar College.  When meeting his intellectually pretentious future father in-law for the first time at a fine restaurant he made a fine show of it.  He made sure there was still a trace of cow manure on his boots, mangled the grammar and ignored the offered glass to drink his beer from the bottle. He was quite the hick -- at least until Dad finally got the joke that his new son in law was intentionally living down to the stereotype. 

Morgan Taylor writes:


Two questions come to the fore:  1) Can Romney accumulate 1,144 delegates before June and avoid a convention battle; and 2) Why doesn't Newt Gingrich get out of the race?

At the moment it appears the only strategy the Romney camp has is to rely on gradually adding to his total delegate count until the nomination becomes inevitable.   That strategy presupposes he will not stumble along the way or that either Santorum or Gingrich gain further momentum and win a few unanticipated primaries and split the delegates further.   It appears Romney has conceded he cannot win the hard-core conservative vote.   

As for Newt getting out of the race, he has close to the delegate count as Santorum despite winning just two primaries.   Further, he does seem bent on denying the nomination to Romney or at least forcing what he called "a dialogue" in the sixty days prior to the convention in August.   There is no guarantee that if he were to drop out that Santorum going head to head with Romney would not be a major advantage to Romney as much of the vote Gingrich is receiving would, in all likelihood, go to Mitt.    Thus far while Santorum has captured the plurality of the hard-core conservative and a majority of the evangelical vote, he has not shown he can appeal to a broad spectrum of voters.

Why are we in this mess?  Perhaps nothing explains it better than an article in the American Thinker last January 30: "The Republican Establishment's Strategic Blunder":

Perhaps Newt Gingrich or Rick Santorum or Ron Paul are not the right candidates to face Barack Obama, but that decision should be up to the voters.  While it maybe the role of the conservative pundit class to proffer their opinion of the various candidates, it is not the role of the overall Establishment to so marginalize candidates that there appears to be only one viable alternative.  [Romney]

There is a conservative grass-roots rejection not only of Romney but the Republican establishment which is allowing Santorum and Gingrich to stay in the race and potentially deny Romney the nomination.   Romney's intransience on Romney Care and his less that whole-hearted embrace of conservative principles combined with the inevitability factor of Romney winning the nomination being promoted by the establishment have allowed two otherwise flawed candidates plus Ron Paul to prolong this primary process.

They have no one to blame but themselves.

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