By Mary Kate Cary |
Including the results from Tuesday's contests, Mitt Romney has not only won more delegates than Rick Santorum, Newt Gingrich, and Ron Paul combined, but also secured more than a third of the 1,144 delegates that are needed to clinch the Republican nomination.
Unfortunately for his campaign, these facts won't matter much to either the evangelical conservatives who will dominate the electorates of the five southern and border states voting this month (Alabama, Kansas, Louisiana, Mississippi, and Missouri), or the media who will be closely following each of these contests.
Romney's going to have a tough March.
But political observers shouldn't be fooled by these geographical sleights of hand. Outside of North Carolina and Virginia, the general election will not be decided in the South. Even though some in the Republican Party harbor concerns about whether evangelical conservatives will turn out for Romney in November, it should be noted that last night, in Tennessee, Santorum won the voters who said they would "definitely vote for the GOP nominee." Further, Gallup has recently noted that Republicans, despite this rough-and-tumble nomination race, are still more enthusiastic to vote this cycle than Democrats.
Romney's losses over the next few weeks also aren't likely to be as bad on paper as they'll look on television. By placing second to Santorum, as he did yesterday in Oklahoma and Tennessee, Romney will be able to both collect a large number of delegates, owing to proportional allocation rules, and demonstrate that Newt Gingrich, who hails from Georgia, has lost his southern appeal. Romney may also be able to claim another victory in the Midwest on March 20, should the results in Illinois resemble those in Ohio and Michigan.
So while Santorum's likely to have a good March, Romney's setting up to have not only a strong April, when Santorum will be faced with trying to win his home state of Pennsylvania, but also a competitive fall.
About Lara Brown Professor at Villanova University
David Crockett Author of 'Running Against the Grain: How Opposition Candidates Win Presidential Election'
Jamie Chandler Professor at Hunter College
Ford O'Connell Republican Strategist, Conservative Activist, and Political Analyst
Judson Phillips Founder of Tea Party Nation
Krystal Ball MSNBC Contributor and Former Democratic Nominee for Congress in the First District of Virginia