Mitt Romney's Southern Problem Will Disappear Shortly
Romney's southern problem is a nomination phase phenomenon that will disappear shortly
March 7, 2012
Mitt Romney is vulnerable in the South for the nomination race. Although Mitt Romney has claimed both Florida and Virginia, it's clear that he is not doing so well in other southern states. But that fact simply reinforces his lingering problems with very conservative and evangelical voters, who do not trust him. Until Romney can don the proverbial cloak of inevitability—a delayed event as long as three other options are in the race—this will remain a problem for him.
That doesn't mean Romney's nomination is threatened. He has won solidly in western, midwestern, and northeastern states. He just can't close the deal in the heart of the GOP stronghold. The fact that the number of western, midwestern, and northeastern states remaining in the nomination calendar dwarfs the number of remaining southern states certainly helps him.
Texas may be the best hope for the remaining three candidates. If they can hold out until that state's very late primary in May, and still be considered viable candidates, Romney may face difficulties crossing the finish line with the necessary majority in the delegate count. But it seems just as likely that the other candidates will face increasing pressure to get out in the 12 intervening weeks if they can't collectively do better than they did last night. I have voted in Texas primaries since 1984, and my vote has never mattered. Thanks to the delayed calendar this year, I have little hope of a different outcome this time.
Romney's fortunes in the South will change come the fall general election campaign. Indeed, for all of his problems in the reddest of states, it does not strike me that Romney will be particularly vulnerable in many southern states in November, and he has ample opportunities to reclaim the few southern states President Obama won in 2008. Romney's southern problem is a nomination phase phenomenon that will disappear shortly, to be replaced by our quadrennial fixation on more traditional "battleground" states. That is where Romney will have to close the deal with the American people.