Debate Club

South Poses Primary and General Election Problems for Romney


If former Gov. Mitt Romney's Super Tuesday performance is any indication, it's going to be very tough for him to rally enough support from Old Dixie voters in the coming months to leave Tampa with a solid, enthusiastic national GOP coalition. He is quite vulnerable. southern voters are neither enamored with his campaign, nor do they trust his Northeast brand of governing. They also continue to struggle with his Mormon faith, and don't trust his amorphous positions on social issues.

Although Georgia exit polls indicated yesterday that gas prices are one of its voters biggest concerns, Gingrich won two thirds of evangelicals, and two fifths of Tea Partyers.

With former Sen. Rick Santorum building momentum from his victories yesterday, and former House Speaker Newt Gingrich likely remaining in the race for the next several weeks, Romney may need to write off the fact he doesn't have much of a chance knocking out his opponents' southern garrisons.

[See a collection of political cartoons on Mitt Romney.]

But will this even matter in a general election? Outside the rural areas, President Obama performed poorly across the region in 2008. And he's probably not going to be competitive there again this year. Assuming Romney does win the nomination, and those Republican voters will rally around his general election candidacy, he'll probably have enough support November 6 to count the South's electoral votes in his column.

Romney has a much bigger problem nationally, though. His core base of supporters lives in metropolitan areas and urban states. And President Obama is proving much more competitive in those places in current hypothetical matchup polls. Santorum, his organizational and resource issues aside, is winning states and counties that helped tip the electoral balance toward George Bush in 2000 and 2004, and carry Sen. John McCain in 2008. If Gingrich drops out of the race later this month, and Santorum can consolidate the social conservative vote, any chance Romney has of attracting these areas will be shot.

[See pictures of the 2012 GOP candidates.]

The biggest problem for Romney is most likely Texas. If Rick Santorum engineers a win there on May 29. Romney's fundraising basket will need some serious mending in order to collect enough cash this summer to compete with the president in the fall. Santorum continues to win the Alamo State's preprimary polls. A University of Texas survey conducted last week found that he's the preferred choice of 45 percent of likely GOP voters.

The South's support has been crucial to GOP presidential election victories since 1972. Romney may need to execute a game changer in the coming weeks if he wants to lock up the nomination soon and give himself a solid chance of winning the general election. Revamping his campaign staff and strategy, building strong alliances with southern political leaders, and perhaps considering striking a vice president deal with Santorum could all be good moves to help shore up his weaknesses.

Jamie Chandler

About Jamie Chandler Professor at Hunter College

Romney, Mitt
2012 presidential election

Other Arguments

44 Pts
Mitt Romney's Southern Problem Will Disappear Shortly

Yes – Mitt Romney's Southern Problem Will Disappear Shortly

David Crockett Author of 'Running Against the Grain: How Opposition Candidates Win Presidential Election'

31 Pts
South Will Be a Strength, Not Weakness, for Romney Against Obama

No – South Will Be a Strength, Not Weakness, for Romney Against Obama

Ford O'Connell Republican Strategist, Conservative Activist, and Political Analyst

26 Pts
Mitt Romney Will Have a Tough March in the South

Yes – Mitt Romney Will Have a Tough March in the South

Lara Brown Professor at Villanova University

12 Pts
Don't Discount Mitt Romney in the South Just Yet

No – Don't Discount Mitt Romney in the South Just Yet

Ron Bonjean Former Chief of Staff for the Senate Republican Conference

-6 Pts
Both a Problem and an Opportunity for Mitt Romney in the South

Yes – Both a Problem and an Opportunity for Mitt Romney in the South

Krystal Ball MSNBC Contributor and Former Democratic Nominee for Congress in the First District of Virginia

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