Romney Still Digging For Delegates in the Deep South

Mitt Romney spent the weekend campaigning in states where he faces an uphill battle for delegates. How is that going to help him?

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Of the 10 states set to cast ballots in the Republican presidential primary on Tuesday, Mitt Romney is least likely to win in Georgia and Tennessee. And yet, the former Massachusetts governor made a campaign stop in each state on Sunday. Why?

The most obvious answer is delegates. In order to finally secure the GOP nomination, a candidate must collect 1,144 delegates, which are awarded proportionately by some states and others by winner-take-all.

Georgia, which has 76 delegates at stake, allots them by congressional district. If a candidate gets more than 50 percent of the vote in a district, they receive all three delegates at stake. If they do not cross the 50 percent threshold, the top two vote getters split them, with the first-place winner receiving two delegates and the second-place finisher credited with one delegate. Similarly in Tennessee, where 58 delegates are up for grabs, the margin of victory is important when it comes to how they are awarded.

[Read: Romney Dishes It Out In Georgia.]

The latest poll released Sunday by Public Policy Polling indicates Romney might be in a position to pick up some delegates in Georgia, despite the fact that it's home turf for former House Speaker Newt Gingrich and considered fertile ground for social conservative champion Rick Santorum.

The survey shows Gingrich leading with 47 percent, with Romney garnering 24 percent and Santorum trailing with 19 percent.

In Tennessee, according to the PPP poll, the former Pennsylvania Senator's once wide margin has narrowed. Santorum now leads with 34 percent support, with Romney at 29 percent and Gingrich at 27 percent.

While Gingrich has focused on the South before last Tuesday's elections in Arizona and Michigan, Romney's recent southern swing contrasts with Santorum, who has almost exclusively been campaigning in Ohio. While he and Romney are neck-and-neck in polling there, Santorum's focus in Ohio may come at a cost.

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While retail politicking in early states like Iowa and New Hampshire is expected, voters like Bruce and Sharon Sabin, of Atlanta, prove that showing up still matters on Super Tuesday, when a group of states vote. Romney's Sunday trip to nearby Snellville, where the Sabins each own a business, likely sealed up their support for him.

"My wife and I are trying to decide who to vote for," Sabin said prior to Romney's appearance. "I'm leaning towards Romney because he can beat Obama. We like Newt Gingrich as a person, but we don't think he can beat Obama. I mean, he's a brilliant man, but I don't think the rest of the country will support him."

Gingrich has too much "baggage," Sabin said.

Bruce Sabin, a doctor of internal medicine, said he was still wavering on Romney because he opposes the president's health care law along with the law Romney passed as governor in Massachusetts. He said he agrees people can change, but needed to hear Romney in person to be convinced.

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"I want to hear that. I don't trust what you read in the media. We thought we'd come and hear him in person and maybe he'd say something that is in our thoughts," Sabin said.

During his speech, Romney repeated his commitment to repealing "Obamacare" and briefly outlined what he would do to replace it during a question-and-answer period.

His answer was to leave health care for the poor and uninsured up to states, with the federal government providing block grants without strings attached for the efforts.

It's really all the Sabins needed to hear. But they needed to hear it first hand, and Romney gave them that chance.

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  • Email: rmetzler@usnews.com

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