Mitt Romney's loss in the Louisiana presidential primary Saturday shows that he has a regional predicament in the South, where his appeal is minimal, but it probably won't be a serious problem over the long term, as his critics say.
Romney has lost most of the Deep South in the Republican nominating process—South Carolina, Georgia, Mississippi, Alabama and now Louisiana—and he apparently stands little chance of winning any more in the future, such as Texas and North Carolina, if the GOP race goes on that long.
But Republican strategists say his critics fail to acknowledge that Romney did win two Southern states that will be crucial to the success of any GOP candidate in the fall--Florida and Virginia. That's partly because evangelical Christians and hard-line conservatives don't dominate GOP politics in those two states as they do elsewhere. Such voters are, as of now, skeptical of Romney and his conservative credentials. In Virginia, Romney had the added advantage of Rick Santorum and Newt Gingrich failing to qualify for the ballot.
Beyond all that, Romney's critics tend to ignore the fact that he is still likely to win the South in the fall if he is the Republican nominee, because those states are so conservative that they are unlikely to go for Barack Obama under almost any circumstances.
"In the fall, they'll be firmly Republican," predicts a senior GOP strategist, who hasn't taken sides within the GOP field.
As for the nominating contest, Saturday's loss in Louisiana did little to diminish Romney's 2-to-1 delegate lead over Santorum.
Romney is expected to win primaries in Maryland and the District of Columbia on April 3, when Wisconsin will also be up for grabs. Romney has a narrow edge there, according to the polls.