A slew of new polls have recently been released showing that the Presidential campaign in the southern states is essentially a dead heat. Newt Gingrich appears to have a tenuous lead over the other candidates but, in almost every poll, he is within the statistical margin of error.
In Alabama, Rasmussen reported Gingrich on top with 30%, while Mitt Romney and Rick Santorum were close behind at 29% and 28% respectively.
Mississippi presents a bit of a conundrum with its conflicting poll numbers. An American Research Group poll has Newt leading Romney by four points 35%-31%, and Santorum lagging way behind with 20%. However, a recently released Rasmussen poll has Romney leading the state with 35%, while Newt and Santorum are deadlocked at 27% apiece. Its not immediately clear why the two polls, taken only one day apart, came up with such differing results among the candidates but, as with Alabama, it appears to indicate that there is still room for any of the top 3 candidates to push their way to victory in the state.
Its no secret that Newt needs to do well in the south, he has based his entire strategy around it. However, this is not to say that Tuesday’s primaries don’t hold heavy significance to both Santorum and Romney. If either of the latter two campaigns swoops in and takes a win in Mississippi or Alabama, it would be a real blow to the Gingrich campaign strategy.
A win for Romney would show that he can, in fact, appeal to the southern electorate. A win for Santorum, on the other hand, would lend credence to his argument that he is the best conservative alternative to Romney.
Conversely, Gingrich victories in both Mississippi and Alabama would poke holes in Santorum supporters’ argument that Newt should bow out. After all, its difficult to make the argument that a competitor should fold up shop when he’s winning.
Whatever the outcome is to be, top Gingrich advisers have declared Mississippi and Alabama “must win” battle ground states. Although the polls currently offer no clear frontrunner in the two southern states at stake this Tuesday, Santorum and Gingrich have accepted an invitation to participate in a televised Presidential Forum in Alabama the night before voting is to take place.
Gingrich will undoubtedly be looking to use that opportunity to play to his strengths, and put a little more cushion between himself and the other candidates.