Romney Competitive In Mississippi

After Super Tuesday, the convention wisdom was that Mitt Romney would have trouble scoring a win before the Illinois Primary on March 2oth due mostly to his weakness in the south and among evangelical voters. To be certain, Romney is unlikely to make much of a splash in the Kansas Caucuses this weekend but the only candidate who seems to be campaigning there is Rick Santorum anyway. As we’ve already seen, though, Romney has shown signs of potentially doing well in Alabama and now, there are signs that he may also have a shot at winning next Tuesday’s primary in Mississippi.

First up is a poll from American Research Group which shows Newt Gingrich leading Romney, but by an amount that’s within the margin of error:

Newt Gingrich leads the Mississippi Republican presidential primary with 35%. Gingrich is followed by Mitt Romney with 31%, Rick Santorum with 20%, and Ron Paul with 7%.

Gingrich leads Romney 37% to 32% among self-identified Republicans, followed by Santorum with 21% and Paul with 3%. Among self-identified independents and Democrats, Paul leads with 33%, followed by Romney with 24%, Gingrich with 20%, and Santorum with 14%.

Gingrich leads Romney 37% to 30% among likely Republican primary voters saying they will definitely vote in the March 6 primary, followed by Santorum with 17% and Paul with 5%. Romney leads Santorum 40% to 20% among those saying they will probably vote, followed by Paul with 18% and Gingrich with 13%.

Gingrich leads with 49% among likely Republican primary voters saying they are supporters of the Tea Party, followed by Romney with 24%, Santorum with 17%, and Paul with 5%. Among likely primary voters saying they are not supporters of the Tea Party or are undecided about the Tea Party, Romney leads with 39%, followed by Santorum with 24%, Gingrich with 17%, and Paul with 10%.

Gingrich leads among men with 39%, followed by Romney and Santorum with 21% each, and Paul with 12%. Romney leads Gingrich 42% to 30% among women, followed by Santorum with 19% and Paul with 2%.

I’ve noted before that ARG’s polling has been off throughout this entire primary season so these numbers should perhaps be taken with a grain of salt. Nonetheless, Romney’s strength in the Magnolia State seems to be substantiated by a new Rasmussen poll which actually shows him leading the field:

Rasmussen Reports’ first Republican primary survey in Mississippi shows former Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney leading his closest competitors by eight points. A new statewide telephone survey of Likely GOP Primary Voters in the Magnolia State shows Romney with 35% of the vote, while former Pennsylvania Senator Rick Santorum and former House Speaker Newt Gingrich each draw support from 27%. Texas Congressman Ron Paul runs last with six percent (6%). One percent (1%) prefers some other candidate, and four percent (4%) are undecided.

Two polls may not be enough to tell us much of anything, but Nate Silver currently gives Romney a 70% chance of winning Mississippi. In any case, it seems clear that Romney is doing better in both of these states than many might have otherwise expected. If he manages to win one of them next Tuesday, then it will at the very least put the lie to the argument that Romney can’t win a primary in a Southern state. If he wins both of them, then the argument that either Santorum or Gingrich have any conceivable chance of winning the nomination will have been utterly destroyed.

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Doug Mataconis
About Doug Mataconis
Doug Mataconis held a B.A. in Political Science from Rutgers University and J.D. from George Mason University School of Law. He joined the staff of OTB in May 2010 and contributed a staggering 16,483 posts before his retirement in January 2020. He passed far too young in July 2021.


  1. MBunge says:

    Yeah, winning with barely a third of the vote because Santorum and Gingrich split the anti-Romney majority is not exactly a sign of strength.

    I hope after all this Romney-pimping in the primaries, you’ll have the self-awareness to not endlessly complain about him during the general.


  2. (1) In multi-candidate races, the winner generally wins by getting a plurality of the vote.

    (2) I’m not “pimping” Romney

  3. PD Shaw says:

    Mississippi is more favorable ground for Romney than Alabama. There are three population centers in the state:

    The Gulf Coast, Jimmy Buffet country, is not socially conservative; it also has a significant Catholic population, so I wouldn’t be surprised to see Romney win here.

    The Jackson area is full of government employees and its also where the Nissan plant is located. What do they thing of the auto bailout? Romney won the capitals of Georgia and the Florida panhandle, so you would expect him to do well here.

    And then fast-growing suburban Memphis on the Northwest side might be good Romney territory also.

    So, can Romney win by enough in these population areas to offset his disadvantages in the rest of the state?

  4. I think MBunge has an important point here– Gingrich has all but staked his candidacy to winning in MS & Ala. In a Gingrich-less world, does Santorum have a much better chance of beating Romney head to head? Are Santorum & Gingrich going for the same voters, who’d prefer either of them to Mitt?

    The conventional wisdom is, I think, that Santorum would be helped by Newt’s departure, that the base is tolerating Romney because he’s supposedly a better bet against Obama & he has a giant pile of money. I haven’t seen the data to substantiate that, though.

  5. An Interested Party says:

    I hope after all this Romney-pimping in the primaries, you’ll have the self-awareness to not endlessly complain about him during the general.

    Actually, Doug’s reaction to the general election campaign will be interesting to observe…Romney is winning, but being torn apart as he wins, with his approval rating dropping and his disapproval rating rising…we may see a repeat of 1996…

  6. Anderson says:

    Interesting if true. I would’ve expected Santorum to be doing better here, given the number of fundamentalists we have.

    On Tuesday, I will be voting in the open primary for Santorum. I wonder if polls of *Republican* voters underestimate such tactical voting.

    Anyway, it’s almost surely Romney, barring the old dead-girl/live-boy situation.

  7. Bob Smith says:

    Romney’s been running for prez nearly non-stop for 5 years. The news that he is merely “competitive” in MS is hardly cause for celebration in the Romney camp. Santorum has little money, a weak organization, and apparently no speechwriter. And he came within one point of beating Romney in Ohio, despite being outspent 10-to-1.

  8. So much for my conjecture above– Newt is apparently hanging around no matter what. Even less reason to guess at Gingrich voters’ views of Santorum, now.

  9. Anybody says:

    Romney is more than competitive. He is WINNING in 2 other polls by 5 points and 8 points!
    Southerners want Obama OUT of office and Romney beats Obama!

  10. Anybody says:

    Actually, if you google the polls that have asked the question of Voters for their 2nd choice it has been Romney in a MAJORITY.
    And be assured that while Santorum and Newt say otherwise they are fully aware that it is actually Romney that is a 2nd choice to either of them.
    And this includes Paul Voters that Santorum and Newt just ignore. But Paul voters also went for Romney in a majority!

    feel free to look it all up. There are several polls including exit polls. Romney is 2nd choice majority candidate, too.

  11. Anderson says:

    Aaaaand so much for polling.