Alabama and Mississippi are the heartland of today's Republican Party. Despite a veneer of modernity and significant strides away from their segregationist past, both states remain deeply conservative, and despite his Roman Catholicism and Rust Belt roots, Rick Santorum was the logical winner of primaries yesterday that threw the race for the party's presidential nomination into further turmoil.
Santorum's twin victories were shocking but at the same time not surprising, and should dispel any remaining doubt that the one-time party of the Big Tent has devolved into a knuckle dragging caricature of all that is rotten in American politics, as well as provide further evidence that Mitt Romney remains unready for prime time.
Despite the backing of the political establishments of Alabama and Mississippi and a huge fundraising advantage, Romney finished third in both states, and had Newt Gingrich dropped out -- as he now will be pressured to do by Romney and Santorum supporters -- the former Massachusetts governor would have been crushed.
While Santorum was triumphant, exit polls showed that 39 percent of voters in Mississippi and 36 percent in Alabama said that defeating President Obama their top priority.
In yet another gaffe, Romney had called the primaries "the desperate end" of Santorum's candidacy, but exit polls showed that it is he who should be feeling desperate. With the exception of the elderly, no demographic got behind him and even affluent voters flocked to Santorum. Oh, and young voters stayed away from all three candidates in droves.
With Hawaii and American Samoa also voting, Romney still garnered the most delegates despite continuing to run what is possibly the most pathetic campaign in modern history. Although Romney appears weaker after each contest, the nomination is still his to lose because it is unlikely that Santorum can overtake him even if he wins the Illinois primary next Tuesday. Then again, the conventional wisdom has been wrong much of the time, and a Santorum win in the state of Abraham Lincoln could be a game changer.
Gingrich at this juncture is grasping at straws. He boasted last night that he remained viable because he won delegates despite losing, a weak argument that Romney also has used.
"Ordinary people across this country can defy the odds," Santorum declared last night. "This campaign is about ordinary folks doing extraordinary things, kinda like America."
That is true, of course, but only if you are an American who believes in the co-mingling of church and state, opposes family planning and abortion even in the case of rape and incest, who sees universities as left-wing re-education camps, and never saw a war you didn't like.Image by Blue Sky