Live Updates Fresh off a weekend primary victory in Kansas, Mitt Romney looks to overtake Newt Gingrich in the Mississippi primary this Tuesday.
PolicyMic is covering the primary live, and will be regularly updating this page as new information becomes available. Stay tuned.
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Tuesday 10:15 p.m. Mitt Romney Struggling Mightily in the South: Romney currently trails in Mississippi and is projected to get third in Alabama.
In Mississippi, with 80% of polls reporting, Santorum barely leads with 33% of the vote, followed by Gingrich with 32%, and Romney with 30%.
9:53 p.m. SANTORUM WINS ALABAMA
9:45 p.m. With 60% reporting, Santorum leads with 33% of the vote, followed closely behind by Gingrich and Romney, both with 31%.
9:30 p.m. With 34% of polls reporting, we've still got a really tight race: 33% for Santorum, 31% for Gingrich, and 30% for Romney.
And they were saying Mississippi would be a lot less complicated than Alabama.
A pic from the Mississippi primary, from Ellen Tichnell.
Looks crowded there.
9:15 p.m. With nearly 15% of polls reporting in Mississippi, the race is still super tight. Santorum is in front with 33%, and Gingrich and Romney both have 30%.
Romney's Money Machine Still Crushing: There is a massive spending advantage for Romney: His Super PAC outspent Santorum by at least 5-1 in Alabama and by more than 2-1 in Mississippi.
8:52 p.m. With ~2% reporting Gingrich takes quick lead with 34%, followed by Santorum with 33%, and Romney with 27%.
8:35 p.m. Half An Hour in and Mississippi Starts Counting Votes: Romney takes the early lead with 63%, followed by Santorum 22%, Gingrich 11%, and Paul 4%
8:05 p.m. Polls in Alabama and Mississippi have just closed. Both primary races are too early to call. Romney looks set to make waves in Mississippi, while Alabama looks set to be a close fight.
7:30 p.m. Electability is Critical: In Mississippi exit polls 42% of voters said being able to defeat Barack Obama come November was the most important trait they looked for in a candidate. This bodes well for Romney.
4 p.m. Santorum Struggling, Surprisingly: As Y'all Politics reports: "Santorum has been a surprise in the polls. The one candidate that seemingly best aligned with Mississippi voters has struggled to connect and spread his message. He was a lock to win Mississippi and Alabama by a wide margin just a few weeks ago but now his victory is not assured, and if he does win, it will be close."
2 p.m. Expect Low Enthusiasm in Mississippi: According to PolicyMic pundit Meghan Litten: "I expect there to be a low turnout today in the Mississippi Republican Primary. Every college, university, and public school district is on Spring Break. This past weekend there was a mass exodus of Mississippians to their favorite vacation spots. Thus there will be no traffic in an effort to get to the polls."
Also From Litten, Democrats might help determine the contest: "Santorum will grab a lot of votes today, but maybe not from the Republicans. Mississippi has an open primary, and I suspect that many Democrats will vote in the contest. Who will they vote for? Well most of my friends will cast a vote for Santorum with the belief that he will be easy for Obama to defeat (slaughter) in November. A little The Ides of March in Mississippi."
FYI: In Mississippi, the polls close at 8 p.m.
11:20 a.m. Romney Will Clinch the GOP Nomination in the South? “I think it’s over if he wins here,” said Mississippi Gov. Phil Bryant of Romney after a Monday rally with comedian Jeff Foxworthy at a trucking company outside Jackson. “At that point how do you go and say, ‘I’m the most conservative candidate’ if you can’t win the most conservative state in the country?"
9:45 a.m. Gingrich Takes Lead: According to Intrade, a website which speculates on the outcomes of non-sports-related future events, Gingrich has a 56.5% chance of winning Mississippi. Closest competitor Romney has a 35% chance of winning the state.
8:00 a.m. In Beloxi yesterday, the candidates sparred, attacking each other.
Santorum on Romney: “If the opportunity provides itself in an open convention, they’re not going to nominate a moderate Massachusetts governor who has been outspending his opponent 10-1 and can’t win the election outright,” Santorum said in a television interview as he campaigned across Alabama and Mississippi.
Romney countered, also on television. “We’re closing the deal, state by state, delegate by delegate,” he said, emphasizing his lead in the category that matters most.
Gingrich On the South: "We have momentum, but we haven't won," Gingrich said on the stump. "We still have to go out and finish the sale."
Santorum, though, said Gingrich needs to face the fact that he can't win. "Other than the state of Georgia," Santorum pointed out, "he hasn't finished above third in two months. ... Newt's run in three states, really. This is his fourth and fifth state that he's actually tried to compete in, because he hasn't been able to compete anywhere else -- because he can't."
The candidates also attacked Obama's record on the economy and the environment.
“The dangers of carbon dioxide? Tell that to a plant, how dangerous carbon dioxide is,” said Santorum.
6:22 a.m. Via Peter Dunbar: "Many Mississippians are sensitive to the national stereotypes that paint our state as poor and uneducated. As such, some grimace when media outlets interview a string of inarticulate, uninformed voters who confirm these stereotypes. On the other hand, we swell with pride when an interviewee highlights the troubling dissonance of a given candidate’s stump speech. So, with the campaign narratives well established, I think many locals are more attuned to the national portrait of our state under the fleeting primary spotlight.
In a similar vein, sensitive Mississippians sometimes overreact to the simplified political rhetoric. Beyond the offense of calling cheese grits “cheesy,” some bristle at the idea that our state can be won over by appeal to its palate. “Robocalls” supporting Romney have hit this proverbial nerve. They arrive to everyone’s landlines like clockwork around suppertime. The first denigrates Gingrich, and then five minutes later it is Santorum’s turn. The perceived insult often lies in the laziness of the attacks. For example, one call simply plays a recording of Gingrich agreeing with Nancy Pelosi – about global warming, I think. However, a more effective ad did arrive this weekend, which played Tom Brokaw’s report of Gingrich’s ethics violations."
Monday 11:45 a.m. Ron Paul a Non-Factor: Ron Paul is at single digits in most polls for Mississippi and Alabama.
"About all we know for sure about Tuesday's primaries is that Ron Paul will finish last in them," Dean Debnam, president of PPP, said in a statement. "Beyond that it's plausible that any of the candidates could finish between first and third in both Alabama and Mississippi."
9 a.m. Gingrich Holds Slim Lead in the State: In Mississippi Gingrich is now holding on to a slight lead with 33% to 31% for Romney, 27% for Santorum, and 7% for Paul, according to a new survey by Public Policy Polling.
Sunday: Santorum on Sunday nudged rival Gingrich to step aside, arguing a head-to-head contest between himself and Romney should "occur sooner rather than later." A defiant Gingrich predicted victories in Tuesday's primaries in Alabama and Mississippi and called Romney the weakest GOP front-runner in nearly a century.
On NBC's "Meet the Press," Santorum said Gingrich's recent stretch of weak showings suggests he has few options left in the race. Gingrich placed third in Kansas and dead last in Wyoming, whose caucuses Romney won easily Saturday.
"The speaker can stay in as long as he wants, but I think the better opportunity to make sure that we nominate a conservative is to give us an opportunity to go head-to-head with Gov. Romney at some point and hopefully that will occur sooner rather than later," Santorum said, adding he wasn't directly asking Gingrich to get out.
Why It Matters: A win for Romney would show that he can win in the socially conservative and critically important South. A win for Romney would also put some distance between him and nearest challenger Santorum A win for Gingrich would keep the former speaker of the House in the race.
What Doesn’t Really Matter: An American Research Group survey shows that Gingrich currently leads in the state with 35%, followed by Romney’s 31% and Santorum’s 20%. Romney is gaining momentum and is seen as the only “winner” in the GOP pack.
Critical Endorsement: Gov. Phil Bryant favors Romney
My Prediction: Romney wins, Gingrich drops out of the race later this week.
Every single delegate counts at this stage in the GOP presidential primary. And with some pundits wondering if Romney will have enough delegates to win him the Republican nomination at the GOP convention in August, suddenly Mississippi’s 40 delegates very much matter.
Tuesday’s Mississippi primary is critical for Mitt Romney as he seeks to both show he can win in the South and distance himself from his GOP rivals.
The delegate battle is very much heating up. As of Sunday, Romney currently leads with 454 delegates and Santorum follows with 217. Gingrich is well behind with 107 delegates while Rep. Ron Paul (R-Texas) trails with 47. To secure the nomination, a candidate needs 1,144 delegates in total.
On Sunday, Santorum argued that the delegate math would work in his favor.
"This race has a tremendous amount of dynamics. And you know we've got a lot of states coming up that are great -- that are going to be great states for us, states like Pennsylvania where you know we got 72 delegates that we should win, if not all of them, the vast majority of them. And Texas -- last poll in Texas had me up 30 points," Santorum said.
Math has become more critical than ever in this GOP race. And because of that Mississippi has taken on immense importance.
Nate Silver of the New York Times currently projects that Romney has a 69% chance of victory in the state. Gingrich has a 26% projected chance of winning, while Santorum has a 5% chance.
Many Mississippi voters say they are looking for one thing: a candidate that can beat Barack Obama in November.
Based on that, Romney very much looks like the frontrunner in the state. Still, one poll by the American research group showed that Gingrich currently leads in the state with 35%, followed by Romney’s 31% and Santorum’s 20%.
For Gingrich, the South is the last stand. If the former speaker of the House can win Mississippi and Alabama on Tuesday, it will show that he is still viable in this campaign. A loss, though, would likely send the Georgian’s campaign six deep.
Romney aides have downplayed his chances of victory in the two southern contests and the candidate himself told a Birmingham radio station Thursday that the region resembled "a bit of an away game" for him.
Still, the former Massachusetts governor did notch the critical endorsement of Mississippi Gov. Phil Bryant, which will give him needed support in the state.
The current situation very much mirrors the situation in the 2008 primary, and history could give some hints as to what may transpire on Tuesday. In 2008, McCain won an overwhelming majority of votes with just over 113,000. Mike Huckabee, the social conservative from Arkansas, was second with just under 18,000 votes. Huckabee, a former Southern governor, lost by nearly 95,000 votes. Ron Paul came in third. The difficulty with Huckabee was he wasn't in the race any longer in the eyes of many GOP voters. McCain had wrapped up huge victories in early February and early March. After Super Tuesday in 2008, McCain didn't lose.
Of course, Romney isn’t having it as easy as McCain in 2008, but he is seen as the most electable in the wider general election, which will play in his favor.
Photo Credit: Fickr