Previewing, live-blogging GOP primaries in Alabama and Mississippi

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Voting in the Republican presidential nominating race continues Tuesday in Alabama, Mississippi, Hawaii and American Samoa, with a total of 107 delegates to the party’s national convention at stake. Alabama and Mississippi are holding primaries, with 47 and 37 delegates up for grabs, respectively.

10:22 a.m. – First Read: “By the way, there’s a reason why the Romney folks have concentrated more on Alabama than Mississippi: Because third place in an Alabama congressional district doesn’t net you a delegate, second place there matters a lot.”

8:33 a.m. – Super-PACs supplied 91 percent of the 5,592 campaign ads that aired on broadcast television stations in [Alabama and Mississippi] in the past month, according to Kantar Media’s CMAG.

8:31 a.m. – Mike Allen argues that this could be the most decisive night of the primary season. If Newt Gingrich loses the primaries in both Mississippi and Alabama, after being tied for first in each, he could be effectively out of the race. If Gingrich wins both, he has a fresh rationale for going forward and denies Rick Santorum the chance for a one-on-one — ensuring that no non-Romney can accrue anywhere the delegates needed to deny Mitt Romney the nomination. If Santorum wins both, he has an argument to go on, despite little shot at the crown. If Romney wins both , he can say he has won in the deepest South, Michigan, Ohio and Florida – case closed.

8:25 a.m. – A Smart Politics review of Republican presidential primary election results finds the average margin of victory in the GOP Mississippi primary to be 57.5 points since its first contest in 1980 with its closest race coming in at 34 points in 1996.

8:21 a.m. – “Will Deep South primaries deep six a candidate?”

8:16 a.m. – How Mitt Romney can win today: “His formula in both states is remarkably similar: run well along the less socially conservative Gulf Coast, clean up in the largest city and its heavily GOP suburbs (Birmingham and Jefferson County in Alabama, Jackson and Hinds, Madison and Rankin counties in Mississippi) and pull votes out of the educated population hubs in the northern part of the state (Huntsville in Alabama and DeSoto County, just south of Memphis, in Mississippi),” Jonathan Martin writes in a preview of today’s contests. “Old Mississippi hands note that GOP primaries in their state can be won by candidates who win only a handful of counties, provided they’re in vote-rich areas, and point to Sen. Thad Cochran’s initial primary in 1978.”

7:53 a.m. – Gingrich has unleashed Chuck Norris in the Deep South.

7:49 a.m. – The pro-Romney Super PAC Restore Our Future is still distributing this anti-Santorum mailers in Alabama:

Santorumfelons

7:09 p.m. – “I’ve got a lot of good friends — the owner of the Miami Dolphins and the New York Jets — both owners are friends of mine.” — Mitt Romney, in an interview with an Alabama radio host Paul Finebaum.  Romney made a similar comment last month about NASCAR team owners.

9:13 p.m. – Santorum’s closing event in Alabama sparsely attended (via Slate): “Santorum gave a smallish assemblage, 150 or so people, a short version of his stump speech, slimmed to make time for a TV hit,” Slate’s Dave Weigel reports from Montgomery. “‘After Nevada,’ said Santorum, ‘we’ve come first or second in every state.’ He conveniently forgot about Washington, Maine, and Vermont, where Ron Paul bested him, and Georgia, where Mitt Romney beat him for second place and actually won delegates.”

7:07 p.m. – Philip Klein doubts Romney will be able to pull off wins in either Mississippi or Alabama:

[W]hen there’s a critical mass of evangelical voters, Romney loses. To add some numbers to back up this perception, I went back and analyzed data from the 14 exit and entrance polls that have been conducted over the course of the current presidential race. In the nine of those states that Romney won, evangelical voters comprised an average of 33 percent of the electorate. In the five that he lost, the evangelical vote averaged 66 percent of the electorate. In the 2008 primaries, evangelicals made up 77 percent of the vote in Alabama and 69 percent of the vote in Mississippi. And by the time the Mississippi primary had rolled around last time, Mike Huckabee had already dropped out of the race and John McCain had effectively clinched the nomination, so the evangelical turnout will likely be even higher this time around.

7:05 p.m. – Blogger Harry Enten points out, three of the final four polls on the Alabama Republican primary in 2008 showed Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) leading former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee — two polls showed McCain leading by fairly wide margins. Yet Huckabee defeated McCain, 41 to 37 percent.

7:04 p.m. – Nate Silver notes via Twitter that his compilation of past primary polls shows that pollster error in Alabama and Mississippi “has been about 50% higher than in other states.”

1:49 p.m. – Though he’s surprised many with his strong showing in recent polls, NBC News notes Newt Gingrich “has spent a combined 10 days in both states — six in Alabama and four in Mississippi.”

“By comparison, Rick Santorum has spent three days in each of those states, while Mitt Romney has spent two days in each. Ron Paul has not visited either state. And no candidate has campaigned in Hawaii, which also holds its contest on Tuesday.”

1:33 p.m. – “This isn’t a mathematical formula — this race has a tremendous amount of dynamics.” — Rick Santorum, in an interview on Meet the Press.

1:06 p.m. – Quite staggering levels of – let’s call them by their proper name – bigotry and ignorance (via The Daily Dish):

Asked whether Obama is Christian or Muslim, some 45 percent of Alabama Republican respondents picked Muslim; 14 percent correctly identified him as Christian. Another 41 percent said they were unsure. In Mississippi, a majority of Republicans, 52 percent, identified Obama as Muslim; 12 percent said he was Christian and 36 percent were undecided.

9:27 a.m. – First Read: “Romney sneaking out a win in either of the contests would prove that he can win in the South and that conservative GOP voters are beginning to coalesce around his candidacy. But losses in them would confirm that Romney continues to have problems with these voters and — more importantly — that the primary season will last through April if not longer. For Santorum, wins in both Alabama and Mississippi would prove that he’s the chief conservative alternative to Romney, and that he has the momentum to keep this race going. But losing them would suggest his campaign is running out of gas. And for Gingrich, winning both states would keep his candidacy alive, but losses in these southern states would reveal that he’s become a political zombie, propped up solely by Sheldon Adelson and the pro-Gingrich Super PAC. Those are the stakes for tomorrow.”

9:22 a.m. – Two new Public Policy Polling surveys suggest it’s going to be a close election night in both Mississippi and Alabama.

In Mississippi Newt Gingrich is holding on to a slight lead over Mitt Romney, 33% to 31%, followed by Rick Santorum at 27% and Ron Paul at 7%.

In Alabama, Romney barely edges Gingrich, 31% to 30%, followed closely behind by  Santorum at 29% and Paul at 8%.

9:12 a.m. – Two new American Research Group polls show close race in Mississippi and Alabama.

In Mississippi, Romney leads with 34%, followed by Gingrich with 32%, Santorum  22%, and Paul at 8%.

In Alabama, Gingrich leads with 34%, followed by Romney at 31%, at Santorum  24%, and Paul at 6%.

Peter Schorsch is the President of Extensive Enterprises and is the publisher of some of Florida’s most influential new media websites, including SaintPetersBlog.com, FloridaPolitics.com, ContextFlorida.com, and Sunburn, the morning read of what’s hot in Florida politics. SaintPetersBlog has for three years running been ranked by the Washington Post as the best state-based blog in Florida. In addition to his publishing efforts, Peter is a political consultant to several of the state’s largest governmental affairs and public relations firms. Peter lives in St. Petersburg with his wife, Michelle, and their daughter, Ella.