Let us assume that Santorum doesn’t pull off an upset win in Pennsylvania in a few weeks. Let us assume that Newt Gingrich doesn’t manage to fully fund his campaign. And, let us assume that Ron Paul doesn’t suddenly see a giant surge of support from Republican primary voters.
If we make all of these assumptions, which are safe ones, yet I think everyone knows by now how ‘safe’ things have been during this primary season, we come to Mitt Romney as the Republican nominee for the general 2012 presidential election. If this is true, what does that mean going into the general, and most importantly, for Georgia?
The symbolism we’ve seen even getting to this point is quite striking. Our two “native” sons, Herman Cain and Newt Gingrich, are footnotes at this point, along with the other prominent Southerner in the race, Rick Perry. In the party that thrived in the Southern Strategy in the last 21st Century, the one who is relying on it the most at this point is Rick Santorum… from Pennsylvania. Whether it’s a trick of this election cycle or more indicative of a long-term trend, Georgia and the South does not seem to have the same potency for breeding conservatives ready to launch onto the national stage.
This poses interesting questions when we start to think about Romney’s VP choice. Does Romney need to shore up his lack of Southern support with a Southern vice-president on his ticket? If so, what sort of Southern politician are we talking about? Personally, I don’t think that any major conservative talent from Georgia is ready to assume any sort of national spot like vice-president, so this point is moot.
What is more likely is Georgia having the chance of being ‘in-play’ during the general election. While most dismiss this as the pipe-dream of the Georgia Democratic Party, there are some glimmers of hope for those who aren’t ready to concede Georgia as deep-red just yet. The main thing to remember is that while President Obama’s campaign is going to be the one to determine whether Georgia is in play or not, the amount of enthusiasm for a Romney ticket in the South is going to play a lot into the decision. A generic Republican candidate vs. President Obama in Georgia reached 48% vs. 48% support according to a poll done in March by CNN/TIME. Romney was 46% vs. President Obama’s 45% in a second poll conducted by Better Georgia, which does happen to be a progressive leaning group.
However, Romney needs to turn his negatives around in order to not make numbers like these a reality. If he can’t, and currently that’s a big if due to his scorch-the-earth Super PAC style, Georgia might find itself in the interesting position of battleground state. The last time a Democratic candidate won here was in 1992, yet a weak Mitt Romney in the general election might mean that time has come again.