Okay, this is all impressionistic, and it really applies more to southern AL than to Bama as a whole, but…. My sense is that Mitt Romney has more of a chance to win Alabama than most people think, and that Newt Gingrich has little chance to win it — but that Gingrich can keep Santorum from winning it, just possibly.
What people might not realize is that, even though Alabama’s GOP “establishment” types are more conservative than establishment types in other states, they still are establishmentarians. And there are plenty of them. Add that to the sense that, for whatever reason, a lot of Alabamians think of Mitt Romney as fairly solidly conservative, and further add a ton of money Romney is spending here, and you have the recipe for a competitive race.
Gingrich, or at least his SuperPAC, was up with TV and radio ads here even before Super Tuesday, and they were pretty good. Mostly they argued that Romney can’t beat Obama, but that Gingrich can. They may drag down Romney a little, but they aren’t quite strong enough ads to drag him down a lot. They feature ordinary voters saying they just don’t trust Romney to be a real conservative or to win. Again, to beat Romney, it’s the right message, and it’s pretty well done — but not REALLY powerfully done. Nothing super-memorable about the ads.
Santorum has a ton of support. At least down here, my impression is that he particularly enjoys the support of strong Tea Party activists, although in the broader subset of Tea Party sympathizers but not activists, I don’t know exactly how well he is doing. I will say this: I think that a higher percentage of Tea Partiers here tend to be more socially conservative, even Evangelical, than the libertarian-leaning Tea Partiers elsewhere, so that should help Santorum. Granted, on economics the ones here are as libertarian as elsewhere, but on “social issues” they are very much God-and-family oriented.
Santorum supposedly is dropping a fair amount of ad money here, but I don’t think it has begun yet. I haven’t seen any or heard any.
Wise political pros around here think Santorum has a pretty good chance in the general election against Obama. But again, that’s just a sense.
Ron Paul seems to be an afterthought here.
As it is, the candidates are really paying attention to the area. Santorum is doing an event in Mobile tonight and another tomorrow morning. Gingrich is doing one tomorrow evening in Mobile. And Romney will be in nearby Pascagoula, MS … is it today or tomorrow (I’ve lost track)?
Anyway, the whole thing is fluid, as has the entire race throughout the country. But we might see results sort of like Oklahoma’s, where Romney leaves Gingrich behind and tries to vie for the win with Santorum. Despite Gingrich’s efforts, he just doesn’t seem to have the air of a winner down here. Then again, he does have enough natural support around here that he still could bleed votes from Santorum that are rather significant.