Monday, March 12, 2012

Gingrich faces crucial tests in Alabama, Mississippi

BIRMINGHAM, Alabama: Newt Gingrich faces a make-or-break test on Tuesday as he seeks to sweep the conservative southern states of Alabama and Mississippi and reboot his bid to become the 2012 Republican presidential nominee.
As frontrunner Mitt Romney relentlessly racks up delegates on his long march to the expected nomination, rivals Gingrich and Rick Santorum have been slugging it out in a side duel to emerge as sole conservative challenger.
Both men cling to the hope the other may be forced out, allowing a head-to-head contest with Romney. But each week that one doesn't, the favourite moves closer to the magic 1,144 delegates needed to seal the nomination.
The status of the battle to take on President Barack Obama in November differs massively depending on whom you ask: Romney says it's already over, Santorum says it's now a two-horse race between him and Romney, while Gingrich says wait for Mississippi and Alabama, which hold primaries Tuesday.
"Mathematically, this thing is about over, but emotionally it's not," senior Republican Senator Lindsey Graham said, crediting Santorum for his recent surge and Gingrich for coming "back from the dead two or three times."
"If Romney does well, wins either Mississippi or Alabama and wins Illinois (on March 20), then I think it's virtually impossible for this thing to continue much beyond early May," Graham added.
The stakes couldn't be higher on Tuesday for Gingrich, who has won just two of 26 voting contests so far and must sweep both Mississippi and Alabama if he is to change the narrative of the race.
"I think we'll win both. We are campaigning very aggressively on both states," Gingrich told "Fox News Sunday."
Santorum's win in Kansas on Saturday - taking 33 of the 40 delegates - was offset by Romney victories in Wyoming and in the US territories of Guam, the Northern Mariana Islands and the US Virgin Islands.
Romney has now won 17 of 26 state or territory votes, compared to seven wins for Santorum - eight if you include a straw poll in Missouri - two for Gingrich, and none for Texas congressman Ron Paul.
With 455 delegates, Romney has almost 40 percent of the 1,144 needed to secure the nomination. Santorum trails with 199 delegates and Gingrich has 117, according to authoritative aggregator RealClearPolitics.
This lead means Romney's competitors must win some 70-75 percent of the remaining delegates - which are handed out proportionally by district in many states - in order to snatch the nomination.
"Uniting the opposition to Romney in a single candidate is the only chance, or the best chance, of seeing this process continue for a while," said Charles Franklin, a professor at Marquette University Law School.
"With Gingrich, there is also the question of when does dogged determination become a pointless crusade. Surely that point is coming pretty soon," Franklin, co-founder of pollster.com, told AFP.
Whatever happens on Tuesday, Gingrich has vowed to stay in the race all the way to the Republican Party convention, which will crown the eventual nominee at the end of August.
Santorum's campaign support group called last week on the former House speaker to quit.
"With Gingrich exiting the race, it would be a true head-to-head race and conservatives would be able to make a choice between a consistent conservative in Rick Santorum or Mitt Romney," a statement said.
Despite a bulging war-chest and a vast campaign team, Romney failed to seal the deal on Super Tuesday as doubts linger among key Republican voting groups about a candidate who would become the first Mormon presidential nominee.
Romney, who celebrates his 65th birthday on Monday, has portrayed himself as the underdog in Alabama and Mississippi, Bible Belt states where a majority of primary voters describe themselves as born-again or evangelical Christians.
Despite well-documented marital infidelities, Gingrich has done well in the south, winning convincingly in South Carolina and Georgia - albeit his home state - and recent polls shows him edging ahead in Tuesday's contests.
In Alabama, a Rasmussen survey Friday showed Gingrich leading with 30 percent, ahead of Santorum with 29 percent and Romney with 28 percent.
A poll in Mississippi by American Research Group showed Gingrich in the lead at 35 percent, ahead of Romney at 31 percent and Santorum at 20 percent.
- AFP/de

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Source From Channel News Asia

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