So much for the Republican Party being the party of the South and nowhere else.
Just when social issues returned to the fore of the national debate, with both the Obama administration’s health insurance mandate for contraception and the Susan G. Komen/Planned Parenthood funding flap in recent weeks, the Bible Belt is taking a back seat. Instead, this GOP presidential campaign is shaping up for the real action to be everywhere except Dixie.
Ours is the region that, you may recall, overly giddy liberals less than four years ago labeled the last bastion of a dying conservatism. But the sudden demise Thursday of CNN’s Super Tuesday debate, to have been broadcast March 1 from right here in Atlanta, was another primary blow against the region. Consider:
The candidate’s name you haven’t read until now is that of Mitt Romney, whose withdrawal from the March 1 debate prompted CNN to pull the plug on it. The former Massachusetts governor has raised a lot of money in Atlanta, but he may have decided he wasn’t going to fall too far or rise too high in Georgia — and might as well deny his rivals free national air time. We’ll soon find out if that was worth the risk of alienating supporters here.
Instead of a Southern route, the path to the GOP nomination this year appears to run through the Midwest.
Santorum won the Iowa caucuses to keep his hopes alive, then got a boost from wins in (non-binding) contests in Missouri and Minnesota. Suddenly, he’s strongly challenging Romney in the latter’s birth state, Michigan. If he does so, Ohio just might steal Georgia’s thunder on Super Tuesday.
And if that happens? Southern Republicans ought to sit back and smile: Better to be along for the ride in a big party than driving solo in a small one.
– By Kyle Wingfield