With Gingrich on ropes, Santorum tries KO

“Did you ever think Alabama and Mississippi would suddenly play a crucial role?” asks a Newt Gingrich adviser, a little amazed at the turns the Republican presidential race has taken in the last two months. Maybe no one imagined it, but for Gingrich, next week’s Alabama and Mississippi primaries are suddenly more than crucial. Unless the former speaker wins one, or maybe both, it’s hard to see him continuing his campaign.

Before Super Tuesday, the Gingrich team believed he not only had to win his home state of Georgia but also needed a victory in either Oklahoma or Tennessee. Gingrich won neither; he didn’t even finish second. But he won Georgia in a blowout, with a margin — 21 points — that Team Gingrich viewed as strong enough to keep going.

But not for long. Alabama is next door to Gingrich’s home, it’s conservative, and he is well-known and respected there. Mississippi is similar. If Gingrich can’t win in either of those states, then where can he win? If he loses both next Tuesday, Gingrich might decided to hang on to compete in Louisiana, which holds its primary March 24. But even a victory there wouldn’t prove much.

Meanwhile, Alabama and Mississippi are suddenly crucial for Rick Santorum, too. Santorum came out of Super Tuesday happy about wins in Tennessee, Oklahoma and North Dakota, but also feeling, after his narrow loss to Romney in Ohio, that he can’t beat Romney as long as Gingrich’s presence in the race prevents a one-on-one showdown. (Of course, Ron Paul is still running, too, but making less and less of an impact.) “If Newt were out of this race, we’d be winning these states by 10 points,” frustrated Santorum spokesman Hogan Gidley said at Santorum’s Super Tuesday election night event in Ohio.

But to get at Romney, Santorum has to knock Gingrich out first. That’s where Alabama and Mississippi come in.

To read more visit The Washington Examiner

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