For Mitt Romney, Tennessee a State to Watch

National Journal

Ohio is getting all the attention as the Super Tuesday state to watch. But Tennessee could be an intriguing undercard -- and the state that seals Mitt Romney’s good fortune.

Winning in the South would demonstrate Romney’s ability, finally, to win over the party’s more conservative, evangelical elements. History suggests Romney has a fighting chance. 

Tennessee, despite its conservative electorate, has a propensity to support establishment, business-friendly types. Look at Gov. Bill Haslam, a centrist businessman, who easily beat two deeply conservative challengers in the 2010 primary. Or Sen. Bob Corker, who did the same in 2006. (Also: Lamar Alexander, Bill Frist, Fred Thompson, Howard Baker.)

While Tennessee backed Mike Huckabee in 2008 with 34 percent, John McCain won 31 percent, and Romney himself gathered a respectable 24 percent. Combine the McCain and Romney votes, and there’s a healthy majority to be had, without having to pander to the base.

If Romney wins Ohio, it will allow him to claim an important victory in a critical general election battleground. But if he wins Tennessee, he can make the argument that the primary race is all but over.

Josh Kraushaar, Hotline Executive Editor



Santorum Attacks Romney as Contraception Roils GOP
[Fox News, 3/1/12] Driving at doubts about Mitt Romney’s conservative credentials, Rick Santorum on Thursday said Romney’s reaction to the Senate contraception bill revealed that the front-runner is not sufficiently conservative “at the core.” Romney’s contretemps with the Blunt amendment opened him to the criticism. 

Romney’s Buckeye State Spending Advantage
[Reuters, 3/1/12] Mitt Romney’s campaign has dropped $1.3 million on television ads and a supportive super PAC has spent another $2.2 million on the air there, reports Reuters. It’s adding up to a hefty spending advantage for the front-runner. 

Romney’s Tax Cuts Would Blow Hole in Budget
[Chicago Tribune, 3/1/12] Romney’s tax cuts would rip open a $3.4 trillion budget deficit, estimates a new report from the centrist Tax Policy Center. Romney’s proposal to reduce tax rates by 20 percent and abolish a minimum tax on the wealthy would necessitate the elimination of tax breaks elsewhere, the think tank said. Romney’s campaign said the analysis was flawed. 

Santorum Camp Says Romney Trying to ‘Rig’ Michigan
[CBS News, 3/1/12] Campaign aides to Rick Santorum charged Mitt Romney’s camp on Thursday with working to "rig" the Michigan primary and “political thuggery” after the state’s party voted to award Romney the majority of the state’s delegates.

Michigan GOP Gives Romney Delegate Edge Over Santorum
[National Journal, 3/1/12] The Michigan GOP on Thursday appeared to throw cold water on Rick Santorum's claim that he and Mitt Romney had evenly split delegates in this week's GOP primary, saying that Romney won 16 delegates while Santorum won 14.

Mitt Romney’s Way to Win
[New York Times, 3/1/12] Romney’s stayed, mostly, atop of the Republican field since its inception. How? The nation’s paper of record say that even Romney’s “battered rivals acknowledge that Mr. Romney is proving unusually adept at defining, diminishing and disqualifying a serial cast of challengers through relentless attacks.”

Romney Draws Thousands to Idaho
[Los Angeles Times, 3/1/12] Screaming crowds aren’t known as staples of Mitt Romney’s repertoire, but that’s what he got Thursday in Idaho. Over 2,200 showed up in Idaho Falls, a far cry from his under-attended Ford Field speech last week.

Do Endorsements Matter?
[Atlanta Journal-Constitution, 3/1/12] Newt Gingrich met on Wednesday with Georgia Lt. Gov. Casey Cagle and House Speaker David Ralston, but came away without an endorsement. The Super Tuesday state’s leading newspaper asks: Does it make a difference?

Newt Gingrich’s Southern Strategy
[Los Angeles Times, 2/29/12] Hemmed in by a string of losses to a Southern strategy, Gingrich is pitching states’ rights in the Deep South, reports the Los Angeles Times.

Can Santorum Broaden His Base?
[National Journal, 2/29/12] If Santorum hopes to do well in the next 10 contests on Super Tuesday across a wide swath of geographically and ideologically diverse states, he must find a way to address the same vulnerabilities that have plagued him in the race all along. This strategy shift will test his low-budget campaign.

Romney Wins in Wyoming  
[National Journal, 3/1/12] Romney on Wednesday won a nonbinding caucus vote that was held in Wyoming over the past two weeks, the Associated Press reported. Romney won 39 percent of the 2,108 caucus goers; Santorum came in second with 32 percent; Ron Paul had 21 percent; and Gingrich 8 percent.

Rove Op-Ed: Romney Takes GOP Lead
[Wall Street Journal, 3/1/12] Karl Rove writes that Michigan was Santorum’s best shot at delivering a fatal blow to Romney -- and he blew it. If Santorum loses Ohio next week, his campaign is finished.

Santorum Raises $9 Million in February  
[Associated Press, 3/1/12] Santorum’s presidential campaign raised $9 million in February, giving a big boost to the candidate.

Washington State Republicans Divided Over Nomination
[Seattle Times, 2/29/12] As the Republican Party's most-protracted primary season in years rolls into Washington this weekend, GOP voters there are just as divided as they are everywhere else. The GOP candidates are all in the state this week ahead of its caucuses on Saturday, showing that for the first time in years, the Evergreen State is relevant.

Santorum Loses His Cool
[Buzzfeed, 3/1/12] A conversation between Santorum and Cincinnati radio station host Scott Sloan grows testy over birth control, then the line goes dead.

PolitiFact Ohio Checks Santorum’s Claim About Obama and College
[Cleveland Plain Dealer, 3/1/12] Santorum kicked up a media storm when he slammed Obama as a “snob” for saying that “he wants everybody in America to go to college.” But Obama has never said that he expects everyone to attend a traditional four-year, bachelors-degree-granting college or university. Meanwhile, Vice President Joe Biden said on Thursday that Santorum is out of step with both parties on the subject.

Santorum Slams Romney on Blunt Amendment
[National Journal, 3/1/12] Santorum portrayed Romney as a candidate without ideological roots and a creature of his handlers after his chief rival muddled an answer to a question about whether he supported the Blunt amendment, which failed in the Senate on Thursday. After saying on Wednesday that he did not support the measure, the Romney campaign is now saying that the candidate misunderstood the question and actually does back the legislation.

Gingrich Calls for Chu’s Ouster
[Politico, 3/1/12] Continuing to hammer the administration over gas prices, Gingrich on Thursday said Obama should jettison Energy Secretary Steven Chu for prioritizing decreased oil dependency over lower prices.

David Walker for President? 
[National Journal, 3/1/12] Americans Elect, the independent organization that hopes to nominate a third-party candidate through an internet convention, has gained ballot access in 17 states and is gathering signatures or awaiting certification in 18 more. Will Obama and the eventual GOP nominee have to contend with a third-party candidate? NJ’s Reid Wilson weighs in. 

Attend a National Journal LIVE event | Sign up for National Journal newsletters

View Comments (1)