By Baker Owens –
With the changes in this year’s primary system, Republican presidential hopefuls have their eyes set on the South this year. While many candidates are maintaing that Iowa and New Hampshire are critical, as well as the other February contests in Nevada and South Carolina, the Southern region is looking to throw its way around a little more than usual this year. Georgia’s Secretary of State Brian Kemp was instrumental in getting several states to agree to realign their voting calendar. Whereas “Super Tuesday” formerly was the day when candidates would rack up delegates (21 states voted on that day in 2008), this year’s so-called “SEC Primary” will be the day when many candidates hope to stake out an early lead before heading into the final few months when 33 other states will hold their primaries.
The new system means candidates will not be able to ignore, or at least overlook, states that formerly played second fiddle to Iowa and New Hampshire until the last moment. Candidates have already been filing through Georgia at a record clip. Georgia will have the second most delegates of any state behind Texas that votes that day. Several candidates, Florida Senator Marco Rubio, Texas Senator Ted Cruz and New Jersey Governor Chris Christie, spoke at this year’s GOP convention as the presidential campaign season really began to take shape. The Redstate Gathering event in August brought in a host of presidential candidates and was the second stop on the presidential cattle call that has been happening in Georgia since then.
Ted Cruz’ “Cruz Country” tour rattled through the state in August and the senator from Texas told the Washington Post he is looking at the SEC Primary as his “firewall.” Mike Huckabee, who won Georgia in the 2008 primary, made a visit to Perry and the 8th District Fish Fry, earning an endorsement from former Governor Sonny Perdue and winning their straw poll. Marco Rubio will be in Atlanta on Monday for a free meet and greet at the Atlanta Marriott. Jeb Bush has already received an endorsement from Lieutenant Governor Casey Cagle and as the Bulldogs line up to take the field against the hated Steve Spurrier and his team from South Carolina, Bush will be in the stands in Athens, an easy day to shake a whole lot of hands.
Josh Putnam, a political scientist now at the University of Georgia, amounts much of the increased attention to the sheer number of candidates trying their hand this time around. Putnam writes on his blog, Frontloading HQ, “Finally, it should not go without saying that the size of the field of candidates should be factored into this as well. After all, more candidates yield more visits. That is a big reason why there are more visits to the South by those vying for the presidential nominations next year.”
Besides Georgia, other “SEC” states that will hold primaries on that day include Alabama, Arkansas, North Carolina, Tennessee, Texas and Virginia (the lone ACC state in the South). Alaska, Massachusetts, Minnesota, Oklahoma, Vermont and Wyoming will also hold primaries on that day.
Read more at Dr. Putnam’s blog: http://frontloading.blogspot.com/