A week ago the conventional wisdom was that the two deep-South primaries would be Gingrich’s last shot at relevance, and now the final result shows Santorum on top, after the gap between the two and Mitt Romney closed in recent days. Depending on who you talked to, the odds of Romney winning either Alabama or Mississippi yesterday were either slim or reasonably strong. Except, if you got the latter impression, chances are you heard it from the Romney campaign itself, which is now eating crow for underestimating Santorum’s popularity and inflating expectations of Southern success.
Now that the harsh light of electoral reality has exposed the Massachusetts governor’s hubris, Romney’s comment to Wolf Blitzer on Tuesday that the Santorum campaign had reached its “desperate end” forms the rhetorical baseline of chronicles describing petulant (and born-again) Dixie’s rejection of the anointed frontrunner, or anodyne cheerleading from Bill Kristol.
Mitt Romney never stood a chance. The “Mormon problem” probably set him back given the states’ overwhelming evangelical contingent, but on an emotional and political level, Santorum and Gingrich’s pitches resonate far more with those voters. On the other hand, it’s tempting to reflect on whether or not Romney’s incredibly insulting pandering alienated people who otherwise would have considered him.
Tuesday’s results do make one thing blindingly obvious, however; Gingrich’s ego is the only thing keeping him in this race (save perhaps Sheldon Adelson’s money).