So far in the 2016 Republican Primary, 16 candidates are competing in a contest that has become more a white noise of contentious issues than a well thought out effort to find the next President of the United States. A major hurdle in this contest, across the country, has become name recognition. The field is a sea of senators and governors, with a few others thrown in for good measure. The 16 candidates can be loosely grouped into moderate, party line, and tea party, but there is no Clinton-Sanders ideological clash. Other than his brash style, Trump is currently polling well because people know who he is. Your average voter has no idea what John Kasich has done for Ohio or George Pataki for New York, but the Apprentice and Trump towers stick out in voter’s minds.
This problem extends to the South as it does to the rest of the nation. Gone are the days of the “Solid South” as the southern states have emerged as entirely separate entities capable of making decisions for themselves. The South no longer lines up behind one candidate, essentially giving him or her a Dixie blessing to the nomination. However, the South does present a clear opportunity for candidates to distinguish themselves from the pack. The so-called SEC Primary will take place on March 1st, as the five of the largest Southern States (Alabama, Georgia, Tennessee, Texas, Virginia and potentially North Carolina) hold their GOP Presidential Primary on the same day. By March, it’s safe to say the Republican Party will not have yet solidified a nominee, but the field will certainly be smaller as campaigns run out of gas (read money). Though it doesn’t seem one candidate will sweep these five or six states, the SEC primary could be a clear chance for candidates to gain momentum going into the remaining primaries and the convention.
Iowa has been notoriously terrible at predicting nominees in recent years. New Hampshire, South Carolina, and Nevada have slightly better track records, but what has separated the Mitt Romneys and John McCains from the Rick Santorums and the Ron Pauls is the ability to gain enough momentum to win multiple states in a mass primary/caucus day. This used to be a hallmark of Super Tuesday, another primary by mob, but now as large, traditionally red states prepare to go to the polls on the same day, this mass movement of Republican voters, can produce momentum like never before. The candidate or candidates that can immerge from March 1st netting the most delegates will gain the media’s attention and the attention of those voting in the coming weeks’ primaries. In a tight competition this may mean the difference between a warm welcome into Cleveland and a sorry saunter back to the home state.