Mississippi used to be a Super Tuesday state. When other states moved their primaries earlier to an Uber Super Tuesday, Mississippi's Tuesday became less super. Now Uber Super Tuesday is Super Tuesday, and Mississippi's primary is just the election after Super Tuesday. This Tuesday, Mississippi, Alabama, Hawaii and American Samoa will cast votes in the Republican Presidential Primary. Maybe we could call it the Dixie Island Primary.

The campaigns and PACs are spending money on television, radio, direct mail and calls to Mississippi Republicans, and the candidates are coming here, too. Former Speaker of the House Newt Gingrich, former Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney and former Pennsylvania Senator Rick Santorum all have or will make trips into Mississippi the week before Tuesday's vote: Gingrich in Jackson, Tupelo, Biloxi and Southaven; Romney to Jackson; Santorum to Tupelo, Jackson, Meridian, Gulfport and Biloxi. Congressman Ron Paul had not announced any events at press time.

Cindy Wilkerson of Laurel, Santorum's grassroots coordinator for central and south eastern Mississippi, believes her candidate and Gingrich will split votes in Mississippi, but, "I believe Rick is going to win Mississippi." She said, "I think Mississippians will see the fire and commitment that has propelled him to the top in this race...Santorum will win the day."

Scott Brewster of Brandon, Mississippi Chairman for Gingrich, agrees the election will be between Santorum and Gingrich, but, "Of course, I predict a Newt victory. I think we will win every state from South Carolina around through Texas and that's been our strategy from day one." Brewster said Gingrich is very popular in Mississippi, "We are gaining tremendous momentum through the Southern states." He believes Mississippi voters respond to someone who speaks "frankly and directly" like Gingrich.

"Newt has enemies on both sides because he does what he thinks is right and disregards politics. You will always know what's on his mind and that's refreshing with a politician," Brewster said.



This year looks to be very different for Mississippi Republicans
because the primary still matters.



Austin Barbour of Jackson, one of Romney's national finance chairmen, recognizes Romney faces a challenge in Mississippi: "He is certainly the underdog in Mississippi, but we have seen a tremendous outpouring of grassroots volunteers and movement to support and help elect Mitt Romney. We have multiple county chairmen in the top twenty Republican counties."

Barbour said, "Mississippians want a conservative candidate who can beat Obama and fix the economy. Clearly, Governor Romney is the best choice. He is the most qualified candidate with a track record of creating thousands of jobs in the private sector, exceptional management in turning around the Olympics, and proven conservative leadership as Governor of Massachusetts where he cut taxes and moved the state from a $3 billion budget deficit to a $2 billion rainy day fund."

Those three campaigns, plus Ron Paul, will seek delegates from Mississippi. In the primary, it helps to be a "red state" because while Michigan has three times the population of Mississippi, it only has 30 delegates compared to the 40 from Mississippi.

Mississippi gets a base of ten delegates plus three per congressional delegation and three members of the Republican National Committee (RNC) for twenty-five total. The remaining delegates come from bonus awards: nine for voting in the 2008 general election for the Republican nominee and one each per Republican U.S. Senator, Republican Governor, a majority of the Congressional Delegation, and control of the State House and State Senate.

Mississippi's 40 delegates are awarded three per congressional district and 25 at-large. If a candidate wins a majority statewide, he receives all 25 at-large delegates. If a candidate wins a majority within a congressional district, he receives all three of those delegates. But absent a majority either statewide or in a congressional district, the delegates are allocated (rounded to nearest whole number) among the candidates, with a 15 percent threshold necessary to qualify for attempted allocation. That accounts for 37 delegates; the remaining 3 delegates are Mississippi's members on the RNC who make their own choice and are not bound by primary votes: Mississippi Republican Party Chairman Joe Nosef, National Committeewoman Jeanne Luckey and National Committeeman Henry Barbour. Barbour has already announced his intention to vote for Romney, giving the former Massachusetts governor one of Mississippi's 40 delegates before Tuesday's election even begins.

Usually by the time Mississippi votes in the Republican Presidential Primary, the frontrunner has essentially closed up the nomination and Republican voters go with that person overwhelmingly: 2008 John McCain with 78.9 percent; 2000 George W. Bush with 87.9 percent; 1996 Bob Dole with 60.3 percent; 1988 with George H.W. Bush 66.0 percent.

This year the primary still matters, just as it did four years ago for Democrats battling in Mississippi between Barack Obama and Hilary Clinton. Because these votes make a difference, despite the earlier primaries in other states, for Mississippi Republicans this coming Tuesday is still quite super.


Brian Perry is a partner in a public affairs firm. Contact him at reasonablyright@brianperry.ms or @CapstonePerry on Twitter.