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Mississippi Voters Could Change Course Of GOP Primary

By Jeffrey Hess | Published 12 Mar 2012 04:42pm | comments

Mississippians could have a significant role in deciding who the Republican presidential nominee will be.  MPB's Jeffrey Hess reports the race appears to be tied among the three candidates in today's primary election.

A Monday poll of like Republican primary voters in Mississippi found a near-three way tie.

Newt Gingrich led the pack with 33-percent favoring him, but Mitt Romney and Rick Santorum are right behind him with 31 and 27-percent supporting their campaign.

Public Policy Polling ran the survey, and pollster Jim Williams says Santorum and Gingrich are each taking a share of Mississippi's conservative primary electorate, keeping Romney competitive.

"Gingrich and Santorum are splitting that vote 35/32. So Mitt Romney is kind of splitting that gap with less conservative primary voters in Mississippi," Williams said.

Who Mississippi voters support today could change the landscape of the entire primary election.

Milsaps College Political Science Professor Michael Reinhard says a Romney win could solidify his perception as the national front runner.

"The big rap on Romney is that he cannot win real Republicans. And whatever else you say about Mississippi is that it is a Republican state. Winning here in Mississippi would go a long way toward removing one of the question marks that has hung over Romney's campaign so far," Reinhard said.

However, Reinhard says the election could drag on because the delegates are awarded proportionally.

This will be the first time that since 1976 that Mississippi voters will cast votes in a contested Republican primary.

But just four years ago Mississippians played a role in the contested democratic primary between then Senators Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton.

Secretary of State Delbert Hoseman said on Monday that election drew more than 400-thousand voters.

"This time, I don't make predictions, but we are getting a lot of advertising so we are very, very hopeful that we will get a good turnout tomorrow," Hoseman said.

Still, Hoseman says that represents less than a third of Mississippi 1-point-8 million registered voters putting voting power in relatively few hands.

The presidential primary is not the only race today....All four congressional house seats have primary challengers as well as the US Senate seat currently held by Rodger Wicker.

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