BRIAN KEMP, Georgia’s secretary of state (pictured), has a scheme to bring his state into the political spotlight. He wants Georgia to hold a presidential primary on March 1st 2016. Alabama, Arkansas, Mississippi, Tennessee, Texas, Oklahoma and Virginia are scheming to join in. Even Florida may add its considerable weight to this group.
By holding primaries so early in the nomination process, these states hope to play a bigger role in shaping the race. A “Southern Super Tuesday” would force prospective presidential candidates from both parties to woo the region’s voters, say its backers. A bit more backslapping and handshaking in the area could deliver some welcome business to the odd barbecue restaurant, too.
But theory and practice rarely go hand-in-hand, warns Larry Sabato of the University of Virginia’s Centre for Politics. It is entirely unclear just how a big Southern primary will alter political events, he says. Besides, “the candidates won’t start worrying about March 1st until they’re done worrying about February 2016. If you lose both Iowa and New Hampshire you’re in trouble already.” Other states may decide to hold early contests too, he adds, which would diminish the significance of Southern results.
The idea of a Southern Super Tuesday is not new. Democrats pushed for one in 1988, partially to ensure that the nominee would be appealing to Southern voters. The result? An unhelpful split between Michael Dukakis, Jesse Jackson and Al Gore.
Any Republican who struggles in the South has little hope of capturing the White House, argues Charles Bullock of the University of Georgia. Yet a clear, conservative winner of a Southern Super Tuesday may end up alienating national voters in November 2016.