*** Why Romney could lose: With polling all over the place in Alabama and Mississippi -- two states not usually associated with well-known polls -- we’re not sure anyone has a good idea how tonight’s races will turn out. But we’re on firmer ground to explain why Mitt Romney could lose in these southern states, as well as why he could win. Let’s start with the former: Beyond ideology, Romney could lose due simply to the demographics. Averaging the nine states where Romney WON (and where exit polls were available), 51% of GOP primary voters were college grads, 31% made more than $100,000 a year, and 35% were born-again or evangelical Christians. But the averages for the states where Romney LOST is 48% college grads, 28% making more than $100,000, and 68% evangelical Christians. So where do Alabama and Mississippi fit in here? Well, they look more like the states where he has lost. In Alabama in ‘08, per the exit polls, just 42% of GOP primary voters said they were college grads, 18% made more than $100,000, and 77% were evangelical Christians. In Mississippi, the numbers were similar: 38% college grads, 19% making more than $100,000, and 69% evangelical Christians. Focus on the evangelical number; that could the best explainer.
*** And why he could win: Yet despite those ideological and demographic challenges for Romney, there also are three reasons why he could win. Reason #1: Newt Gingrich and Rick Santorum could split up the anti-Romney vote. Note that Gingrich and Santorum BOTH haven't received 30% in any one contest so far, but the polling out there suggests that they could possibly hit those percentages tonight. Who would have figured that Romney’s best friend in this race right now would be Newt Gingrich? Go figure. Reason #2: Romney and his allies, once again, are greatly outspending the competition (4-to-1 edge over Santorum and his allies and 3-to-1 advantage over Gingrich and his allies). Anytime Team Romney has spent more than 3-1 than opponents in a given state, it’s usually spelled victory. And Reason #3: Although this is much harder to quantify, a Romney win in either Alabama or Mississippi would signal that Republican primary voters are beginning to rally around him, despite the ideology or geography.