By Javier Ortiz

In year’s past, when the presidential nomination fight reached Super Tuesday, it was often with one candidate riding a sea of momentum and looking to close the door on the nomination contest. With a victory in the majority of states, the presumptive nominee was in a position to enjoy the support of the party establishment, while beginning a very public and formal pivot to the general election campaign.

That will not be the case this cycle. When voters go to the polls on March 6th, Georgia’s 76 delegates will be up for grabs in a race that shows no signs of ending any time soon. The 2012 Republican primary is one that has proven many prognosticators wrong and appears could go all the way to the convention in Tampa, Fla. Therefore, Georgia’s delegates are extremely important in what is still a very competitive race.

It appears that the battle for Georgia voters will largely be fought between former Speaker Newt Gingrich, who is well known by Peach State voters and former Pennsylvania Sen. Rick Santorum. Georgia is an unapologetic conservative state and Republican primary voters will support the candidate they believe best represents those values, and also has the best chance of defeating President Barack Obama in the fall.

Former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney is certainly in the hunt in Georgia having won Florida, but his loss in South Carolina was telling and may not bode well for him here. One of the chief reasons voters have reservations about Romney is that they have begun to question whether he is the most electable candidate. In losing the sense of inevitability, voters are more likely to believe they do not have trade their support for a candidate perceived as more conservative for someone who can compete in November.

This is the situation that confronts Georgians in the first week of March. During these campaigns much is made of message and organization, and while Romney certainly seems to have a mobility advantage due to his large political operation, one has to wonder whether that’s true here. As far as message, it appears the Massachusetts governor does not have the advantage in this area and has not for some time. Santorum seems to be capturing the imagination of conservative voters particularly after the Obama administration announced Catholic employers were required to provide insurance which includes measures that go against church teaching, such as contraception. His rise also comes on the heels of the president introducing a budget that shows our national deficit will continue to grow significantly past $15 trillion where it currently stands.

Conservative voters in Georgia are angry and they want a stand bearer who is in line with their values and beliefs and can win the presidency. They will measure all the candidates against that and make their decision in a number of weeks. In advance of our primary, there are other state contests such as Arizona, but without question, Michigan’s primary in late February will color the race here, but there is little doubt that Georgia will play an important role in a wide open nomination this year.

[Photo By uberculture]

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