OUR OPINION: Mississippi primary has added interest

By NEMS Daily Journal

Just a few short weeks ago, it appeared Mississippi voters would simply be going through the motions in Tuesday’s presidential primary. The only decisive votes would be in the congressional and senatorial races.
Coming on the heels of last week’s Super Tuesday contests in 10 states, this week’s Mississippi and Alabama presidential primaries loomed as an afterthought. After the dust settled last week, or so the thinking went, the nomination would be close to settled as well.
Not quite. Mitt Romney is still struggling to establish himself with the Republican base and demonstrate a broad appeal within the party. Rick Santorum and Newt Gingrich are battling it out to be the alternative, and sooner or later – the crazy ups and downs of this primary season aside – one of them will make this a two-man race.
It now appears Mississippi and Alabama could help determine which candidate, if either, emerges in the role of chief Romney challenger. “Suddenly pivotal” is the way The Associated Press describes Tuesday’s vote in this state and next door.
Of course it could be pivotal for Romney as well. Should he manage to win in both states – he’s not considered strong in the South – it could be a virtual knockout punch to both Santorum and Gingrich. But if one of those two were to take both states, the other would be under great pressure to get out of the race.
The nomination is still very much Romney’s to lose. He is way ahead in the delegate count. But a Mississippi-Alabama surge for one of the others could make it a longer and tougher road.
All this puts Mississippi in the most influential position it’s had in a presidential nominating process in quite a while.
Unlike many states, Mississippi doesn’t register voters by party and permits anyone to vote in a party primary. And with little activity in the Democratic primary – in this area of the state, only a three-man Senate primary is on the ballot – there’s not a lot of incentive to vote on that side.
But it’s disappointing to learn that absentee ballots, often an indicator of election day turnout, have been low. It would be a shame to have only a small portion of the electorate turn out for such a big day on the national presidential primary calendar.
It would be important enough for people to vote on Tuesday to determine the party nominees for the U.S. House and Senate. The presidential picture adds another compelling dimension.
Make the effort to exercise the most fundamental responsibility of citizenship on Tuesday – vote.