The primary season has now been going on for over two months, much longer than many people expected it to. Contests and results that would have once been a top news item or even "game changers" now become just another story to add to the tally. Even Nate Silver of fivethirtyeight seemed to be more enthused to be covering the NCAA March Madness than the Mississippi and Alabama contests. But there is a bit to look for in tonight's results.
After both Super Tueday and Kansas, there really wasn't much time for the media, voters and candidates to catch their breath for Mississippi and Alabama. There was some polling that showed, counter-intuitively, that Mitt Romney would win in one or both states. Others thought the races would be a three way tie, with which candidate wins being mostly a matter of the whims of fate. The demographics and political history of both states spoke to a conservative victory, but whether that victor would be Rick Santorum or Newt Gingrich was a great question.
The final result in Mississippi was 32.9% for Santorum, 31.3% for Gingrich, and 30.3% for Mitt Romney. This is as close to a three way tie as we have seen so far in this race. If those numbers had been a little different, the narrative could have been rewritten. A few thousand more voters for Romney, and he would have broken the perception that he couldn't succeed amongst the Republican base. A few thousand more for Gingrich and he would have won another state. But that didn't happen: Santorum won, and while the benefit to him in delegates, the fact that he has proved that he is the most popular conservative candidate in the Deep South is a significant victory.