(Politico) – The Deep South has elected Republicans to every top office in the region. Now it wants to be sure that clout extends to the choice of the GOP’s 2016 presidential nominee.
Officials in five Southern states — Tennessee, Georgia, Mississippi, Alabama and Arkansas — are coordinating to hold their primary on March 1, 2016. Texas and Florida are considering also holding a primary the same day but may wait until later in the month. Either way, March 1 would be a Southern Super Tuesday, voting en masse on the heels of Iowa, New Hampshire, South Carolina and Nevada.
The joint primary, which appears increasingly likely to happen, would present a crucial early test for Republican White House hopefuls among the party’s most conservative voters. It could, in theory, boost a conservative alternative to a Republican who has emerged as the establishment favorite from the four states that kick off the nominating process. But one risk is that the deep-red complexion of the Southern states’ primary electorates would empower a candidate who can’t win in general election battlegrounds like Ohio and Colorado.
Republicans from the South say their states make up the heart of the GOP and that it’s only fitting the region should have commensurate say over whom the party puts forward to compete for the White House. Proponents are already dubbing March 1 the “SEC primary,” after the NCAA’s powerhouse Southeastern Conference.