Five lessons from the Alabama and Mississippi primary results:
1. Mitt Romney's biggest ally is the multitude of his enemies: Alabama and Mississippi prove that the not Romney votes can continue to be split while Santorum and Gingrich remain in the race. What matters more is that Romney's delegate advantage is maintained by those votes being split between Gingrich and Santorum.
2. Santorum and Gingrich are not coordinating states among themselves and they probably should be doing so. The most effective use of the combined resources of Gingrich and Santorum in fighting Romney, in isolation from each other, rather than fighting each other as well. That keeps that vote splitting to a minimum - split up states among each candidate and focus your limited resources in smaller, focused, controlled bursts. In essence they can make Romney fight a two front war rather than benefiting from a free-for-all.
3. Mitt Romney's strategy of picking off easy delegates is slowly working - Hawaii, Samoa, Guam add to his total. His third place delegates in Alabama and Mississippi aren't inconsequential either. They aren't high profile, but the numbers still count, and they are counting in his favor.
4. Gingrich is a regional candidate. Paul is a nomad candidate. Santorum and Romney can both claim with some validity that they have won in a broad spectrum of regions. Gingrich cannot claim the same. His success has been all deep south success, and even there, it's limited. Paul is becoming a non-factor and he will not have enough momentum to get a prime time slot at the GOP convention. He may end up being given one in an attempt to buy his allegiance, but he will not have proportionally earned it. He's fading to the status of footnote or afterthought.
5. The night was more of a loss for Romney than anything else. Yes Santorum gets momentum and in the long run that may be the big story. But Mitt Romney did not close off the race and wins in those southern states would have been bold victories that could have given him the air of inevitability and sealed the nomination for him. Instead, by playing the long game, he allowed both Santorum and Gingrich to survive. It was a timid play. He could have tried to end it in those southern states but he didn't. What is striking to me is that his timidity doesn't speak favorably about how he would do as president. No bold solutions, he would just tinker around the edges. That's not exactly what the country needs, nor what he has promised.
And after all of that, I'm still re-thinking things.