There's a chance -- just a chance -- that the Republican primary will finally end tonight if Mississippi and Alabama pick Mitt Romney. The polls are really close -- some showing Romney ahead in both states -- even though Romney is not just a moderate but, worse, a northerner who said he liked cheese grits in a way that suggested he maybe didn't like cheese grits at all. Romney's campaign scheduled a last-minute stop in Mobile, Ala., on Monday, The Wall Street Journal's Janet Hook and Patrick O'Connor report, which showed "a change of strategy from Mr. Romney's initial efforts to damp expectations for victory in the state." Rick Santorum, meanwhile, started playing down the election. Politico's Jonathan Allen writes that a Romney victory would end the primary: "If one of the two conservative alternatives can’t decisively defeat the establishment favorite in Mississippi and Alabama, which have veered even more sharply to the right in the Obama era, it’s difficult to imagine either of them constructing an electoral firewall that can halt Romney’s march to Tampa."
The Romney campaign's decision not to play down the hype has had clear results: The Washington Times' Seth McLaughlin reports it would be a big symbolic victory for Romney, proving he can win in the South. Politico's Mike Allen says it could be "the most decisive night of the primary season." On the other hand, Politico reports that the way Romney would win in Alabama and Mississippi -- in the more liberal coastal areas, the better-educated college NASA towns, the more affluent suburbs -- would not necessarily disprove the perception that Romney can't appeal to less-wealthy, more religious conservatives.