The ‘SEC primary’ gains steam, but will it help Georgia gain attention?

What was once a gleam in the eye of Georgia’s top elections official has become reality in recent months, as most of the South has aligned for a blockbuster March 1, 2016, presidential primary.

Voters in Georgia, where Secretary of State Brian Kemp has been the loudest cheerleader for the college athletics-themed “SEC primary,” will be joined by those in Alabama, Arkansas, Oklahoma, Tennessee, Texas and Virginia for the regional vote that could shape what looks to be a drawn-out Republican race. North Carolina also could still move in.

While Kemp attributes the primary alignment to an increase in Peach State visits for Republican hopefuls, it is more likely a function of the fact that so many Republicans are running for president – as at least 16 are expected to be in the race by month’s end – said Appalachian State University political scientist Josh Putnam.

And in the past when southern states have banded together to form primaries, there have been split decisions and uneven influence on the race itself.

Democrats have a clear front-runner in Hillary Clinton and are laser-focused so far on the early primary states of Iowa, New Hampshire, Nevada and South Carolina. But the Republican contest is likely to be drawn out, in part because of the accelerating role of unlimited-donation Super PACs.

“A chicken in every pot and a billionaire for every candidate,” said Larry Sabato, the director of the University of Virginia’s Center for Politics. “To me, that’s the slogan of this election.”

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