Romney with Bryant
Romney with Bryant Reuters

Mississippi Governor Phil Bryant was either acting impetuously ,or he knows something that we do not know. On Thursday Bryant endorsed Mitt Romney, days before Tuesday's Mississippi primary.

Romney has been dogged by the charge that he cannot win a southern state (his massive victory in Florida is discounted because Florida, with its heavy influx of former Northerners and Latinos is not your typical southern state, and had defected from the solid South as early as 1952 when it voted for Eisenhower).

South Carolina Governor Nikki Haley also endorsed Romney before her state's primary only to see Newt Gingrich trounce Romney in the vote.

Although Mississippi and neighboring Alabama are considered unfavorable terrain for Romney, he is putting in a major effort in both states while playing down his chances. He has leading politicians in both states endorsing him. They are undeterred by the example of Haley and other elected politicians whose recommendations were totally ignored.

Romney's economic competence and electability were mentioned as the main reasons for supporting him.

If Romney can take either primary, it will be considered a strategic victory for him and could effectively lock up the Republican race early. Romney will have proven that he is not toxic even in deeply conservative states.

He will have won a southern state, something that eluded the 2008 Republican candidate John McCain because Mike Huckabee denied McCain wins in the south.

This makes Mississippi and Alabama, that at first glance appeared to be a letdown from super Tuesday, crucially important.

For Newt Gingrich, Mississippi and Alabama are make or break. If Gingrich cannot hold these southern bastions, his candidacy will be seen to be as frivolous as Ron Paul's.

Rick Santorum, should he emerge the victor over Gingrich, will be empowered to urge the former House Speaker to drop out so he can finally enjoy a clear run at Mitt Romney while uniting the conservative wing of the Republican Party. If Romney defeats Santorum, the pressure to throw in the towel will be directed at him.