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It’s the “Waffle House Primary,” not the “SEC Primary”

The opinions expressed by columnists are their own and do not necessarily represent the views of

Last week, I interviewed former Arkansas Governor and Fox News contributor Mike Huckabee and asked him about the so-called “SEC Primary” that Georgia Secretary of State Brian Kemp is attempting to put together on March 1, 2016.


“I think that idea is a gift from God. I think it was inspired out of heaven. You know, seriously I think it would be great. Here’s what I think this means: It is the Southern states and the Midwestern states that really form the bulk of the presidential genesis in November,” said Huckabee.

“If there’s a general election, if a Republican doesn’t carry the heartland, he’s not going to win. And so best to show where the heartland and the Southern and Midwestern states are early on in the process, because quite frankly it is not New York state or Connecticut that’s going to determine the winner in the general election.”

Georgia and Tennessee have already set their 2016 Presidential Primaries for March 1st. There is some talk that Texas and Florida may bolt the March First date, both Florida and the Lone State State is scheduled to go to the polls then. Alabama Secretary of State John Merrill has endorsed the idea and Mississippi’s legislature is currently considering adopting the March First date. Mike Huckabee’s home state of Arkansas is also likely to join.

I’d like to suggest that “Waffle House Primary” is a better name for March First than SEC Primary. Virginia is a likely March 1 Primary state, and while it hosts no SEC teams, it is still part of the Waffle House Nation.

But the Waffle House Primary moniker may have implications beyond the candidates’ waistlines. Chris Cillizza of the Washington Post noted last year that Waffle House states tend to vote Republican.

The split is clear. If you have a Waffle House in your state, you are more likely to support a Republican for president. If you don’t, you won’t.


The overlap between Waffle House and GOP voting preferences may also be explained by the primarily Southern reach of the breakfast chain.

Nate Cohn of the New York Times Upshot delves into the influence of moderate voters in the GOP Presidential selection process.

According to an analysis of Pew Research and exit-poll data, blue-state Republicans tend to be more urban, more moderate, less religious and more affluent. A majority of red-state Republicans are evangelical Christians, believe society should discourage homosexuality, think politicians should do what it takes to undermine the Affordable Care Act and want politicians to stand up for their positions, even if that means little gets done in Washington. A majority of blue-state Republicans differ on every count.

The potential effect is obvious: It could bestow crucial momentum to the candidate favored by the South, perhaps another conservative like Mr. Santorum or Mr. Huckabee, and the boost needed to win the Midwestern primaries where conservative candidates have struggled, like Illinois, Michigan and Wisconsin. Even in that scenario, the conservative Republican would need to win in the blue states — and would hope to have an easier time doing so after red-state victories

NPR interviewed Brian Kemp about the genesis of the SEC Primary idea and Kemp

BRIAN KEMP: I think I was just riding down the road one day thinking about presidential politics, and I just kind of came up with this idea about us having a regional primary in the South.

I thought it’d be a good idea just to call it, quote, “the SEC primary” to raise awareness to what we were trying to do down here. And that’s really where the whole idea came from.


It would have been a much better story if he’d been driving in a pickup truck with his dog and his mama, and came up with the idea while stopped at railroad tracks waiting for the train to pass.

J. Pepper Bryars writes at that conservatives stand to gain with an SEC Primary.

With the exception of the Palmetto State, which is solidly Republican, the rest [of the early caucus and primary states] are fairly moderate. Iowa, New Hampshire and Nevada all voted for President Obama in 2008 and again in 2012. We’re supposed to think of them as a collective bellwether for who the Republican Party should nominate?

The states that would comprise the SEC Primary, on the other hand, all voted for the Republican nominee in 2008 and 2012. According to Gallup, they’re among the most conservative in the nation.

Bryars concludes that Mike Huckabee’s Southern Evangelical base means he’s the most likely beneficiary of a Waffle House Primary. From Huckabee’s answer to the question, he might think so too.

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