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Romney's Run for Alabama Is All About the Economy

NEW YORK ( TheStreet) -- The race for Alabama is all about the economy.

Republican candidates are crisscrossing the state to pitch their messages about jobs and the economy as Alabama prepares to allocate its 50 delegates in Tuesday's primary.

It seems, though, that Alabama conservatives are less concerned about who to select and more intent on choosing the guy who can outwit President Obama on economic issues in the general election.

"They're more concerned about the economy, I can tell you up front," said Clay Marlow, Morgan County GOP chairman. "All you gotta do is run down any town around here, even here where we live in Decatur [Ala.], and you see all kind of buildings boarded up -- out of business signs. That's not good."

Alabama's seasonally adjusted unemployment rate hit 8% in December 2011, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics' latest state-by-state data, which ranks Alabama 29th and just below the national rate.

Alabama's county Republican leaders seem to uniformly agree that as the pivotal southern state prepares for its primary, most people are more concerned about their jobs and the economy than they are about social issues.

"Social issues? Nah, they don't even make first base," Marlow said. "All that stuff about the birth control pill and all that, that was a joke; that was somebody trying to start something and it had no business trying to start it because people didn't buy it."

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Conservative evangelical voters have become synonymous with Republicans in southern states, especially after many politics experts and academics argued that a significant chunk of George W. Bush's 2004 victory depended on the group. But a crippling financial crisis and sluggish global growth since 2008 have dealt American voters a different hand to manage.

Currently, former private-equity businessman Mitt Romney leads the average of major Alabama polls at 26.3%, while Newt Gingrich, Rick Santorum and Ron Paul trail at 24%, 22.7% and 7%, respectively, according to RealClearPolitics.com.

Romney has struggled mightily in the two southern state contests so far as he lost South Carolina to Gingrich by 12.5 percentage points and then finished second to Gingrich in the former House speaker's home state of Georgia by 21.3 percentage points.
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