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Political Geography: Mississippi

By the time Mississippi held its Republican presidential primary in 2008, Senator John McCain of Arizona had all but secured the nomination, so the results are not terribly helpful in foreshadowing today’s contest. Mr. McCain won the state with 79 percent of the vote. Mike Huckabee, the former Arkansas governor, earned just 13 percent, and Representative Ron Paul of Texas received 4 percent. Mitt Romney, the former governor of Massachusetts, had dropped out weeks earlier.

The bulk of the G.O.P. vote in Mississippi today is likely to come from just a few areas.

Republican voters are plentiful in the affluent suburbs east of Jackson, in Rankin County and south Madison County. Rankin County consistently has among Mississippi’s lowest unemployment rates. Many Republican votes will also be cast in the northeast corner of Hinds County, where there are several wealthy neighborhoods in northeast Jackson. If Mr. Romney hopes to win the statewide vote, he will have to do well around Jackson.

In north Mississippi, Republican voters are clustered around Tupelo, an area that in the past was dominated by farms but now specializes in small manufacturing (this region is the hub of the nation’s upholstered furniture industry). Rick Santorum, the former senator from Pennsylvania, will likely need to do well here to compete statewide.

Another bastion of G.O.P. voters in the north is just over the border from Memphis: DeSoto County, among the wealthiest and fastest-growing counties in the state. This ought to be a strong area for Mr. Romney.

Most Republican votes in the south of the state will come from the Biloxi-Gulfport region on the Gulf Coast. Casinos dot the shoreline there, and perhaps that more permissive attitude explains why it was Mr. Paul’s strongest area of the state in 2008. With several military bases nearby, including Keesler Air Force Base, there’s also a distinctly military feel to the Biloxi area.

Now, the maps:

This post has been revised to reflect the following correction:

Correction: March 13, 2012

An earlier version of this post misspelled the name of the county just over the border from Memphis that is among the wealthiest and fastest-growing counties in Mississippi; it is DeSoto County, not DeSota.

Micah Cohen is FiveThirtyEight’s former managing editor.