ABC News’ Michael Falcone reports:
Though Mitt Romney is trailing in the polls in a series of Southern states holding contests on Super Tuesday, his campaign says it plans to make an in-person play for delegates in at least two of them.
Romney is hoping to peel away some delegates from opponents Rick Santorum and Newt Gingrich in states that are not necessarily ripe for Romney wins: Georgia and Tennessee.
Tentatively, Romney plans to make stops in the Knoxville, Tennessee area and Atlanta this weekend, just days before next Tuesday’s primaries. Georgia and Tennessee are two of ten states where voters will go to the polls on Super Tuesday — a day when there are a total of 437 delegates at stake.
“No states are monolithic,” a Romney aide told ABC News, “there are different of pockets of opportunity in these areas.”
Campaign strategists say they see opportunities to over-perform in the eastern part of Tennessee, which includes the tri-cities area — a region that borders Virginia and where John McCain and Mike Huckabee each ran strong four years ago.
The campaign also sees a chance to pick up delegates in the greater Atlanta area. Romney won the five counties surrounding Atlanta in Georgia’s 2008 primary.
Romney came in third in both states four years ago, behind Huckabee and McCain, and according to recent polling, the former Massachusetts governor faces an uphill battle again this year.
In Tennessee, a poll conducted by Middle Tennessee State University shows Santorum with a 20 percentage point lead over Romney, 42 percent to 19 percent. And in Georgia, surveys give Gingrich the edge with Santorum and Romney trailing behind. Gingrich has been crisscrossing Georgia ahead of primary there and Santorum has visited both states already this week.
Georgia congressional districts are winner take all, so if a candidate wins a district he receives three delegates out of a statewide total of 76. In Tennessee, three delegates are also awarded in each of the state’s nine congressional districts, but they are allocated proportionally based on the popular vote within each district. Fifty-eight delegates are at stake there.
On Super Tuesday the Romney campaign is counting on victories in Massachusetts, Vermont and Virginia with other states, like Ohio, which represents the second-largest delegate prize of the day, up for grabs.
ABC News’ Chris Good contributed reporting.