What's next for Newt in the South?

(CBS News)This Sunday on "Face the Nation," anchor Bob Schieffer will be joined by Republican presidential candidate Newt Gingrich and Obama adviser Robert Gibbs. Below, Schieffer gives his take on what's at stake in Tuesday's crucial primaries in Alabama and Mississippi.

Looking ahead to next week's primaries, Alabama and Mississippi are absolutely crucial states for Newt Gingrich to win - or at least perform very, very well in. Over the past few weeks, Gingrich has sort of staked his whole campaign on winning Georgia and performing well on Super Tuesday. He won Georgia decisively, but failed to win any other states. He was hoping the momentum from Tuesday would be enough to power him to wins in Mississippi and Alabama, but will it be enough? Alabama State University's Center for Leadership and Public Policy just released a poll showing Gingrich trailing both Mitt Romney and Rick Santorum. Mississippi promises a tough fight, too - especially considering the powerful influence of its former governor, Haley Barbour, and his family who are Romney backers.

Despite some positive numbers for Romney, I think it's going to come down to Santorum and Gingrich in Alabama and Mississippi. If that's really the case, what does it say about Romney's campaign? If he does somehow win the nomination, how will he play across the South in the general election? Will he be a real threat to Barack Obama in the Fall? I think next week's primaries will give us more insight into that.

Which brings us to this interesting question about what is the Republican party today? We talk about the Republican establishment as if we were talking about the party of Mitt Romney's father, Gov. George Romney, R-Mich. This is a very different party. This is a party that is substantially more to the right than it was in those days, and we're seeing this in primary after primary. This is significant- the divide between the Republican conservatives and more moderate Republicans is as wide as the divide between Republicans and Democrats right now. Maybe even more so.

Gingrich was our guest last week, but I'm glad to have him back this week because I want to know where he sees this thing going. Does he really think he can continue? This is the midnight hour for Newt Gingrich. And if Gingrich leaves the race, will all of the very conservative Republicans coalesce around Santorum? If that's the case, is Romney in trouble? I'm also looking forward to talking to a senior adviser to Barack Obama's reelection campaign, Robert Gibbs. Are they hoping this Republican infighting just keeps going on and on and on? Does a stronger Santorum surge worry them?

All that -and analysis from CBS News' John Dickerson and Norah O'Donnell - on Face the Nation.

  • Bob Schieffer On Twitter»

    Bob Schieffer is a CBS News political contributor and former anchor of "Face The Nation," which he moderated for 24 years before retiring in 2015.