This looks surprisingly like a typical red state-blue state political map, with Ohio governor John Kasich (the John Anderson of today’s GOP) taking all the states John Adams won in 1796 (Maine was not a state in 1796, and had a highly unrepresentative low-attendance caucus instead of, like all the other northeastern states, a primary) and Rubio and Cruz taking all the states Thomas Jefferson won in 1796. The reason Rubio did so well in the coastal South was
*These primaries took place when Rubio was still thought to have had a chance
*Coastal southern elites did not much like Kasich, and preferred Rubio (northeastern elites, as in Massachusetts and Vermont, preferred Kasich over Rubio)
*A lot of the very conservative vote in the coastal South was sucked up by Donald Trump (cf., Virginia primary), due to greater Black-White racial tensions and cultural compatibility with Trump’s style in Cavalier areas
The third explanation is the most obvious one for why Rubio, who got 24.9% of the Republican vote in Arkansas, but 24.4% of the Republican vote in Georgia, which voted simultaneously, still managed to get second place to Trump in Georgia, but not Arkansas. Trump’s vote share in Arkansas was a full six points lower than in Georgia, Cruz’s vote share was a full 6.9 points higher.