Pascagoula, Mississippi (CNN) - The question to Mitt Romney from a talk radio host at WAPI-AM in Birmingham, Alabama was straightforward enough.
"I realize it is a bit of an away game," Romney quipped, using a sports metaphor.
The former Massachusetts governor knows he is not in Boston anymore as he faces a handful of critical contests in the nation's Deep South over the next three weeks, more than enough time for the momentum in the GOP race to swing back to his rivals once again.
Romney told the Birmingham radio audience he remains focused on winning delegates, if not contests, in places like Alabama and Mississippi where primaries will be held next Tuesday. Louisiana and Missouri come later this month.
"I am confident we are going to get some delegates. That's of course what this is all about," Romney added.
Chip Saltsman, the campaign manager for Mike Huckabee's 2008 presidential campaign, has dubbed the coming weeks of the campaign "March Madness" for Romney as several states in the calendar ahead are not exactly tailor-made for a New England Republican.
"I agree this is an away game for him," Saltsman said.
But Romney, Saltsman said, could perform better than expected if Rick Santorum and Newt Gingrich deliver an even split of the region's conservative vote.
"I think what we're really going to find out over the next couple of weeks is how much Santorum and Gingrich are hurting each other," Saltsman said.
"In early polling we've seen from the states, they're almost split right down the middle, which gives Mitt Romney an opportunity to win one of these states," he added.
Romney is making his first deep dive into the South as a presidential candidate. Huckabee dominated the region on Super Tuesday in 2008. As a result, the former Massachusetts governor remains largely unknown to southern voters.
"He's a pretty boy. He's intelligent. He's got a business background. I like that," Mississippi voter Eric von Suthoff said over a plate of fried chicken inside the Annex restaurant in Pascagoula, a major ship building port on the Gulf Coast.
"I can't get over that feeling that he thinks he looks like the president more than he will be one," von Suthoff joked.
Across the table, von Suthoff's friend Glenn Travis was much more receptive to Romney's candidacy.
"We don't mind if he's moderate. Right there in the middle. That's what it's going to take," Travis, an Alabama voter, said.
"A business mind, what Eric mentioned, is definitely what Washington needs," Travis added.