March 8th, 2012
04:51 PM ET
3 years ago

Romney: The South is an 'away game'

Pascagoula, Mississippi (CNN) - The question to Mitt Romney from a talk radio host at WAPI-AM in Birmingham, Alabama was straightforward enough.

"How important is it for you to pick up a southern state," the host asked Romney Thursday.

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"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.

Also see:

Obama and Romney ahead in ad fight

First on CNN: Santorum super PAC hits Alabama and Mississippi airwaves

Obama releases movie trailer a week before campaign film's debut

Cindy McCain defends Palin over HBO film


Filed under: 2012 • Alabama • Mississippi • Mitt Romney
soundoff (121 Responses)
  1. GROVER NORQUIST IS A ENEMY OF THE STATE

    But Willard, if you're elected president, how are you going to look out for the interest of the people in the south? You probably never even heard of collard greens or fatback.

    March 8, 2012 04:57 pm at 4:57 pm |
  2. Alexanders.

    Sadly those states are picking the wrong candidates. Thats why they are having such a hard time with present economy and everything else.

    March 8, 2012 04:59 pm at 4:59 pm |
  3. Dave

    YEP, the south is very far away from the Temple in Salt.Lake. As so its views also. They see right thru Mitts Plastic Exterior & he has about the same chance of winning those states as there is a chance for a black elder getting apointet in the LDS church!!!!!!

    March 8, 2012 05:00 pm at 5:00 pm |
  4. Randy, San Francisco

    Romney may not pass the Southern evangelical conservative family values Tea Party litmus test.

    March 8, 2012 05:03 pm at 5:03 pm |
  5. K

    He looks very apostolic here. Reminds me of Jim Jones

    March 8, 2012 05:05 pm at 5:05 pm |
  6. tykl

    Any talk about Gingrich's or Santorum's 'independent' and 'northeast'/'far west' problem? I didn't think so. Democratic spin all the way around.

    March 8, 2012 05:08 pm at 5:08 pm |
  7. Luke

    Spend a little time and research the Mormon church. You'll be surprised by what they're religious beliefs are about.

    March 8, 2012 05:12 pm at 5:12 pm |
  8. Annie, Atlanta

    Does that mean if he wins the nomination he won't be considering himself President of the Southern United States? I'm confused.

    March 8, 2012 05:14 pm at 5:14 pm |
  9. Mark

    So I guess when Obama wins this November we will have the South to thank for their stubbornness. They might be able to get their favorite "most" conservative Santorum in their own little elections, but come the general election he will lose. Romney is the only one winning in the important swing states/areas.

    March 8, 2012 05:15 pm at 5:15 pm |
  10. Alexanders.

    The south needs to get with the flow and Get the right man to represent the GOP. And as farest I can see the only one that can do that is Mitt R. We need jobs and prosperity for our children.

    March 8, 2012 05:16 pm at 5:16 pm |
  11. Joy

    Hello Guys,
    I am from Alabama, and I think if the votes split between Santorum and Gingrich, Mitt Romney has a better chance.
    Look at GA m Romney came in 2nd.
    According to the most recent Rasmussen poll ,Santorum is 42% to Obama's 50%. Voters in AL and Mississippi need to
    think before they vote, otherwise it's 4 more years of Obama, and a projected 20 trillion dollar debt. Both parties need to think before they vote. Think about your children's and grandchildren's future.

    March 8, 2012 05:18 pm at 5:18 pm |
  12. cali girl

    You have nothing to offer the South there Robmey. It's not about you being Mormon, or what you stand for. The Catholics do like you better than Santo. It's just the values to the down home south communities that you are out of touch with, not to mention the 99% of Americans.

    March 8, 2012 05:18 pm at 5:18 pm |
  13. Mitt for 2012

    There is an LDS Temple in Birmingham

    March 8, 2012 05:18 pm at 5:18 pm |
  14. Valentina

    I wish southerners and diehard social conservatives were more receptive to Gov. Romney, but even if Romney doesn't win their hearts he will be the GOP nominee when all the dust settles. In the head-to-head with Obama in November I am willing to bet $100.00 bucks that Romney will defeat Obama and will become our 45th President.

    March 8, 2012 05:19 pm at 5:19 pm |
  15. Satberry

    We will do what the north could not do put Willard in his place.The pathological lies will not fly in the south.He belongs to a cult,and it is a problem in the south.He has no core and that is a problem.The marionette will not fool us in the south.

    March 8, 2012 05:21 pm at 5:21 pm |
  16. Just Say No to Flipper

    "We need jobs and prosperity for our children."

    Then Rmoney is certainly NOT your guy since his tax plan makes the deficits far worse than President Obama's, which reduces the deficit. Admit it, President Obama is the best Republican president since Ike.

    March 8, 2012 05:24 pm at 5:24 pm |
  17. Satberry

    Valentina you keep wishing, it will never happen.He is emphatically a pathological lier,and he will be exposed.

    March 8, 2012 05:28 pm at 5:28 pm |
  18. Woman In California

    "I realize it is a bit of an away game," Romney quipped

    And so is your presidency.

    March 8, 2012 05:30 pm at 5:30 pm |
  19. Gfoos

    Joy: how is cutting taxes for the rich going to lower the debt? Also, I am third generation Alabama and it is a very racist state-therein lies the hatred for our President. I have heard the N-word spoken freely my whole life- not out of hatred, but sheer ignorance. no way Alabama votes for a black man, no way for a Mormon either!

    March 8, 2012 05:32 pm at 5:32 pm |
  20. DrCole

    @ Dave "YEP, the south is very far away from the Temple in Salt.Lake. As so its views also. They see right thru Mitts Plastic Exterior & he has about the same chance of winning those states as there is a chance for a black elder getting apointet in the LDS church!!!!!!"

    Wow...why don't you just show your lack of knowledge and your hate for a group of people.

    March 8, 2012 05:32 pm at 5:32 pm |
  21. Woman In California

    Luke

    Spend a little time and research the Mormon church. You'll be surprised by what they're religious beliefs are about.

    I have and no thanks. Baptizing DEAD people and referring to Black people as "filthy dirty rags" is quite enough – in addition to all the other satan leanings practicized in that cult.

    March 8, 2012 05:33 pm at 5:33 pm |
  22. Woman In California

    Valentina

    I wish southerners and diehard social conservatives were more receptive to Gov. Romney, but even if Romney doesn't win their hearts he will be the GOP nominee when all the dust settles. In the head-to-head with Obama in November I am willing to bet $100.00 bucks that Romney will defeat Obama and will become our 45th President.

    I've never said this before and I know it's not Christian but I can't help it when it comes to Willard. IF you are right, I hope he is the 5th president that "this" happens to. I loathe Willard.

    March 8, 2012 05:38 pm at 5:38 pm |
  23. Kris LV

    How has Obama reduced the deficit?

    "Bush's record on deficit spending was not good at all: During his presidency, the national debt rose by an average of $607 billion a year. How does that compare to Obama? During Obama's presidency to date, the national debt has risen by an average of $1.723 trillion a year — or by $1.116 trillion more, per year, than it rose even under Bush." Quit being ignorant. PLEASE.

    March 8, 2012 05:41 pm at 5:41 pm |
  24. Don

    Woman in California,
    Your research is flawed if you think Mormons baptized dead people. You also are insane to think Mormons refer to Black people as filthy rags when in fact the founder baptized and gave the priesthood to a number of black converts. Joseph was imprisonment and killed for being a black sympathizer in the South in the 1800's.

    March 8, 2012 05:46 pm at 5:46 pm |
  25. Ak-NY,NY

    Valentina

    I wish southerners and diehard social conservatives were more receptive to Gov. Romney, but even if Romney doesn't win their hearts he will be the GOP nominee when all the dust settles. In the head-to-head with Obama in November I am willing to bet $100.00 bucks that Romney will defeat Obama and will become our 45th President.
    -------------------------------–

    Sorry Valentina but you don't qualify for Mittens' plan. $100? That's a tiny percentage of the uber-wealthy debate bet.

    March 8, 2012 05:47 pm at 5:47 pm |
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