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.
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Gfoos- How sad is your post
Bush and the repubics created the deficit .the high gas prices. the wars and the collapsed economy. Repubics was handed a surplus. No deficit. 1.29 gal gas. No wars. Thriving economy. They went global and robbed the U.S.
I live in Alabama, and the hard right, evangelicals are not going to vote for Romney because he is a Morman. That vote will be spit between Gingrich and Santorum, which leaves the chance for Mitt Romney to do well, even in the religious biased southern part of the country. Go Mitt!
That was money spent by bush on wars and tax cuts for the rich. Bush the worst president ever
Lots of luck trying to sell it to the people of one of the poorest states in the nation why the minimum wage should not be raised-I'm sure they will love you for it. Will you be knocking them dead with your state song (or America the Beautiful) on a rolling Mississippi Steam Boat or in some cotton field with just enough folding chairs prepared? Good idea for Ann to dress down a little, given the poverty level (know your audience and stay on script, if you can).
Amazing! Romney just keeps making himself more and more loveable, doesn't he? Now we, the South, are an "away game" to him. And he can't figure out why we don't embrace him. It's probably because we Southerners can smell a phony a mile away.
The GOP needs the South to win. That is the point of the Southern Strategy. The GOP has followed this strategy since Nixon. If Romney is conceding that he has a built-in disadvantage in the South, he won't win anywhere. The inevitable GOP nominee will have an inevitable loss in the general election.
Romney will probably not do so well in the South; besides, NEWT HAS THE BLESSING OF SARAH DARLIN'.
I'm not sure what would make any of the other candidates more viable than Romney in Mississippi or Alabama. Perhaps religion might be more of an influence and might swing votes toward Santorum, but basing who you want to be president based on their religious views seems pretty foolish to me anyway.
He's gonna come down here and look the people in the face, the faces he's gonna take away any "BENEFITS" from. Yep, he wants to get it back the old way. Less EBT, les unemployment checks, less medicaid or welfare. Gonna be tough since Mississippi is the poorest state in the Union and so many on welfare. I don't think Mitt making 4 Million in 2 months with a net worth of 280 Million is gonna relate to those people.
"'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...." Oh, geez. To think I used to be proud of having been born in that state.
OK, so here we go...
No Republican locks up the votes, and in a crazy brokered convention they go with... JEB BUSH!
In the meantime, $8 per gallon gas explodes the price of everything, the economy crashes and Obama becomes unelectable. The Dems, in a desperate move to try and hold the White House, dump him and nominate... HILLARY!
You have to admit, this scenario would offer far more hope for a recovery in the next four years than anything we've got on stage today. Maybe it IS darkest just before dawn.
Joy- sounds like a bit too much "Joy Juice" in your political thinking. Not sure who you are listening to with that deficit amount, but all but one of the Republicans proposed budgets will also add to our debt. If that is your main criteria for voting, vote for Paul. But then get out the wagon and horse because you won't have the funds to pave roads.
Joy to the world, President Obama is on the right course for reelection. He makes all the right moves, i.e., the world is on his side as far as Iran is concerned. What were the positions of the gop candidates on Iran?
Everyone who says that Mormonism is a cult is an idiot! End of story, especially if your from the South. The fact is that Romney is smarter then everyone is those states. Mormonism at its core is about JESUS CHRIST the same one that you worship, the same one who died for EVERYONE. He is a christian just as much as the person who drinks beer on his airboat while beating his wife. Grow up do some real research and realize that he loves GOD. Also, his politics are in line for what we need, a president who knows about economy. Thats enough of my rant.
Romney and the GOP has written off the South. Corporatism trumps social conservatism every time. It's all about the money.
Betcha my man Romney ain't never eat'n no fried chicken, collard greens with shrimp and grits. My man Romney ain't use to good cookin, just them black fish eggs aka Baluga caviar.
I suspect the south will warm to Mitt, at least those that plan to vote. The stubborn hard core racists will not vote in the generals if it's between Obama and Romney. They aren't voting for the black or the Mormon. If there's enough of that ignorance in the south, minorities will actually rule and Obama will win some southern states, not all but a good number, and go on to win the general election.
I'm originally from Alabama, and my entire family is Alabama-born and raised- we're all voting for Governor Romney! He truly knows finances- we need a job creator to get the economy moving again. He is by far the best American for the Presidency, especially under the current economic conditions!
Ill bet mitt is practicing his southern drawl right now
Women in CA..... you are a perfect example of why this country is so messed up. Enough said!!
I love the deep south the Cadillac's come in all the right colors, the grass is just the right height, the gators have just the right shade of teeth. I am not as familar with the south as some but some good friiends own plantations there......romney
home the south won't forget that one,,,
Mittens, just follow the trend. This week your wife said you are not wealthy. Just tell the peoplel in the South that you live in an old rented trailer and drive a 50 year old pickup, and you will be a shoe in for the right wing conservative Christians of the South.
He does not against anything? There are different religions in Massachusetts. He wins 72%.