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.
– Follow the Ticker on Twitter: @PoliticalTicker
- Follow Jim Acosta on Twitter: @jimacostacnn
"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.
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
i agree with the grover norquist is an enemy of the state guy, but we can't like when they use this forum.
You are correct that since Obama is still paying the Bush war bills and drug bills that will keep coming for some time,,the deficit is high and mighty and paying for the Bush years is no easy feat.
It's so easy to say what to do or what you would do....after what's done is done. That what all wanna b's do. Not one of these candidates has ever said one good thing has been done by this president and yet we are not all dead or living in a country where we are shot for speaking our beliefs...no matter how far left or right they may be. All I have ever heard from the haters is screw everyone who ain't exactly like me. That don't make much of a man or a president!!! A lot of narrow minded paranoid I have mine screw you kind of republicans out there....let's all pray for them. To Budda...God...Allah....Karma....or ?????.
To Kris LV: a large part of the president's deficit is due to the near depression he inherited from the repubs. It cut tax receipts and forced the stimulus spending. the economy is bow improving, so tax revenue is rising.
I have already heard Christian Right nut cases calling Romney not a Christian because he is a Mormon Will all the Baptists in the South vote for a Mormon. Mormon believe Joseph Smith was given golden tablets by the archangel Gabriel so where are the gold tablets and why back then did the tablets say polygamy was fine. Do you really believe Jesus Christ preached to the American Indians around 600 AD. Why do they have statues to Birgham Young a polygamist who was a 19th century Warren Jeffs. Why can't anyone just walk into a Mormon temple ??? Romney is a giant flip flopper like like his Mormon cult. Mormons hate Gays, Blacks, and Baptize dead Jews. Mormons need an education. Southerners will never vote for a Mormon.
Valentina. You're on. $100 on Obama. I'm not giving you points, though.
I realize it is a bit of an away game....
^ So, go away.
Obama decided to hold the Democratic Primary in North Carolina.
You know why?
He has heart.........
Let us know when Romney aquires one.
Woman in California:
Afraid you are the uneducated one. Mormons were kicked out of Missouri under the threat of being killed (the "extermination order.... issued by Gov. Boggs remained on the books until the 70's). This was issued largely because they were anti-slavery. The Mormons have been hated and despised in the south ever since.
Call them what you want. The Mormons I know are very decent, God-fearing individuals who though somtimes being somewhat sanctimonious in their righteousness, nevertheless treat their neighbors in a very loving manner.
One could do far worse!
Jason in Hawaii
Looks like bigotry is still alive and well in the south. Lots of falsehoods here.
"Woman in California" and "Cali girl" sound like they have an ax to grind.
Canada SUPER POWER
hint!!! get rid of gop – they put you in this HOLE – vote anybody but GOP!!
Canada triple A rating – best economy in the world
Why don't you use your wealth to help people who need help quietly. You are not what this country needs at the moment. It needs someone transforming, whoever that is. No offense, but that's the way I feel.
I'm sure the fine people of the great states of Alabama and Mississippi will do the right thing and vote for Mitt Romney.
When they said, the next contest is in the south. Romney was thinking of the South Hampton, not the dirty south.
when is someone going to ask Romney about "Planet Kolob?"
Romney's been on an "away game" for at least six years and counting.
It disappointed me that my beloved state of South Carolina and also Georgia felt more inclined to favor a man with so much marital baggage than a proven family man like Romney, Santorum or Paul to represent a role model of family values. As much as they talk, do they honestly believe in keeping the commandments of God? I love the Southerners and it breaks my heart to see them make that kind of choice.
I don't think that he can really connect with the needed people in the up coming races. He seems as aloof as Al Gore seemed stiff. Romney doesn't understand what is going on and doesn't seem to care about the needed functions of government. I wonder if he plans on running the government like Bain. He should know that can't happen since he was governor.
Women in California.... Um.... I lived in Detroit for a year and was one of the only 5 white people in a congregation of 300 mormons..... My bishop was black.... So I think you ought to heck your facts from a reliable source..... You may want to look at LDS.org and look at the quarum of the 70.... 70 top leaders of the Mormon church. You will find blacks, Hispanics Asians, etc.... Anyhow, please don't spelled false facts. Not cool. Best, Ryan
Woman in California:
Get a life.
Wow woman in California, not only is your comment not Christian, it's inhuman. To wish harm on any person no matter if you like them or not is disgusting. You say Mormons worship Satan yet you hope a man is harmed if he becomes president, to see evil you don't need to look any further than your mirror. Oh and btw I'm pretty sure the African American Mormons that I know don't call themselves "filthy dirty rags".
If it's an away game, then go away.
Some of these comments are pathetic an ignorant.
Romney don't even know yet what it's going to be like.
Imagine him running against Obama. Obama is a Christian. The Southern Baptist in the south will vote for Obama over a man who's part of the Mormon cult.
I will bet my life savings that Obama wins another term!