March 8th, 2012
04:51 PM ET
10 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. souptwins

    The only things I care about a candidate's religion are 1st - they committed to allowing all people to practice their religious beliefs as they see fit. 2nd - They understand the separation of Church and State. So far Romney's done a better job with those two things than either Santorum or Newt.

    March 8, 2012 11:43 pm at 11:43 pm |
  2. ruemorgue

    Well, that Good Ole Southern Hostile-ality will make Mitt feel right at home, just like P-town at the end of Cape Cod, a genuine pain in the arse !!

    March 8, 2012 11:47 pm at 11:47 pm |
  3. aaron

    It would be beat all if Romney carried the South. He's a half-Mexican Mormon. Not the most welcome of combinations for most Southerners.

    March 9, 2012 12:16 am at 12:16 am |
  4. Justin

    This is an away game? Wait till the Obama machine eats him alive. Romney= pathetic.

    March 9, 2012 12:19 am at 12:19 am |
  5. j0eschm0e

    seems this is a game to mitt romney. this is real life you mo ron, and the world is watching

    March 9, 2012 12:35 am at 12:35 am |
  6. Robert

    Mitt Romney is a very capable executive and successful governor of MA (he got about 75% of MA GOP vote on Tueday). He's Harvard Law + Harvard MBA. I've often thought why the hech don't our powerful, successful biz exec's run for president? Here's the guy and I believe in him. btw – I voted for Obama

    March 9, 2012 12:36 am at 12:36 am |
  7. Attila, The Hun

    Ann Romney, the protector. That is certainly what we need in a president – someone who hides behind a woman's skirt.

    March 9, 2012 01:07 am at 1:07 am |
  8. Joseph Smith

    But he like grits, that ain't enough?

    March 9, 2012 01:56 am at 1:56 am |
  9. Reggie

    Any talk of Obama's centrist or independent problem? No way, not on CNN! All bow to the leader, President Obama!

    March 9, 2012 02:24 am at 2:24 am |
  10. thomas

    The Mormon Mafia will make the world happy again.

    I want to thank Mitts five sons for not supporting the War in Afghanistan , another far away game..

    March 9, 2012 02:47 am at 2:47 am |
  11. SKS

    Obama 2012, Enough said.

    March 9, 2012 03:10 am at 3:10 am |
  12. Mormon Dude

    I lived in the south (AL, FL, GA) for nearly 12 years and still get surprised by the false statements spread about Mormons and the amount of bigotry toward members. We have black, Latino, Asian elders at every level of Church leadership, including at the highest levels in Salt Lake City. I’ve been taught to believe in Christ (the very same Christ as in the King James version of the Bible) my whole life and that it is only through his love and sacrifice that we are saved. If you really want to know what we believe, ask a member or go to or What would be so bad about having a President who values family, economic independence, and who has spent years in public service without ever taking a salary (not as Governor of Mass, as head of Olympics, as leader in the church, and as missionary in France)?

    March 9, 2012 03:48 am at 3:48 am |
  13. Geo

    Strange the "conservatives" keep harping on the debt when it was their man Bush who created the mess we're in. And now they are eager to start more wars in the Middle East, yet we still have to pay for the other two unfunded wars. Last summer, Obama and the Democrats gave in to a 10 to 1 reduction in the debt to tax increases and was roundly rejected by the Tea Party caucus. If the right wing track record continues, the worse we could do for the debt is elect a Republican, let alone all the social conflict and wars.

    March 9, 2012 03:57 am at 3:57 am |
  14. steve

    south is full of CHURCH FREAKS so Santorum will get the FREAK vote, but that won't win a general election by a long shot. Gingrich is a WEASEL and there are plenty of DUMB folk that will vote for him hoping he will take their wife

    March 9, 2012 03:58 am at 3:58 am |
  15. Kris W

    To Kris LV

    The reason the debt has risen that much is because of the compounded interest that has accumulated from the Bush administration initial debt. It is a domino effect, one that put a $0 deficit of the Clinton administration to what it is now is the culmination of events–one decision on top of another. Blaming one guy for another's initial mistake seems a bit much. Obama is picking up the pieces of a bad economic and political down swing. It is also highly likely that the next guy in the presidency will take a long time–if at all–to fix the problem. Four years isn't enough to patch up all the damage that has been done.

    March 9, 2012 04:59 am at 4:59 am |
  16. Leif

    An "Away game"? Did he really say that? It shouldn't be a surprise to anyone, because it comes from someone who strapped a dog to the roof of his car and drove to Canada. The GOP is angry about its choices, for good reason.
    The south is a vital part of this nation. The south is a vital part of the baseball nation. No baseball player would ever tie their dog to the roof of their car and drive two feet, let alone to Canada.

    March 9, 2012 05:06 am at 5:06 am |
  17. RinosRwinos

    The southerns don't take to kindly to them thar northern Yankee, liberal, communists. They are looking for a god fearing, gun totting,baby kissing southern baptist. They don't trust any of those mormon cult members even though christianity is a cult too. Praise the lord and pass the ammo.

    March 9, 2012 06:26 am at 6:26 am |
  18. Anna

    THE SOUTH IS AN AWAY GAME TO ROMNEY: An away game? This Presidential run is just an ego trip for this arrogant millionaire. The people are broke, trying to pay bills and looking for work. And this is a game to him. He does not expect to beat Obama, this is a "game for him" to promote his ego.

    March 9, 2012 06:57 am at 6:57 am |
  19. ourjungle

    They battle hard, through the long days,and nights,month after month.When the dust settles, a GOP junk yard dog will face the final battle,not a whimper,nor a whine will you hear.......or, we could sent in the evangelical.

    March 9, 2012 07:17 am at 7:17 am |
  20. Addison Jasmine

    People say President Obama isn't doing anything because of his race and mixed race... You people need to get it together.... His blood is red the same as yours. Get it together please smh.....

    March 9, 2012 07:21 am at 7:21 am |
  21. El Flaco

    Gingrich is morally less inferior than Romney.

    March 9, 2012 07:51 am at 7:51 am |
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