1. Opinion

Mitt Romney's Southern fried foolishness

Published Mar. 15, 2012

What is it about the South that compels candidates to attempt their best Li'l Abner impersonation in the craven roadkill hunt for votes?

Thank goodness the Mississippi and Alabama Republican presidential primaries ended when they did. For you just know if this had gone on much longer Mitt Romney, or make that Mitty Bob/Mitty Joe, would have started showing up at campaign rallies dressed in bib overalls like Hee Haw's Junior Samples while spinning yarns about huntin' and fishin' and diggin' into delicious bowls of cheesy grits a la Camembert. Yummers.

If this guy had dropped one more phony "Y'all," Minnie Pearl would have arisen from the grave to slap him silly. Y'all don't come back now, ya hear?

The South holds a strange allure to politicians who morph into Huey Long meets Conway Twitty. After all, few candidates travel to the Midwest and suddenly start talking like the cast from Fargo, doncha know.

In New England, presidential candidates avoid referring to "pahking the caa," or what we should do about Cuber.

And out west, you hardly ever see a candidate from say, oh, Massachusetts showing up wearing a Stetson, because he would like a dork in the saddle.

But for some reason the South is different, transforming the hustings into one long-winded game of political kudzu charades. The problem was particularly acute for Romney, already widely distrusted for tailoring his positions on the issues based on the shifting winds of polling data.

You would think that given his "she loves me, she loves me not" approach to explaining his gasping mullet on the dock flip-flops when it comes to health care, abortion, gay rights and guns, Mitt Romney would have mastered the arcane art of pandering.

So there he was bouncing between Mississippi and Alabama, extolling the culinary charms of grits and pretending he has Loretta Lynn on his iPod.

To be a smidgen fair, perhaps Romney thought he could pull off his image as a Man of the Doublewide set considering Mississippi and Alabama Republican voters, by vast margins, believe Barack Obama is a Muslim and evolution is a myth.

If only Romney had reminded himself of recent history, especially since it involved a fellow Bay Stater.

During his run for the Democratic presidential nomination, Sen. John Kerry found himself in South Philadelphia's Pat's Steaks, renowned for its Philly cheesesteak. Kerry promptly asked for one with Swiss cheese instead of the more traditional Cheez Whiz.

This was a heresy akin to putting ketchup on a Chicago hot dog, or perhaps asking for a bottle of A-1 Steak Sauce for your Bern's New York strip. Some things simply aren't done.

Making matters worse, Kerry then proceeded to daintily nibble on his bastardized Philly cheesesteak as if he was noshing on a crustless watercress sandwich at the yacht club.

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Newt Gingrich didn't attempt a political makeover and seems content to remain the pompous, irritating windbag he has been regardless of state lines. Rick Santorum continues to campaign as if he is running for the Cotton Mather Trophy.

Rather than pretend to voters that he can't wait to dive into a platter of fried okra, pork rinds and collard greens, perhaps Romney should have leveled with them. Would it have done all that much harm to confess to the body politic: "Look, we both know I exude all the charm of the Addams Family's Lurch. I don't give a rat's patootie about endlessly racing cars in a circle. And if I never eat another grit in my lifetime, I'll be perfectly content.

"I'm stupidly rich, too, with a few houses and a fleet of cars. I am so out of touch with the daily lives of 99 percent of Americans, I regard nearly $400,000 in speaking fees as not all that much money.

"You probably would dislike me intensely if you really got to know me. Fair enough. I would, too. But compared to my loopy opponents, I come off as Ike and the Gipper. So take me, or leave me. I don't care."

On second thought, too much?


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