John Feehery: Speaking Engagements

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The South Is Just Not Into Mitt

Posted on January 21, 2012


Mitt Romney is not that popular in the South.

Big surprise.

He got trounced last time around in South Carolina, and he didn’t win a state in Old Dixie.

The question tonight is:  does it matter?

Romney can get the nomination without winning North or South Carolina, Georgia, Alabama, Mississippi, Arkansas.

And, in many ways, he should find that very liberating.

Because, if he should get the nomination, there is very little chance that Old Dixie will vote for Barack Obama.

Romney owes the South nothing (since they helped him not at all in his quest), which means he can embark on a strategy to seize the vital middle, focus on the swing states, and basically ignore them.

This usually isn’t done in Republican primaries.  John McCain certainly bent over backwards to curry favor with South Carolina in ways that hurt him in the general election.  George W. Bush ostensibly was from the South, and he owed his selection to the region in his battle with McCain.  George H.W. Bush had Lee Atwater.  And Ronald Reagan consciously nodded to the Confederacy when he spoke from Philadelphia, Mississippi to open his campaign.

Let’s not kid ourselves.  The Bible Belt is simply not going to vote for a Mormon.  They would rather vote for an adulterous born-again Catholic than pick a guy who wears funny underwear.

That means this will be a long drawn-out fight.

Despite Newt’s big win in South Carolina, he will not win in Florida.  The state is too big, too diverse, and requires too much money for Newt, with his relatively small bank account, to be able to compete.  There are fewer evangelicals there, more Catholics, and approximately 150,000 Floridians have already voted, through the wonders of early voting.

But even if Newt were to win in Florida (which he won’t), Romney will still have the upper hand.  All of the winner-take-all-States come later in the process.  A tiny percentage of delegates have been selected in the first three contests, and while Florida has a bigger number, that number has been cut in half because it moved its primary up on the calendar, in defiance of RNC rules.

That being said, Romney has to do better than he did this past week.

He made it easy for the evangelicals to vote against him.  Newt Gingrich is not the biggest threat to the Romney campaign.  The biggest threat to the Romney campaign is Mitt Romney.

Newt Gingrich won a big victory in South Carolina and he deserves some credit for it.  But I don’t think it will translate into a national trend.  Newt has staying power in the Old South.  But the rest of the country will most likely stay in Romney’s hands.