March 21, 2012
By Emily Wagster Pettus
JACKSON, Miss. — Mitt Romney faces a tough sell in the Deep South. With Mississippi and Alabama primaries coming up next Tuesday, there's concern that he's too slick, not really a conservative. In a region where the evangelical vote is important, some are skeptical about his Mormon faith.
But if Romney wins the Republican nomination and it's a November choice between him and Democratic President Barack Obama, the former Massachusetts governor may be just good enough for some Southerners.
"If push comes to shove and he gets the nomination, I'll go in the voting booth like this and vote for him," says Mississippi retiree David Wilke, holding his nose.
Romney acknowledges that he faces an uphill battle in Tuesday's Southern primaries. In an interview Thursday with Birmingham, Ala., radio station WAPI, he said the Deep South contests would be "a bit of an away game" for him....
Cal Jillson, a Southern Methodist University political science professor, said Romney can claim success if he wins one-third of the primary vote in Mississippi and Alabama.
"Gingrich is there as a son of the South," Jillson said. "And Santorum is there as a Yankee but as a Yankee social conservative."