By now, Mitt Romney was supposed to have this thing wrapped up, but it turned out that he had to go down South and compete in Mississippi and Alabama. Romney called it an "away game," but he did his best, talkin' bout grits and saying "y'all." Shockingly, the Republicans of Dixie didn't quite buy it. But they did buy the guy from Pennsylvania. Which holds a lesson: Cultural affinity isn't just about culture. It's good if you can talk the way a particular group of people do and say sincerely that you eat what they eat, listen to the music they do, and share a common upbringing. That helped Mike Huckabee do so well in the South four years ago. But Rick Santorum is no Southerner, and yet he was the guy whom Republicans in the Southernest of Southern states identified with (and not, notably, Georgia's Newt Gingrich, although Newt was actually born and raised in Pennsylvania as well).
So what was that identification about? Put up against Romney, Santorum was more than enough of a Southern Republican. He may be Catholic while most of the people who voted for him were Protestant, but he's sure as hell no respect-other-faiths, don't-wear-your-religion-on-your-sleeve kind of guy, which Romney basically is. And Southern evangelical Republicans liked that, whatever they might think of the Pope. When Santorum explains his hatred of liberals, of gay people, of women who think they can have sex without being punished for it, and above all of Barack Obama, they could tell it was no act, no pandering. It's who he is, deep down in his soul, and he didn't have to drop his g's to make it hit home.
I may not be a great fan of the Republicans of Mississippi and Alabama, but I'll give them this: At least they displayed no evident interest in which Northerner did the best job of eating their food and speaking in their unique tongue.
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