As usual when the national media look south, there’s been endless “how dumb are they?” chatter this week about the yokels—particularly the white, conservative Republican ones—who live in today’s big primary states, Alabama and Mississippi. The New York Post headline about the tight race between Mitt Romney, Newt Gingrich, and Rick Santorum caught the mood perfectly: “It’s Redneck-and-Neck.” Elsewhere, the coastal elites were all abuzz about Alexandra Pelosi’s video on Real Time with Bill Maher, where “average” Mississippians (i.e., the white, male, rural minority) say the gol-darndest things, and the survey showing that most Republicans in both states think Obama’s a Muslim and don't believe in evolution. (Just wondering: Have they tried those poll questions out on Republicans in Idaho or Nebraska?) It’s been a reminder that Dixiephobia remains one of the last socially acceptable forms of American bigotry. And one thing’s for sure: The candidates have done nothing to smarten anybody up. Aside from Gingrich’s snake-oil pitch for $2.50 gas, he’s focused almost entirely on out-culture-warring Santorum as they grapple for evangelical and “very conservative” votes—not the easiest feat, admittedly, but one that perhaps only Newt could manage. Romney’s been aw-shucks pandering to one and all with his “y’alls” and “I like grits” and Jeff Foxworthy endorsement, but his main message has been to try to put the fear of God in the folks by invoking the great Satan, Obama, and claiming that if he doesn’t win tonight, the GOP will be weakened against him in the fall. “Can you imagine anything that would be a bigger gift to President Obama?” he asked. Santorum can imagine a bigger gift: Romney as the nominee. If he doesn’t win Mississippi and Alabama, he’s been telling folks, the Republicans will lose for sure with a less-than-pure right-winger on the ticket.
Heady stuff! But as fluffy as they’ve been, these contests could have real consequence. If Romney wins one or both of these culturally alien states, it’s another big step toward (we need a new word!) “inevitability.” If Gingrich wins both, Santorum will be limping into the next contests in Missouri and Illinois. But if Santorum’s “strategery” has convinced folks that he’s the one to stop that dangerous, grits-loving Massachusetts Mormon, he’ll finally get (whether Gingrich drops out or not) the one-on-one matchup going forward that he so devoutly desires.
So They Say
“Everything Romney knows about the South, he learned from a Jeff Foxworthy routine.”
—Jon Stewart on The Daily Show
Daily Meme: What's Progressives' Problem with Obama?
- Paul Glastris writes a pretty glowing evaluation of the Obama presidency, saying he’s getting short shrift from both ends of his party.
- Aaaand, Glastris offers not 10, not 20, but 50 of the incumbent's greatest accomplishments.
- Kevin Drum whittles the list down to a manageable 13.
- Greg Sargent thinks that Obama needs to remind us about the bad situation he inherited if we're going to remember him Glastris-style.
- Conor Friedersdorf says these evaluations are all sanitizing what is a very flawed presidency.
- But wait, didn't we just have this same discussion a few months ago?
What We're Reading
- Paul Waldman: You need to be a Ronald Reagan-caliber candidate to unseat an incumbent. (Sorry, Mitt.)
- Jamelle Bouie: What’s behind the huge variations in President Obama’s poll numbers?
What We're Reading
- Rod Blagojevich heads to prison.
- Michael Steele tells Mother Jones: “I want a brokered convention.”
- The Romney campaign ridicules Santorum for thinking he can win a head-to-head battle.
- Margaret Talbot: Why are Republicans going after women?
- Romney's best campaign strategy? Vagueness.
- The pro-Obama super PAC is still not doing so hot.
- Quiz time: Mitt Romney or Southerner?
Poll of the Day
The citizens are united: Nearly seven in ten Americans say that super PACs should be illegal.