Published on Mar 12, 2012
MITT ROMNEY, Rick Santorum and Newt Gingrich poured on the Southern charm for Tuesday's Alabama and Mississippi contests deemed too close to call.
Romney — who celebrated his 65th birthday Monday — had Southern comedian Jeff "you might be a redneck" Foxworthy on the campaign trail with him to help drum up support.
On a rain-soaked campaign stop in Mobile, Ala., Romney joked about a wanting to go hunting with a local friend who "can actually show me which end of the rifle to point."
Given the conservatism of the GOP electorate in Alabama and Mississippi, candidates like Gingrich and Santorum should be trouncing the more moderate Romney, the GOP front-runner with the most delegates so far.
Both are far more popular than Romney, who is benefitting from a split in the conservative vote.
Gingrich was maintaining a slim 33% to 31% lead over Romney in Mississippi, and the former Massachusetts governor was actually leading Gingrich in Alabama by a hair, 31% to 30%, Public Policy Polling reported Monday.
Santorum was just behind in both states. Ron Paul wasn't even close.
"About all we know for sure about Tuesday's primaries is that Ron Paul will finish last in them," said PPP President Dean Debnam. "Beyond that, it's plausible that any of the candidates could finish between first and third in both Alabama and Mississippi."
Over the weekend, the Santorum and Gingrich camps said the other should get out of the race so the remaining candidate could go after Romney, who they dubbed a weak front-runner.
Romney wasn't having it.
"If I'm a weak front-runner, what does that make Newt Gingrich?" Romney asked on "Fox and Friends." "Because I'm well ahead of him."
Alabama Gov. Robert Bentley told Fox News that Romney had a real shot at winning his state — so long as his Mormon religion doesn't cause too much of a stir with evangelicals.
"I think that's a very subtle issue that probably — may be a problem in many states, not just in Alabama," Bentley said. "But I do believe that Republicans are looking to see who can win the presidency, and they're going to look at that more than anything else."
A stunning 66% of Mississippi respondents to a survey done ahead of Tuesday's primary have bought into the false notion that Obama worships Allah, Public Policy Polling found. Some 36% said they weren't sure.
In Alabama, 45% responded in the affirmative when asked the same question, and 41% said they weren't sure, pollsters found.
Obama is a Christian, but many conservative Republicans refuse to believe that, pollster Jim Williams said.
"I don't have an explanation for that," Williams added. "All I can say is that we have looked at that in other places in the past and it's never really gone away. You're dealing with an extremely conservative portion of the electorate in two extremely conservative states."
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