But if the populist conservatives are a tough crowd for Romney, they’re nothing compared with the Christian conservatives. After courting them doggedly without success throughout the 2008 cycle, it appears that, in 2012, Romney is going to try to win without them. That, in effect, means skipping the South.
You can hardly blame him. Of the 28 caucuses and primaries Romney competed in two years ago, he finished worse than second in only six — which also happened to be six of the seven Southern states in which he ran. (He managed to finish second in Florida, a less culturally Southern state that he had hoped to win.)
It hardly seems possible to win the GOP nomination without the South, which holds tremendous weight in the process. Forty percent of the pledged delegates to the 2012 Republican convention will come from 13 Southern states (the 11 seceding “Dixie” states, plus Kentucky and Oklahoma).
“I just can’t fathom the South not playing a role in picking the GOP nominee,” says LaRaja, adding that, if Romney were to win without the South, “It would be a phenomenal strategic success story.”
And yet, that seems to be the strategy. He has distanced himself in more ways than just retreating from the social issues critical to success with Southern Republicans.
Notably, Romney’s PAC has started ignoring Southern pols. It contributed to not a single politician in Florida or Georgia last year, where it showered more than $30,000 over the previous four years. And in the crucial early-primary state of South Carolina, where Romney’s PAC had doled out tens of thousands by 2006, it has written just one check in this cycle — to potential presidential foe Senator Jim DeMint.
As of this writing, Romney’s full book-tour schedule was not available; its itinerary may be telling. But perhaps most revealing is Romney’s decision not to attend this year’s Southern Republican Leadership Conference (SRLC) in April in New Orleans. Every other Republican with even a whiff of presidential aspirations will speak there — and it was at the 2006 SRLC that Romney made his first splash by besting McCain and others in a straw poll. (He finished second to then-senator Bill Frist of Tennessee, who had the home-field advantage for the Memphis event.)
Read the whole Phoenix article here.
Interestingly, Gov. Romney’s spokesman, Eric Fehrnstrom responded:
“The reason Mitt Romney is not attending the SRLC is because of conflicts with his book tour. The book, No Apology: The Case for American Greatness, comes out March 2 and he’s on the road promoting it the entire month of March and half of April. During the SRLC, he’ll be in Philadelphia (World Affairs Council speech), New Hampshire (St. Anselm’s Institute of Politics speech and remarks to Politics and Eggs breakfast), Boston (Ford Hall Forum speech) and Minneapolis (book signing, Freedom Foundation speech).”
Bernstein believes this reasoning further proves his point.
1. It’s way to early to speak of any primary strategies — I have no idea what goes into deciding where to go when. But I’ve heard many many people who are disappointed in what might be the GOP line-up for 2012 and are looking to Gov. Romney to save them from the southern-speaking Huckabees of politics.
2. I know many of you are disappointed that he won’t be at the SRLC. However, it’s more important than ever for southerners to get together and try — at least to the degree we can — to show him our support. In fact, we at EFM believe he is the perfect fit for the south. As we’ve said many times before, he’s the Yankee Governor, with Southern Values — perfectly embodying the things that we care about down here.
So, let’s use the SRLC to show him that we support him. Are there any Southern EFM readers who’d like to participate? E-mail me!