Romney Tries To Win Over Voters In Mississippi

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Although Mitt Romney's campaign doesn't expect him to do well in next week's primaries in Alabama and Mississippi, the former Massachusetts governor is making a campaign swing through both states.


Regardless of the jobs number, today Mitt Romney once again attacked President Obama for his economic policies. Romney is in the Deep South, campaigning in Mississippi and Alabama. And as NPR's Ari Shapiro reports, the former Massachusetts governor is trying to polish his Southern appeal.

ARI SHAPIRO, BYLINE: The Jackson, Mississippi farmer's market is a big concrete structure with rolling garage doors that open to the outside. No farmers today. Mitt Romney stood in front of antique red and green tractors at the start of his first full day in the Deep South.

MITT ROMNEY: Governor said I had to say it right. Mornin', ya'll, good to be with you. I got it started right this morning with a biscuit and some cheesy grits. I'll tell you, delicious.

SHAPIRO: In the audience, small business owner Patrick Harkins(ph) thinks Romney's southern drawl lacks a certain something.

PATRICK HARKINS: He doesn't seem like he really fits, but, you know, he might be the best - still might be the best presidential candidate. I wouldn't say he seems authentic, if that's what you're asking.

SHAPIRO: Realtor Mary Francis Walker(ph) thinks everybody makes too much of Romney's lost in translation moments down here. She doesn't believe that Mississippi is Rick Santorum or Newt Gingrich country.

MARY FRANCIS WALKER: I think a lot of the news media live up in this little bubble and they have preconceived notion. I'm sure they come to Mississippi and go, oh, my gosh, they wear shoes here. Who knew?

SHAPIRO: Retired school principal Lance Island says he's not sure who he'll vote for. The fact that Mississippi governor and other officials have endorsed Romney makes a difference to him.

LANCE ISLAND: You see the Republican elite, so to speak, coming out, the governor, the lieutenant governor. I originally thought that Gingrich would win the state. Now, I'm not so sure.

SHAPIRO: After Romney introduced himself to the audience, he talked about a new 17-minute video that the Obama reelection campaign has produced. Romney called it an infomercial, propaganda that ignores the president's failures.

ROMNEY: I'll tell you, I got a long list of people for that producer to talk to. And I'll tell you, if someone's looking for things that the president's done wrong, it's a long, long, long list.

SHAPIRO: He went through that list, then Romney took questions from the friendly audience. In the middle of one answer, something crawling across the floor caught his eye.

ROMNEY: Oh, look at that. Look at that little guy there. Got him. It wasn't really a cockroach, I promise. We are in the agriculture building after all, right?

SHAPIRO: Nobody in the crowd asked about today's unemployment numbers and at the end of the rally when reporters shouted the question on the rope line, Romney kept shaking hands with supporters and didn't bat an eye. Ari Shapiro, NPR News, Jackson, Mississippi.

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