JACKSON, Miss.â€”Mitt Romney road-tested a new Southern dialect during his two-day swing through Alabama and Mississippi, making repeated stabs at a convincing “y’all” while proclaiming a love for biscuits and “cheesy grits.”
Tuesday will determine if his attempts at being folksy help push him to the top in a pair of states he was never favored to win but where recent polls suggest he is showing unexpected strength. Were he to triumph here it could rattle the race in ways Super Tuesday didn’t, driving at least one of his rivals from the field.
The odds of that happening may still be long. Until recently, few Republicans expected Mr. Romney to have a shot in either state.
Polls suggest the race is closer than expected, amid signs Republicans are moving to Mr. Romney’s side, even if they have reservations on the depth of his conservatism in one of the nation’s most conservative patches. In a sign of confidence, his campaign said Friday he would return Monday to Alabama for last-minute campaigning.
“Romney is recognized as being not so conservative, but as the most electable,” said former Mississippi Gov. Haley Barbour, who remains unaligned in the race. “A lot of Mississippians want a candidate who can beat Obama. And while Romney is not as conservative as Haley Barbour, he is more conservative than Barack Obama, and that’s what matters.”
A heavy slate of influential endorsements have some Romney supporters eyeing a possible upset in the Tuesday primaries, particularly in Alabama.
Polls out Friday showed the national front-runner statistically tied in Alabama with his two top rivals, former House Speaker Newt Gingrich and former Pennsylvania Sen. Rick Santorum.
A Rasmussen poll put the three within a few percentage points of each other, and a poll conducted by Alabama State University showed Messrs. Gingrich and Romney running neck-and-neck in the state.
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