That totally disrupted the media narrative, which had predicted Gingrich winning both states with the possibility of a Mitt Romney upset in one. Several polls showed Santorum trailing both Romney and Gingrich by at least a few points. The former Pennsylvania senator simply wasn't supposed to win in two states so culturally removed from his own. But he did.
While the pundits are treating Santorum's win as an upset, anyone who actually understands the South might not be so shocked.
First, it's important to understand why the others didn't win.
Romney, despite initially dismissing the South as an "away game," started to think he had a shot. He came to Mississippi and obtained the endorsement of Mississippi's Republican governor, Phil Bryant, who won the office of governor last November by virtue of being the next in line among the state GOP establishment. Similarly, Romney hopes to win the Republican nomination by virtue of being next in line of the GOP establishment.
That didn't impress Southern voters.
Nor did Romney's proclamation that he had developed an affinity for grits and—God bless him—he had learned to say "y'all." This is the same guy who attempted to assert his redneck credentials by saying he was friends with NASCAR team owners. Here's the thing about Southerners: Most of us like our culture, we're proud of our good home cookin', we like that everyone else thinks our accents are cute, and yes, we like our grits. And if you start pickin' up on some of our tics, well that's just precious.
|Mitt Romney speaks with Miss. Gov. Phil Bryant.|
We also aren't going to vote for you just because you appeal to our darker elements. When I attended a Newt Gingrich rally in Gulfport over the weekend, Gingrich used the same dog whistles he's previously employed when campaigning in Southern states.
There was an appeal to the idea that Obama hates our religion and represents some "otherness." The man who introduced Gingrich and his wife, whose name I believe was Wendy, indicated that by supporting Gingrich, supporters could take America back from Obama and establish a society "where our Christian beliefs aren't to be questioned." Gingrich's biggest applause came when he said that he would end Obama's war on the Catholic Church. I imagine the only way he could've garnered a greater response would've been if he had replaced "Catholic" with "Baptist."