Romney wins in the South–Pacific


It’s not exactly the southern headline the Romney campaign wanted to wake up to the morning after. But a win is a win in–American Samoa, where it’s not true Romney got to count the big Samoans twice.

At least now maybe Romney, who has already sung a tune on the campaign trail, can adopt a theme song. A South Pacific win? Romney should be belting out, “I’m gonna wash that man right outta my hair.”

Earlier in Alabama and Mississippi, Romney couldn’t wash out either Rick Santorum or Newt Gingrich. And it wouldn’t have mattered if he were eating grits and humming Lynyrd Skynyrd songs.

“Romney as Redneck” didn’t play to the heart. Not enough to get anywhere near a majority of men, women, evangelicals, or conservatives. And Asian Americans (0.9 percent of Mississippi’s population, according to the Census)? They don’t count until you really need them. But they’re there.

I kept thinking of my late friend, the journalist Sam Chu Lin, whose family moved from California to Mississippi in the ’40s to start a store in Greenwood, Mississippi. Other families followed to set up grocery stores up and down I-55 from Jackson to Memphis. You can’t extrapolate the Asian American grocer vote from CNN exit polls.

But Asian Pacific Islanders were to be Romney’s lone bright spots for the night. At least in American Samoa and Hawaii. It figured. Republicans in Hawaii are really just weak-kneed Democrats. Sort of like Romney.

Romney expected to come away with about a third of the available delegates for the night. And he did just that. But it wasn’t a momentum producing, feel-good win for him.

The GOP this year seems bent on marching on to Tampa fife and bugle corps style. You know that image of the three battle-scarred patriots. Only the modern twist is more like the picnic favorite–the three-legged race. Romney is scrambling on his hands, while Santorum and Gingrich each have a leg and are driving him forward.

It makes for quite a spectacle.

Ides of March notwithstanding, everyone knew March would not be kind to Romney.

And that’s why Illinois is so important coming up. Romney’s already spent more than $2 million in TV ads in that state alone, and it could go higher. Illinois may be the only win for him this month, and it’s needed to keep all the negative talk down.

If Romney can make it past this “bad period” to April, he’s favored in the April 3rd contests in Maryland and Wisconsin, and in the April 24th primaries in Connecticut, Delaware, New York, Pennsylvania and Rhode Island.

By the end of April, Romney the front-runner could be calling himself the “comeback kid.”

But Santorum grows on you like a fungus.

Last night he was in Louisiana, talking once again of being “a grandson of a coal miner,” of having the shared values of an America that was “free, safe and prosperous,” with a belief in “family and the centrality of faith in our lives.”

That line drew his biggest applause.

He’s getting his lines down and showing off the appeal of the common man that I first sensed back when the notion of a Santorum presidency seemed even more ill-fitting for the nation than a Ron Paul suit.

But I based my sense of Santorum’s rise on the low likeability of Newt Gingrich.

And there was Gingrich with his diversity props last night making me rethink him.

The surprise for me last night was seeing an Asian face, a Latino face, and a black face behind Newt Gingrich when the former speaker addressed his supporters in Birmingham after two strong finishes in the South.

Perhaps it was a bit of “political product placement.”

But it was the only thing I saw all night in media coverage that suggested we were in a new, modern, diverse America.

The rest of the night’s tallies mostly reinforced the beliefs of the old America–white, male, fundamentalist, conservative.

Standing next to his femme-helmeted Callista, Gingrich didn’t sound like he was giving up.

Indeed, he too had discovered the right “Anti-Romney Rhetoric.”

He spoke of the need for grand solutions that required substance, and that “substance requires actually knowing something.”

The implication is that Newt does, the others don’t.

Does he?

He knew enough last night to talk about Obama as the president of $5 dollar gas, and himself as the guy who knows energy and technology enough to drive gas to below $2.50 so that the U.S. would “never again bow to a Saudi king.”

Have you been to the pump lately? Gas talk resonates.

And then Gingrich finished up talking about an unemployed voter named Samuel Sanford, one of his grass roots donors, not some millionaire PAC guy like Romney has.

Newt, of course, failed to mention he has his own Super Pac-Man, Sheldon Adelson.

OK, it’s the same old Newt. Manipulative, grandiose, hypocritical. But still somehow more interesting than before .

Gingrich is the monkey wrench. If he stays in, this three-legged race will last until the convention. The guy doesn’t really want to be president. He’s a process junkie with nothing to lose. He’s a former speaker who could be the ultimate deal maker on the presidency.

Isn’t it entertaining to watch democracy unfold so uneasily?

Emil Guillermo is an independent journalist/commentator.
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The views expressed in his blog do not necessarily represent AALDEF’s views or policies.
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