While Giving Them Heck in Iowa, Romney Gives Memphis a Nod. 

Numerous observers of the current presidential campaign have noticed what might politely be called a political evolution on the part of former Massachusetts governor Mitt Romney. Known as something of a moderate when he served as that New England state's chief executive - among other things, he promoted a universal health-care plan and acquiesced in civil-union status for gay couples -Romney now runs as a bedrock conservative.

On the eve of the first actual vote in Iowa, whose crucial caucuses are being held on Thursday evening, Romney has adopted - shades of Richard Nixon -- what might even be called a "Southern strategy." Undoubtedly mindful of a serious recent challenge from former Arkansas governor Mike Huckabee to his once unchallenged lead in this Midwestern state, Romney has been unloading down-home rhetoric on his audiences with both barrels.

Take this Wednesday night appeal, made to a sizeable crowd at the Hy-Vee corporate conference center in West Des Moines: "The first time it mattered where I came from in this political season was in Memphis, Tennessee. And someone, thankfully, had made up T-shirts for me and for my supporters there. And they say: 'Yankee Governor' - that's not a good start in Memphis -- and down below it said "Southern Values.'

"And as I asked people what they meant by Southern values, you know what they mean by Southern values. Again: Love of family , love of God and love of country, and love of hard work, love of opportunity. And so I said, yeah, I got Southern values. And then you come out here. Those are heartland values. That's what you call them here."

Although Romney focused somewhat on his managerial background - he touted his organization of the Utah winter Olympics in 2002 and had gold-medal skater Dan Jansen on hand for the occasion - he weighed in most heavily with some serious patriotic fustian.

Disdaining Democrat John Edwards' refrain of "two Americas," Romney scoffed, "We are one America. We are a nation united that stand behind our fighting men." And, perhaps looking beyond Iowa to his next major challenge next week in New Hampshire, where a resurgent John McCain, a supporter of the war effort in Iraq, is his major worry, Romney laid it on this way: "We also love our president, who has kept us safe these last six years."

One of the attendees at the Romney event was longtime political consultant Mike Murphy, a former McCain aide who also worked in the unsuccessful 1996 presidential campaign of Tennessee's Lamar Alexander. "I'm just a tourist here this time," said Murphy, citing multiple allegiances to various candidates in the field. But he pointedly noted McCain's recent revival as a serious presidential prospect, saying that the Arizona senator and Vietnam war hero might even finish third in Iowa, a state he had once written off.

Former Tennessee senator Fred Thompson had a ghost of a chance, but only if he and not McCain finished third behind Huckabee and Romney. "Or maybe if he finishes a strong fourth -- only, say, 500 votes behind." But Murphy acknowledged, "Fred doesn't seem to have been that strong a candidate."

Musing further, he noted that the recent skein of Tennesseans with presidential hopes - "all potentially strong candidates" - that included on the Republican side former senator Howard Baker, Alexander, and now Thompson seemed all to have misfired because of "bad timing."

Thompson was working the state hard on the eve of the vote, though, conducting a series of Meet and Greet events. He had to compete for audience attention not only with such heavyweight Republicans as Romney, McCain, and Huckabee, but with the Big Three Democrats - Edwards, Hillary Clinton, and Barack Obama, who had well-attended overlapping events in the Des Moines area Wednesday night

Most of the field - Republicans and Democrats - will be at it again on Thursday, making their final appeals across the state. The weather appears to be cooperating. Although forecasts indicate continued cold temperatures, they also call for sunny skies.

(Flyer political editor Jackson Baker will be reporting regularly from Iowa and New Hampshire for the next few days.)

Comments

Subscribe to this thread:

Add a comment

ADVERTISEMENT
ADVERTISEMENT
    • Meatless Monday

      No sausages got made in this week’s Shelby County Commission meeting.
    • Dual Decisions in District 95

      Commissioners prepare to appoint a successor for Mark Lovell; Haslam sets schedule for a special election.

Blogs

Beyond the Arc

Notes on “Grit and Grind: Burned in a Pale Fire”

Tiger Blue

Tubby Smith: "Learning Experience"

News Blog

City Wants Input on Road Projects, Bike Lanes

Beyond the Arc

The Grizzlies' Bad Springtime Trip

Beyond the Arc

Beyond the Arc Podcast #74: Good Gasol/Bad Gasol

News Blog

Pedaltown Bicycle Co. Headed to Broad

Film/TV/Etc. Blog

Music Video Monday: MonoNeon & A Weirdo From Memphis

ADVERTISEMENT

More by Jackson Baker

  • Meatless Monday

    No sausages got made in this week’s Shelby County Commission meeting.
    • Mar 23, 2017
  • Whistle-Blower’s Crime

    The current inquiry into possible Trump campaign misdeeds recalls a long-gone bit of personal history.
    • Mar 23, 2017
  • Mae Beavers for Governor?

    Yes, Flyer folk, you may have the General Assembly's Iron Maiden to deal with in 2018!
    • Mar 20, 2017
  • More »

Readers also liked…

  • Donald Trump's No Pussy: Jackson Baker in New Hampshire

    Win or lose, the New York billionaire has expanded and democratized the language of politics.
    • Feb 9, 2016
  • Election 2015: The Mike Williams Factor

    Some think three’s already a crowd in the mayor’s race, but a fourth candidate insists there’s room for more.
    • Sep 3, 2015
  • Was Bush on Guard or AWOL?

    The Flyer’s groundbreaking 2004 story of ANG pilot George W. Bush’s failure to report to an assigned duty station in 1972 is the basis of events portrayed in the new movie Truth.
    • Nov 5, 2015
ADVERTISEMENT
© 1996-2017

Contemporary Media
460 Tennessee Street, 2nd Floor | Memphis, TN 38103
Visit our other sites: Memphis Magazine | Memphis Parent | Inside Memphis Business
Powered by Foundation