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Gritty Defeats Highlight Romney's Authenticity Deficit

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This article cross-posted from The Nation

On the eve of Tuesday's Alabama and Mississippi primaries, Newt Gingrich referred to Mitt Romney as a "weak front-runner."

Romney should have let it go.

Instead, he tried to zing Gingrich back. "If I'm a weak front-runner, what does that make Newt Gingrich?" Romney replied. "Because I'm well ahead of him."

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On Tuesday night, in the primaries where he tried to "close the deal," Mitt Romney was behind Newt Gingrich. And he was far behind Rick Santorum.

The devastating defeats for Romney on "Southern Tuesday" were made all the more painful by the fact that Mitt tried to do Dixie.

He really did.

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"I am learning to say "y'all' and I like grits and things," the candidate announced on what is likely to be the last trip he will ever make to Pascagoula, Mississippi.

Romney may actually like grits.

But Southern Republicans like authentic conservatives.

And Mitt Romney doesn't meet the standard.

Romney, who ran to the left of Teddy Kennedy on some issues in a 1994 Massachusetts gubernatorial race, governed that state as a moderate and now is trying to position himself as an Obama-hating, union-bashing cultural warrior who has got all the authenticity of a Lynyrd Skynyrd cover band trying to bang out a version of "Freebird."

Sometimes, it just doesn't work.

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And it certainly didn't work on Southern Tuesday, the primary day when Romney was supposed to finally "close the deal."

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John Nichols, a pioneering political blogger, has written the Online Beat since 1999. His posts have been circulated internationally, quoted in numerous books and mentioned in debates on the floor of Congress.

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