DOTHAN, Ala. - Republican presidential candidate Newt Gingrich today accused Mitt Romney of pandering to Southern voters, while adding a few "aint's" and some colorful colloquial phrases to his normally grammatically correct stump speech.
Gingrich was a congressman from Georgia for 20 years, so talking the talk with voters isn't something new.
Taking it a step further today while visiting the Gulf in Dothan, Gingrich shed his usual suit for a Bassmaster's shirt. The audience cheered as Gingrich walked out wearing the fishing shirt, complete with Bassmaster logos, after being introduced and endorsed by the founder of the Bass Anglers Sportsman Society, Ray Scott, the person responsible for creating the first pro-Bass fishing tournament.
"What a crowd. I am really impressed. There must be nobody left at Walmart this afternoon," Gingrich said.
The crowd laughed and cheered at Gingrich's expression - a phrase used by Southerners to say something big is happening in town. Gingrich told the crowd a story about his son-in-law fishing and then switched his stump speech on gas prices to fit the audience.
"I want to talk to you a little bit about gas prices and energy prices and if you're a fisherman and you take your boat anywhere and you try to fill up your boat and you try to fill up your truck to be able to take your boat somewhere, you have a real interest in the price of gasoline," Gingrich said.
Gingrich took the opportunity to suggest Mitt Romney was pandering to Southern voters when the former Massachusetts governor said Friday that he liked eating grits.
"He is now turning me into, I don't know, an unofficial Southerner, and I'm learning to say y'all and I like grits. Things … strange things are happening to me," Romney said on a campaign stop in Jackson, Miss.
Gingrich responded to Romney saying that he liked eating grits many different ways.
"Governor Romney yesterday tried grits and I just want you to understand that as someone who has represented Georgia for a long time, I like grits, I like cheese grits, I like it with gravy, and there are a number of ways you can have it," Gingrich said. "I'm glad that the governor is beginning to learn about the South."
Gingrich also added new words to his vocabulary: "ain't" and "y'all," were words not heard in the former speaker's rhetoric in states like New Hampshire and Nevada. Though every state carries an issue the candidates pander to voters while visiting: ethanol in Iowa, the Northern Pass in New Hampshire, the port of Charleston in South Carolina, the space program in Florida, the Mojave desert cross in Nevada, Gingrich stuck to talking about gas prices and foreign policy.
One issue Gingrich was told about today on the rope line in Orange Beach, Ala., was the frustration of a shortened snapper fishing season.
"I'll be sure and check into that," Gingrich said. A surrogate introducing Gingrich told the crowd that the endorsement from the creator of Bassmaster meant that every fisherman in the country would vote for Gingrich.