Mitt Romney's stilted efforts to relate to Dixie voters by tossing off a few "y'alls" and references to grits have been roundly mocked as awkward pandering.
And rightfully so, says political scientist Marvin King, who cringed at the GOP candidate's sprinkling of vernacular and Southern stereotypes into his patter during appearances in Mississippi and Alabama. The two states hold their Republican presidential primaries Tuesday.
"You can tell Romney wasn't expecting to campaign down here, and it shows," says King of the University of Mississippi.
When presidents give major set-piece speeches, they're mainly engaged in exercises in futility since a commander-in-chief's high-flown rhetoric rarely shifts voter attitudes for long.
Indeed, the exercise could even be more negative than neutral since speeches by presidents advocating specific policy not only leave citizen unswayed but can fire up political opponents in the other party, according to Ezra Klein in an essay in the New Yorker.
Rising gas prices have many voters looking for someone to blame and President Obama appears to be as good a target as anyone, a new Washington Post/ABC News poll suggests, with the president's approval rating falling from 50 percent last month to 46 percent recently.