Over at RealClearPolitics, Scott Conroy asks a very interesting question about the potential presidential candidacy of Mississippi's Republican governor, Haley Barbour:
As Mississippi Gov. Haley Barbour steps up his efforts to explore a possible presidential run, he faces one question that none of the other prospective candidates will have to address: can a back-slapping, Ole Miss Rebels fan with a molasses-rich drawl connect on a human level with caucus-goers and primary voters whose cultural roots are far from Yazoo City?
We've seen that southerners can win the presidency -- four of our last nine presidents have hailed from the South, if you count the Connecticut-born Texan George W. Bush. But there's also no question that the cultural clash between northern voters and southern candidates is a real phenomenon. Especially on the Republican side, it affects a candidate's chance to make a first impression with voters.
During the 2000 campaign and in the early days of George W. Bush's presidency, before he had really had a chance to make a long-term impression, I always believed that he would have been respected more by many of the people I knew in New York City (although possibly liked less) had he spoken like a Connecticutian. Not that this is a good thing, it is just a fact of life.
By the same token, Democratic candidates from the South, like Bill Clinton and John Edwards, only seem to be helped by their Southern ways, perhaps because they buck the stereotypes that the media applies to southerners and to conservatives.
Conroy's piece is worth a read.