One of the funnier things in the political news of the week has been the sight of Mitt Romney trying to cozy up to Southerners as the Republican primaries move to Mississippi and Alabama next week. Romney has been talking about how much he likes grits and about how he's learning to say "y'all." Of course, he's already tried to woo NASCAR fans, talking about how some of his best friends are NASCAR team owners.
I'm sorry to tell Mr. Romney that the real test of being able to employ true Southern-speak is not being able to use "y'all" correctly. (Non-Southerners almost always make the mistake of using it as a singular noun, when any true Southerner knows it is always plural.) No, the true test is being able to use the catchphrase, "Bless his/her heart!" convincingly.
"Bless his heart" is the phrase used by Southerners, Southern women, in particular, to indicate that no ill will is intended by what is being said - even if it is, and it usually is. You can call a man the most sorry, low-down, despicable son-of-a-whore to ever walk the earth, but as long as you end your diatribe with "Bless his heart!," nobody will accuse you of being mean-spirited.
In fact, I would think that "Bless his heart" might be a very useful phrase in politics. Romney could tear down Santorum or Gingrich or even his favorite target, Obama, at will, and then finish his excoriation by using that magic phrase and everybody will think what a kindly, tender-hearted man he is, one who really tries to think the best of his enemies.
I really think Romney should get himself before a mirror and start practicing that phrase. There might still be time for him to employ it before next Tuesday's primaries and who knows? It might make all the difference. I guarantee you talking about grits and saying "y'all" won't.
At least so far he hasn't been reduced to talking about the height of the trees. But then maybe Alabama and Mississippi trees are not the "right height" as Michigan trees were.