“I realize it’s a bit of an away game,” Mitt Romney says of campaigning in the Southern states of Alabama and Mississippi—both of which hold primaries Tuesday.

That’s an intriguing choice of words from a GOP front-runner when he talking about meeting and greeting the voters of two heavily Republican states.

But anyone who has paid attention to Mitt Romney’s campaign knows that the entire endeavor is something of an away game.

He barely won his sort-of “home state” of Michigan, and then he even more barely won the neighboring state of Ohio by less than 1 percent of the vote, after failing to connect with blue-collar voters.

In state after state, Romney has prevailed not because he is a popular favorite but because his opposition has been divided. That has allowed the candidate of the one-tenth of the one percent to remain viable. But it has not made him credible.

Romney is still what he was at the start of the 2012 Republican campaign: a fall-back position for a party that would prefer someone more real.

And the “real” thing is real.

It’s a challenge for the “corporations are people, my friend” candidate who makes $10,000 bets, enjoys firing people, has to keep track of his Cadillacs and knows NASCAR owners but not many NASCAR fans.

Romney always seems to be trying too hard, as when he told a Mississippi crowd that he is being turned into “an unofficial Southerner.”

“I am learning to say ‘y’all’ and I like grits and things,” the candidate explained in Pascagoula audience. “Strange things are happening to me.”

The governor of Mississippi, Romney-backer Phil Bryant, grinned as politely as he could.

It is always a little uncomfortable on Team Mitt. But this is the easy part. He’s trying to connect with conservatives and Republicans in GOP strongholds. Wait until Romney starts “appealing” to moderates and independents and women who will be wondering why he couldn’t quite bring himself to call out Rush Limbaugh.

Learning to say “y’all”and eating some grits may get him through Mississippi’s GOP primary. But every new report from the never-ending campaign trail Mitt Romney has been forced to travel through the Republican primary and caucus states makes it harder to imagine how he will connect with voters in the battleground states he’ll need to win this fall.