BILOXI, Miss. -- Right around Super Tuesday, Jeff Foxworthy caught one of the pro-Newt Gingrich Super PAC ads that tells conservatives it's "time to choose."
"I was sitting there watching it, and I thought, you are exactly right," said Foxworthy today, on a visit to Shaggy's bar and restaurant on the Gulf coast. "It is time to choose."
He just happened to choose Mitt Romney. It was a "thought-out, critical decision. I've watched almost every debate. I sit there and read the paper front to back every day. "But once he made the call he hit the campaign trail.
"After Newt didn't come in second anywhere, it became more clear," explained the godfather of modern "redneck" humor. "I talked to Romney, and I asked him: 'Can you fix this?' He looked at me point blank, and he said 'Yes, it's a mess, and I can fix it.'"
Foxworthy campaigned in person with Romney at a crack-of-dawn rally in Mobile. I caught him at his second, solo stop, at a bar that opened early to let nearly a hundred Republicans in to see them. I didn't talk to any fairweather fan; all of the people tipped off were Romney backers. ("Santorum," explained retiree Ann Habert, "is a tattlehead. He comes off like he's always saying na-na-na-na, I was right.") Foxworthy small-talked and posed for photos, dressed in a purple shirt and brown cowboy boots that would have made anyone look like a 1990s country-comedy star. After his rounds, he gave a short, impassioned speech about the need to defeat Barack Obama.
"We can't make an emotional decision," he said. "This country made an emotional decision in 2008. I've never known anybody that's so divisive as this president! It's the have-nots versus the haves. No, no, no! It's all of us! I've been a have-not and a have! I'm still Jeff. I still drive my same crappy truck."
The predictable response to Foxworthy, all day, has been some variation of this line: "Yeah, you might be a redneck if you make $10,000 bets and own two Cadillacs." Was the Foxworthy nod supposed to make Romney attain blue collar cred by osmosis? I started to ask for Foxworthy's response to the jokes. He'd be having none of it.
"Mitt's an interesting man. When he took over the business, he gave all his money away. He gave away his inheritance, and started up -- he's a self-made man. If I've got somebody running my business, I want him to be successful. It's amazing to me -- in the last four years it's become a badge of shame for someone to be successful! Obama's just divided people, into the 1% and the 99%. But it's these people, the successful people, who've given other people a great life. And if you've ever been around Romney, you know he's not entitled. He carries his own suitcase."