Patrick Reddy ["Southern Discomfort," Outlook, Oct. 10] writes that the South, like every other political class, will vote for one of its own, in this case, a Southern Baptist.

What he doesn't say is that since Zachary Taylor in 1848, southerners have had only two Southern Baptists to vote for--Jimmy Carter and Bill Clinton, both Democrats.

If George W. Bush is nominated, he'll be the first Republican southerner ever nominated for president (He's not a Southern Baptist, though.)

In the past half-century the Republicans have nominated northerners or westerners--Eisenhower of Kansas, Nixon of California, Goldwater of Arizona, Ford of Michigan, Reagan of California and Dole of Kansas. The GOP seems more concerned about carrying Kansas than carrying the South. That's because it needs the North--it already has the South in its hip pocket.

Mr. Reddy is right: The South has rejected every northern Democrat since Truman. Does it follow that the much larger North will reject a southern Republican?

In a test between two northerners, the South holds the balance of power. But who holds the balance in a contest between North and South?

We may be about to find out.

JOHN HOLWAY

Springfield