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The End Of Romney

As usual, Hewitt is annoyed that people are not giving enough respect to his dear Mitt:

I heard one bit of punditry passed from microphone to microphone yesterday: If Romney doesn’t win in New Hampshire, he’s finished.

This assessment isn’t asserted about Hillary, who also planned to win early.  It isn’t asserted about Mike Huckabee, Thompson or Rudy.  It wasn’t asserted about Hillary, McCain, Rudy or Thompson after Iowa.

If no one is saying anything about Fred Thompson’s chances after New Hampshire (where he stands to get somewhere between 2 and 3%), that’s because everyone has already stopped paying much attention to the poor man.  After all, why keep kicking a man when he’s down?  Giuliani and Clinton, who could well be finished after tonight, don’t receive the same treatment because they still have significant leads in February 5 states and until recently had decent leads in national polling (the latter have since evaporated).  Romney’s strategy was explicitly a traditional early-state strategy that required him to do well in the initial contests.  Only after Iowa did his minions begin talking about his “national strategy.”  The media narrative that Huckabee won because “it was the evangelicals wot did it” also frees him of any obligation to perform very well in a much more secular, left-leaning and culturally libertarian state.  Every time someone has pointed out that Romney performs better in non-evangelical electorates than Huckabee, they were setting up the fraud for a fall–the implication then becomes that Romney really needs to win in a state with relatively few evangelicals while he can and his failure to do so is very bad news for him.  

This claim is made about Romney because he was the presumptive frontrunner in both Iowa and New Hampshire just two months ago, and retained his New Hampshire lead until last month.  People make this assessment because Massachusetts politicians almost always win the New Hampshire primary, and because Romney has spent an embarrassingly large amount of money building up his campaign in the state.  If he is upended by McCain, he will have been defeated by a candidate written off by everyone just a couple months ago as doomed–losing to the guy that appears doomed doesn’t help one’s reputation for electability.  People make this claim because Romney and his people have been making Muskie-esque guarantees of performance in New Hampshire in particular, essentially guaranteeing victory.  (They have been running away from these predictions, but just today Romney expressed confidence in winning.)  The same logic would have applied to Huckabee had he lost Iowa: people would have said that if he can’t win there, he can’t win anywhere.  If Romney can’t win in New Hampshire, it is hard to see how he prevails elsewhere.  This is what he has said about McCain, but it applies just as well to him.

about the author

Daniel Larison is a senior editor at TAC, where he also keeps a solo blog. He has been published in the New York Times Book Review, Dallas Morning News, World Politics Review, Politico Magazine, Orthodox Life, Front Porch Republic, The American Scene, and Culture11, and was a columnist for The Week. He holds a PhD in history from the University of Chicago, and resides in Lancaster, PA. Follow him on Twitter.

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