With a big win in N.H. on the heels of winning Iowa, Mitt Romney now has the chance to effectively lock up the GOP nomination in the next two primaries. If Romney is able to pull out a win in S.C., he can cruise to victory in Florida, and a sweep of the first four state contests will not only remove most of his primary opponents from the field, but any doubt as to whether or not Romney is a strong enough general election candidate to defeat Pres. Obama. These wins are not in any way assured, however, and Romney will have his work cut out for him over the next 11 days to fend off his GOP opponents. Newt Gingrich will continue his kamikazee-revenge assault, Rick Perry will continue hounding him over Romneycare, and seemingly every candidate in the field will attack him for his time running Bain Capital. Romney now has the ability to paint the rest of the field as desperate, bitter opponents that are now using leftist attacks on him simply to remain relevant in the race. Romney should start referring to Gingrich as, "good ol' Newt," driving home the point that the "new Newt" was a sham. He should point to Rick Perry's anemic returns in Iowa and N.H. to highlight that Perry's campaign is going nowhere fast, and grasping at straws. He should go easy on Santorum and Paul, as he has a chance to pick up some of their supporters, but still hit them on their records when attacked. As for Huntsman, simply brush him off. Huntsman is an afterthought at best in this race, and many of his supporters will move to Romney when Huntsman eventually pulls out. If Romney successfully fends off the attacks, and stresses his advantage in the polls versus President Obama to voters, the nomination is his for the taking.
The main objective, of course, is to remove Pres. Obama from power. You can expect a full-throated, scorched-earth campaign from team Obama, with nothing out of bounds in terms of attacking Romney. President Obama, V.P. Biden, Debbie Wasserman-Shultz and the DNC, Obama superPACs, Hollywood, the media, George Soros' fortune and network of liberal organizations, and any other left-wing institutions will be taking aim at Mitt Romney, and there will likley be no standard of truth or decency observed. By the end of 2012, the attacks on Mitt Romney will make the 2008 web ad featuring actress Hayden Pannattiere viciously attacking John McCain's age and disabilities, via his injuries and torture during Vietnam, look like child's play. Pres. Obama's re-election sqaud will throw anything and everything they can find at Romney, and Mitt must not only defend against the credible attacks, but stay on offense and keep the focus of the election on Obama's record as President. Romney is not an attack dog by nature, so he'll need to rely on surrogates, like Chris Christie and others, to get their hands dirty while he stays above the fray and battles Obama on substance and policy. (I'll tackle the arguments and tactics of the general election race in a later post.)
The most crucial part of Romney's campaign will be his V.P. pick. Dick Cheney's tenure as V.P. has changed the way America looks at the bottom of the ticket; it matters now. Romney's pick will have to be strong in all of the areas that Mitt Romney isn't. Much like Ronald Reagan's pick, George H.W. Bush in 1980, Romney's pick will need to please and excite the base of voters that he doesn't, meaning he'll need a Tea Party-backed conservative as his running mate. Like Reagan, he'll also need a running mate with strong foreign policy or national defense credentials. Also, like Bush in 1984, Romney's pick will need to play the attack dog, fighting it out in the trenches with the likes of Debbie Wasserman-Shultz, Joe Biden, and Harry Reid, while capable of remaining intellectual and delivering strong campaign speeches that get conservatives fired up. This person will need to bring energy to the campaign that Romney could not create himself, and again, allows Romney to go after Pres. Obama on the issues and rise above the mudslinging. (I'll elaborate more on who I believe is the best fit in a later post)
Finally, Romney must score big in the debates by turning them into prosecutions. He'll have to convince voters that he's the real deal by successfully defending Romneycare, while shredding Obama on Obamacare (yes, it can be done), defend his time at Bain, and explain why capitalism and free market are his arena, that Pres. Obama is clueless on job creation, and continue to portray Obama as as an overwhelmed, underqualified president who's liberal philosophy has done little to lift the nation out of its' abysmal economic conditions.
If Romney can continue to dominate the primary, win the GOP nomination, keep the general election focus on President Obama, remain presidential while allowing the rest of his campaign to fight team Obama's fire with fire, choose the right V.P. nominee, and effectively strike Obama down during the debates, we could see not only a strong victory for Mitt Romney, but Republicans could also retain the House and regain control of the senate.