For months, we've been hearing that Mitt Romney is the "presumptive Republican nominee." He's the permanent frontrunner, the "inevitable" candidate, the polished professional running a machine-like campaign. Each stumble by any other candidate has been viewed as bequeathing benefits to Romney, further forging his armor as the almighty invincible candidate.
But is Romney really invincible? Is his selection as the Republican nominee for President really inevitable? Or does Emperor Romney have no clothes?
If you recall the famous Hans Christian Andersen tale, the Emperor parades through the town in a new suit of clothes which are supposedly made out of a magical fabric that is invisible to those who are stupid, incompetent, or unfit for their positions. The townspeople make a great effort to all proclaim how attractive and fine the Emperor's new clothes are, until a child, too young and naïve to know any better, cries out, "But he isn't wearing anything at all!"
Isn't that similar to what we've been doing with the Romney campaign? We're all told how lovely and fine the Emperor's clothes are professional and well-organized the Romney campaign is. "Experts" tell us that he has the nomination all but wrapped up. Case in point is Jennifer Rubin at the Washington Post, who in a post last week dismissed conservative support for Newt Gingrich as "silliness on stilts" and in the next paragraph wrote off Herman Cain's campaign as a "now-fading mass delusion."
But is Romney's campaign really so perfect? More to the point, is hereally such a perfect candidate? Don't get me wrong: I want to make Barack Obama a one-term president, and that's the number one goal. So I am not going to turn a deaf ear to discussions of general election viability. But, again, is Mitt Romney really such a strong candidate?
I think I am starting to see some transparency in the fabric of Emperor Romney's clothes.
For one thing, he's lost more elections than he's won (Ran for the Massachusetts Senate seat in 1994, lost; ran for Massachusetts Governor in 2002, won; declined to run for reelection; ran for President in 2008, lost).
There's the fact that Romney's place in the polls - both nationally and on a state-by-state basis - has been almost completely stagnant. While a large percentage of the Republican electorate is still undecided, the wild shifts have been from one "Not-Romney" to another. Romney just simply does not have an enthusiastic base of supporters who are working to win him new converts like Cain, Gingrich, and Perry do.
And then there's the odd habit that the Romney campaign has of trumpeting "pending" or "imminent" endorsements that never seem to materialize.
Just last month, Romney's consultants were furiously pushing a story that Senator Jim DeMint would be endorsing Romney. Not only was it complete nonsense, the hubris of the move so annoyed DeMint's people that his official spokesman called the story a "fabrication," and the head of DeMint's Senate Conservatives Fund said that DeMint was "looking to see who wins over the grassroots, and so far Governor Romney has not done that."
Last week, the story repeated itself, this time with Governor Mike Huckabee. C-SPAN Political Editor Steve Scully posted on Twitter that "Sources indicate" that Huckabee was "set to endorse" Romney. Reaction from Huckabee was swift and vicious. In an email to ABC's Jake Tapper, Huckabee stated that the story was false:
I am NOT endorsing ANYONE in the primary...Nothing of the sort - the 'source' is an uninformed total idiot. Quote me.
...Where do people make stuff like this out of the thing air? ...Plain and simple. Someone has more time than brains on his hands.
Now, the latest blow to The Mythology of Mitt Romney comes this morning from New Hampshire. Romney has heavily invested his time and money in the Granite State, courting voters, Republican leadership, and the newspapers.
Gingrich has landed the coveted endorsement of the Manchester Union Leader, the main conservative newspaper in New Hampshire. Considering that Romney was the Governor of their neighbor state and had worked so hard to lobby for their support, the Union Leader knows Romney as well as any editorial board might know a presidential candidate. They clearly found him lacking, and found in Gingrich something that inspired their enthusiasm:
This newspaper endorses Newt Gingrich in the NW presidential primary...America is at a crucial crossroads. It is not going to be enough to merely replace Barack Obama next year. We are in critical need of the innovative forward-looking strategy and positive leadership that Gingrich has shown he is capable of providing.
Joseph W. McQuaid, Publisher, Union Leader
In the Fox News article I linked above, they go so far as to say that "[t]he endorsement suggests Gingrich has the potential to beat Romney in the New Hampshire primary. This 'first in the nation' primary is considered to be a must-win for Romney."
Ouch. That's gonna leave a mark.
So, is it possible that Mitt Romney's nomination really isn't that inevitable? I find myself feeling like that child, watching a man with no clothes parade down the street while everyone around me proclaims how wonderful his garments are.
Call me young, call me naïve, but from where I stand, the Emperor has no clothes, and Mitt Romney's nomination is not as inevitable as he would like us to believe.
[Cross-posted at Sunshine State Sarah]