Ross Douthat on Romney

Ross Douthat points to three features of the Romney campaign that have slowed down victory … but I’d suggest his goalposts are moving comment might  be the best idea: what is happening is that the media doesn’t want that campaign to end. So they are moving the goalposts to prolong the story.

Mitt Romney has good reason to be exasperated with the way his slow progress to the Republican nomination has been covered in the press. Again and again, he’s won supposedly-decisive primary victories, only to have the press turn around and insist that actually, it’s the next big primary that is the crucial one, the make-or-break moment, the contest that could throw the whole race into chaos. First Florida was going to be decisive, then Michigan, then Ohio. Romney won all three, but the goal posts kept moving, and suddenly it was Illinois that threatened to cast his nomination into doubt.

Naturally, Romney won Illinois as well, cruising to a predictable victory on Tuesday. And for all the talk about how badly his campaign has been run, his partisans can credibly argue that he’s suffered more from the extended primary calendar and the press’s addiction to drama than from his own mistakes. As the Weekly Standard’s Jay Cost pointed out this week, if you compare results primary by primary, Romney is actually running “a pretty solid 4-6 percent” ahead of John McCain’s 2008 campaign —  “not the sign of a particularly dominant front-runner,” Cost allows, “but also not the sign of a uniquely weak one, either.”

Still, no one doubts that the Romney team would have preferred to shorten the campaign and win the nomination sweepingly and graciously rather than gradually and with a bludgeon. The long grind has been hard on Romney’s campaign war chest, his general-election narrative and his favorability ratings. Even though the press has sometimes overhyped its weaknesses, his campaign did miss several opportunities to silence the doubters and put the race away earlier.


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  • Joe Canner

    No doubt the press has played some role in heightening the drama of this GOP primary. However, the biggest culprit (as the Weekly Standard article makes clear) is the primary schedule. In 2008, Super Tuesday was in early February and included California, resulting in McCain having sewn up the nomination at that point. This year, Super Tuesday was later and the primaries are more spread out (California’s is in June). Although Romney has a sizable lead, there are enough delegates yet to be won that it’s still possible (although not likely) for him to lose that lead.

  • Joe Canner

    Not to mention the change in GOP rules requiring proportional delegate allotment rather than winner-take-all, the fact that several of Romney’s wins were rather narrow (e.g., his “home” state of Michigan), and the fact that Romney’s challengers don’t seem to be in the mood to roll over and play dead.

  • Not really. Romney’s problem is his Republican opposition, who keep hope alive with all sorts of scenarios and rationales for how it’s still a horse race. How is it the media’s fault for reporting what Santorum and Gingrich are doing and saying? If the media didn’t report it, they would be blamed for artificially sewing up the nomination before “the people” got to decide.

    Romney’s partisans really need to stop whining about how the press treats them. Honestly, are we actually expected to believe the Romney team are saints?