Monday, December 12, 2011

Mitt Romney's Star Has Fallen

Mitt Romney needed to have a good debate performance at the recent ABC debate, and the fact is he didn't.  Instead, he came away looking defensive, nervous, uptight, and shallow.  Newt Gingrich on the other hand looked confident, calm, and in control.

Newt Gingrich Explaining His Affairs and Marriages
The Romney campaign is upset, I'm sure.  And that doesn't even calculate in the '$10,000 bet' faux pas that Romney made vis-a-vis Rick Perry.  (What is it about Rick Perry that seems to get under Romney's skin?  Remember the illegal immigrant lawn service issue?  That was also Rick Perry.  It's like he's become Romney's Nemesis.)

I've got to believe that the Romney campaign (and the Republican Establishment behind it) is desperately hoping against hope for a serious mistake on Newt's part, that would deflate his current frontrunner bubble, much like what happened to Bachmann, Perry, and Cain.  And that is certainly possible, because Gingrich is an outrageous-statement-just-waiting-to-happen kind of person.

Yet, it appears to me that Newt is beginning to get his act together in that regard.  What may be more likely is that some scandalous revelation from the past gets dredged up and publicly aired.  (You can best believe the opposition campaigns are intensively searching for such a thing!)

In any case, it could be the Republican primary process is now to the point where it is beginning to congeal, like a bowl of jello that's been in the refrigerator just long enough to begin to thicken, and Newt happens to be candidate on top when that is happening.  And as I wrote before here in November, Newt has serious strengths: intelligence, experience in governing, apparently growing personal maturity, an extreme shrewdness, and an overwhelming self-confidence, which can benefit him in situations like this and against what is turning out to be such a weak bench of candidates.

My personal feeling here is that Romney's star has fallen and cannot be restored.  He has played it safe for too long, has hidden himself from the media and the public, hoping that he could just glide into the Republican nomination.  But that's probably not going to happen this year, when the Republican base is fired up and wants a candidate who is also fired up.  And mellow, steady-eddie Mitt Romney just doesn't fill that bill.  He won't drop out, but he'll be an injured, diminished presence from here on out.

So the Establishment is going to have to look elsewhere.  Will it be Huntsman?  It could be, especially if he does well in New Hampshire.  The Republican powers-that-be might try to ride that horse as far as it will go, hoping that Gingrich at some point stumbles and falls.  Another option would be to hope that Ron Paul does well enough to set up a brokered convention, where the Establishment would seem have more input and influence, and where anything can happen, including a compromise 'dark horse' candidate (unlikely but possible).

This is going to be a very interesting seven months until the Republican Convention.

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