February 1, 2012


For Romney campaign, race unfolding almost precisely as predicted (Dan Balz, 2/01/12, Washington Post)

Romney's advisers knew that two of the first five states were trouble: Iowa and South Carolina. They saw New Hampshire and Florida as firewalls to protect against multiple defeats that could unravel the former Massachusetts governor's fragile front-runner status. They saw Nevada as they see it today, an exclamation point that could give their candidate enormous advantages heading into a slow month that could starve rivals desperate for attention and a victory.

Take the five early states in sequence. Iowa was a problem for Romney because its caucuses are dominated by the kind of Republican voters least likely to love him. Evangelical Christians and very conservative Republicans are not the governor's natural constituency. Romney poured millions into the state in 2008 and still got whipped by former Arkansas governor Mike Huckabee. His advisers vowed not to make that mistake again.

This time they handled Iowa deftly, playing down expectations through most of last year, forgoing participation in the costly and ultimately irrelevant Iowa straw poll, and hoping they might do unexpectedly well with a late push. On that they succeeded, ahead by eight votes on the night of the caucuses and surrendering that apparent victory to former Pennsylvania senator Rick Santorum only when it no longer mattered.

Anticipating a loss in Iowa, Romney's campaign team took no chances in New Hampshire. Romney spent a year or more securing his base there. Parsimonious with his campaign appearances in most states through much of last year, Romney slighted New Hampshire less than any other. He rounded up establishment leaders -- elected and otherwise -- and reached out as best he could to tea party activists. He was rewarded with a very big victory -- bigger than some had expected.

South Carolina always loomed as Romney's weakest of the early states. He was something of a misfit for the electorate there -- a Northerner in a Southern state; a moderate governor in a land of conservatives; a Mormon among evangelicals. He finished a poor fourth there in 2008 after essentially ditching the state in the final week of campaigning. He knew a loser when he saw it.
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Posted by at February 1, 2012 2:28 PM

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