He simply cannot believe it may be happening again.
Willard Mitt Romney, born to family with a CEO, Governor one-time Presidential candidate father and U.S. Senate candidate mother, grew up around politics. He’s entered into it throughout his career, first in 1994 when giving Ted Kennedy a run for his money, then again in 2002 when he won election as Governor of Massachusetts.
The 2008 campaign he ran for president was expertly built, by the most experienced hands, in the most methodical way, and with more than adequate resources (including major self-financing). But the product wouldn’t sell.
A stunningly parallel dynamic is unfolding in 2012, as it did in 2008.
Santorum is Huckabee. Gingrich is McCain.
In 2008, Romney thought he had the Iowa Caucuses. Until a populist preacher and everyman named Mike Huckabee mobilized social conservatives, evangelicals and home schoolers to snatch away the Iowa Caucuses and earn the momentum.
This year former Sen. Rick Santorum (R-PA) did the same thing. He lived off the land, ran an underfunded, gutsy, scrappy campaign across Iowa’s 99 counties and kept Romney from earning the plurality win he thought he could steal with a late burst of candidate time and resources.
In both years losing Iowa prevented Romney from silencing conservative critics, chalking up an early win and gaining major momentum for earned media and fundraising.
In 2008, eventual nominee Sen. John McCain (R-SC) won South Carolina, a pivotal state in that campaign year, which led to winning Florida. The die was cast.
This year former Speaker Newt Gingrich (R-GA), left for dead in June, and again in December, used his southern firewall and two pitch perfect debate performances, aided by Romney’s uneven handling of attacks on his record at Bain Capital and his puzzling decision not to release his tax returns nor convincingly explain why he wouldn’t, to win a stunning victory with 40 percent of the vote, the highest share of any candidate in any voting state in 2012.
For Mitt Romney, it’s déjà vu all over again.
Romney’s campaign failed to manage expectations, foolishly allowing the media to believe it was possible he could run the table in the first four states. He could now end up 1-3 in the first four.
The Mitt Romney Inevitability Wake was held in Columbia, SC on Saturday, January 21, 2012 at 9pm local. After all, South Carolina has been the best predictor of any early state in Republican presidential primaries.
If Bain Capital was invested in the Romney Campaign in the same way it did private companies, it would come to the conclusion that the product isn’t selling. But they believe that perhaps its competitors won’t sell either.
Newt Gingrich is a flawed candidate with rare strengths. As RedState’s Erick Erickson has said, Romney lost South Carolina more than Gingrich won it.
Gingrich is overconfident. Romney is overcautious.
After seeking the presidency since at least 2007, Romney has likely felt throughout 2011 as though the nomination was his to lose, due to his advantage of having run previously, his massive fundraising, his near unanimous establishment support and his organizational strength.
But as George Will noted, since 1994, Mitt Romney is 6-19 in elections where his name was on the ballot.
Presidential campaigns force humility upon their entrants, in a harsh manner. Gingrich had a divorce scab ripped away. Santorum has been called a loser, after his 18-point reelection defeat in 2006. Romney has had his faith attacked. This is what it takes.
For Mitt Romney, the nomination is within his grasp. But is it being taken away again?
Matt Mackowiak is an Austin, TX and Washington-based Republican consultant and president of Potomac Strategy Group, LLC. He has been an adviser to two U.S. senators and a governor, and has advised federal and state political campaigns across the country.