Wednesday, March 7, 2012

Romney is leading the race, and has the bruises that prove it

Ever since his decisive win in the Florida primary on Jan. 31, Mitt Romney has looked like the most likely to win his party's nomination when Republicans gather later this summer in Tampa. The delegate count doesn't lie.

But you wouldn't know it from the cuts and bruises and scars left on Romney by the subsequent contests, including Tuesday's "Super Tuesday" primaries and caucuses.

Romney remains the front runner in the delegate count and the winner so far of most of the "make-or-break" contests -- like New Hampshire, Florida, Michigan and Ohio -- but the chattering class in Washington and on the cable TV networks this morning are focused more on the toll the GOP "war of attrition" is taking on Romney.

The bottom line: For reasons of personality, politics and class, and his rivals' unwillingness to give up the ghost, Romney has been unable to close the deal -- raising Republican worries about whether Romney will be capable of challenging of President Barack Obama in the fall.

Romney may well end up the nominee, but many Republicans, who have seenObama's fortunes rise as the GOP fight goes on, are worried about at what cost.

Politico offers an example of what observers are saying about the state of Mitt Romney after Super Tuesday:

BOSTON — Mitt Romney’s weaknesses show no sign of going away. 
He struggles in the South and with evangelical voters. He’s not conservative enough. He loses among rural voters and with voters down the economic scale.
All of his flaws were on full display Tuesday as he failed to wrap up the GOP nomination on an evening when it was within his grasp. 
Romney’s still likely to be the GOP nominee. But Super Tuesday demonstrated again that getting to Tampa is going to prove longer and costlier than he and his advisers had hoped — a predicament that has Republicans increasingly anxious and President Barack Obama’s high command downright gleeful. 
What worries Republicans is that the cost of the extended primary season isn’t just financial, but also can be measured in the impact of the beating Romney is taking from, and administering to, his GOP rivals: plunging poll numbers with independent voters and a focus on issues that won’t help the party recapture the White House. 
Romney supporters have begun talking openly about the bruising the front-runner has received.
“This is kind of a painful chapter,” said Sen. John Thune (R-S.D.). “There is a point at which we’re going to have to conclude if we’re going to win in the fall we have to get behind a nominee and start focusing on our real opponent.”
“While they’re duking it out and beating each other up a little bit, I think there’s pros and cons that you’re hearing about in the media and so it dampens enthusiasm a little bit,” conceded Virginia Gov. Bob McDonnell, noting that “nobody’s really laid much of a glove directly on President Obama.”

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