Previously, I posted that exit polling data from South Carolina show that those who were most concerned about religious issues voted for Newt Gingrich, and those who did not care about religion were more likely to support Mitt Romney. This is admittedly not the primary reason Romney lost. Like a plane crash, there is usually a combination of simultaneous factors that contribute to a disaster.
The second, and most obvious, reason Romney lost is that he simply doesn’t have that … thing. There is something akward and forced about him. I’m sure Mitt Romney is a great guy. What patriotic American wouldn’t replace the current occupant of the White House with Romney?
But there is a detachment from the normal cadence of life with Mitt. Consider how he compared Newt Gingrich to Lucille Ball in the chocolate factory. Let’s hope an octogenarian advisor came up with that one, and that Romney himself didn’t conjure that outdated dusty black and white image from a half century ago. I’d wager the majority of the electorate is either unfamilar with that image, or hasn’t considered it for decades.
South Carolina has created a toxin even more dangerous to the Romney campaign — he is now firmly branded as the establishment candidate in an age when the establishment brand is ruined. Washington, D.C., has nearly wrecked the country fiscally. I hear over and over again from people who worked on the Hill in the 1990s how awful Newt Gingrich is — a distant cousin of Beelzebub, you would think. Republicans members of Congress are said to dislike him. I can think of no better endorsement for Newt than having the Washington, D.C., inside-the-beltway GOP establishment dislike him. Republicans across the country want fighters, but inside-the-beltway, caution prevails.
Consider further the preposterous and bitter discussion over at another sometimes-conservative website. Someone there actually criticized Gingrich for not using a teleprompter for his victory speech. (I won’t even link to the nonsense and provide undeserved traffic.) That’s the level of irrationality the establishment displays when facing an existential threat.
I drove to Charleston, South Carolina, last week and saw parts of America I don’t think many beltway dwellers ever see. Closed factories everywhere, miles of billboards blank for want of customers, kudzu overtaking shuttered filling stations. Fairfax County, Virginia, looks nothing like these places. It is easy to be cautious when you have it so good. Romney is the candidate of caution, but Americans are concerned, if not outright afraid of the future. This is another reason Romney lost. Americans, particularly Republicans, understand the stakes.
Now add to Romney’s plight that he is developing a reputation as a loser. He has an abysmal record in elections — a Rams-esque 6 wins and 19 losses. There must be a reason. And whatever it is, it won’t change by the fall. Romney’s biggest selling point had been his electability, but that perception is fading.
These aren’t the only reasons Romney lost. More on his language and rhetorical choices next.