It seems that Mitt Romney’s campaign isn’t even doing as well this year as he did in 2008, when he lost the nomination to McCain.
Nine states have voted so far, and in six of them the former Massachusetts governor has shed supporters who voted for him in 2008, winning fewer votes in each of those states than he did last time.
It’s the latest signal that this year’s race is unlike any other in recent memory, even though it follows the familiar Republican pattern of an heir apparent and a set of credible but outmatched challengers.
“Romney doesn’t seem to have a cause,” said John J. Pitney Jr., a political scientist at Claremont McKenna College in California. “There’s no Romney faction in the Republican Party. John McCain was able to present himself as the champion of political reform. [Ronald] Reagan was the champion of conservatives. Romney is trying to portray himself as a generic Republican, and I think a lot of Republicans regard him as a resident alien in the conservative movement, not as a full-fledged citizen.”
Romney’s inability to even match his 2008 numbers is a break from past do-over candidacies:
The Republican Party has had an affinity for nominating do-over candidates. Five of the past six non-incumbent nominees were repeat contenders: Richard M. Nixon, Reagan, Bob Dole, Mr. McCain and George H.W. Bush. The only exception in the past 50 years was Mr. Bush’s son, George W. Bush, in 2000.
Each of those previous do-overs did much better in their final campaigns: Reagan in 1980 and the elder Mr. Bush in 1988 improved their counts over their previous runs in every one of the first eight states to vote. Mr. Dole did better in all but one of the first eight, and Mr. McCain did better in six of the first eight races in 2008.
Mr. Romney has done worse in caucuses in Iowa, Nevada, Colorado, Minnesota and Maine, and also in Missouri’s primary — though that contest was nonbinding. In Minnesota, Mr. Romney won less than a third of the votes he won there in 2008, while in Colorado he won 30 percent fewer votes.
All in all, this is a picture of a candidate who still — nearly two months into the primaries, coming up on Super Tuesday — hasn’t given the conservative base of the Republican party a good positive reason to support him aside from “I’m electable.” And come to think of it, the fact that he can’t even get the votes that he did in 2008 kind of casts doubt on the electability argument, too.