...it's not dark yet, but it's gettin' there...
Hugh Hewitt asks:
Given all the hits Huckabee has taken in the last four days, the question becomes: Where will the folks who drop him move their allegiances?That's a funny question to ask, because I can think of several more appropriate questions at this stage of the game. For instance:
1. How can Romney fans expect their guy to win the nomination, let alone the general election, when he's going backwards in the polls? In what possible spin universe is a slip from third to fifth in the national polling a good sign for the Romney campaign?
2. Why should I believe that Romney will catch fire once America gets to know him when three weeks ago nobody knew who Huckabee was and they both used the same forum to introduce themselves to us, i.e. the debates? Isn't it time to admit that Romney just isn't able to sell himself to Republicans?
3. If Romney can't sell himself to Republicans, even with the right message, how can we expect him to win the middle third of voters, the independents, whose votes win and lose elections?
4. How is it that Romney, the management genius, can spend so much time and money in Iowa and yet be in a statistical tie with a guy who's spent next to nothing, whose campaign team is supposedly third rate, and who's supposedly not even a real conservative?
5. When will Romney fans stop crying about "religious bigotry" and admit the real reason Romney is such a dud: The Slick Factor?
Romney is in trouble. And no, I don't believe religious bigotry has anything to do with his apparent collapse. Sure, there's people out there who won't vote for a Mormon just because he's a Mormon, but I can't believe they're more than a handful. I certainly haven't met any. I have much more faith in the goodness and good sense of the majority of Republican voters than those who are so quick to ignore Romney's obvious lack of appeal and pin the blame on some non-existent anti-Mormon hysteria.
If Romney still aspires to be anything beyond a one term governor he's going to have to do more than tell us his views on "religious liberty." I don't really care about his opinion on that subject. What I care about is this: can Romney present himself as anything other than the consultant robot he's been in every debate I've seen so far.
We know Romney can buy and sell corporations. Can he sell himself? So far the answer has been a definite no. He says the right things, he's right on the issues, but nobody's buying it. Like Hillary, he's got a perception problem. But unlike Hillary there are still a lot of people, like myself, who are open to being convinced. Romney just needs to figure out how to sound genuine, instead of an overly focus-grouped consultant's idea of what a conservative candidate should sound like.
It's important that Romney figure this out, and soon, because he may just be our only hope. As much as I love Rudy, I have serious doubts about his electability, because there are just too many vulnerabilities in his past. And I'm sure Hillary's team has already mapped out their narrative against Rudy for next fall. They'll leak a scandal a week to their buddies at the New York Times and CNN. It won't matter if the scandals are real or imagined, as long as they reinforce the narrative they will have created. Tough as Rudy is, I don't know if he can survive the onslaught that's waiting for him.
Romney's squeaky clean image, in theory, should immunize him from any Clintonian Swift Boat strategy. Hopefully Romney can learn how to fight back against the Hillary machine without committing the Lazio error, and without curling up into a ball like he did when McCain dressed him down the other night. But the most important thing Romney needs to do is figure out how to make himself likable, and he needs to do that now.