Mitt Romney heads out of New Hampshire on Wednesday on a probable march to the Republican presidential nomination – but with scars and weaknesses that could lead him to limp weakly into a general election against President Barack Obama.
On the plus side, his back-to-back wins in Iowa and New Hampshire were unprecedented; anti-Romney conservatives head to South Carolina as divided as ever; and polls signal that he could win both South Carolina and Florida against that fractured opposition for a January sweep. That probably would clinch the nomination for him.
Yet he received an often-tepid response from Republicans, even in his own New England backyard. He faces a blistering ad assault in South Carolina that could hurt him among moderates and independents critical to the fall vote. And he’s shown a tendency to utter politically tone-deaf quotes that signal difficulty connecting with working-class voters who appear ripe for the picking from the Democrats…
We said a few days ago that a quick primary victory for Mitt Romney has pitfalls, and that a longer primary against the current weak slate of candidates would give him more time to define himself before engaging in the long battle against President Barack Obama. There is a real danger that Romney could win each of these upcoming Republican primaries and seal the nomination, but incurring lasting damage at every stop along the way–which he won’t have time to shake before Obama’s campaign cribs those same attacks.
It would be unfair to fail to acknowledge the hard work by Romney’s campaign that went into his win yesterday in New Hampshire, and perhaps more so for his solid performance in conservative Iowa after a relatively late start. But other things are happening along the way, building a narrative we’ll be talking about for much longer.