Mitt Romney in trouble in New Hampshire? Not really.
Mitt Romney faces media spin that belies a reality: Romney is about to become the first non-incumbent Republican to win both New Hampshire and Iowa.
In response to this historic feat, the media has naturally been declaring that â€¦ 1) Romney is in trouble, and, 2) the real story here is the fight for second place.
Pundits and analysts are declaring this Romneyâ€™s â€śworst 48 hoursâ€ť of the campaign: Heâ€™s slipping up on the stump, making comments about pink slips and firing people! Fellow Republicans are attacking him as a corporate raider! HeÂ might only win New Hampshire by (gasp) seven or eight points!
We canâ€™t really blame those who still seem to be rooting for a fight. Itâ€™s hard to keep writing/talking about a campaign with an entirely predictable outcome in which the all-but-certain-winner is not exactly the most exciting guy in the room. Plus, while the outcome may seem assured, mathematically, Romney canâ€™t seal the nomination until April - which means that, technically speaking, a surpriseÂ couldÂ still happen.
One interesting question, in Decoderâ€™s mind, is to what extent the mediaâ€™s need to keep the storyline going - as Romney slowly works his way toward the necessary delegate total - may actually impact the race. Will discussions of Romneyâ€™s â€śweaknessâ€ť as a candidate make him a weaker candidate?Â Could media attention help todayâ€™s second-place finisher make a meaningful dent in Romneyâ€™s dominance?
Ultimately, we think probably not. Itâ€™s true the recent attacks on Romneyâ€™s corporate record go right to the heart of his main strength (business experience) and may chip away at his standing in the polls. On the other hand, recent polls have shown him with double-digit leads in South Carolina, and Florida - so thereâ€™s room for some erosion. Moreover, we tend to side with the argument that this rough patch could actually help inoculate him against future such attacks (see: Obama, Barack, and Rev. Jeremiah Wright). Â
To be fair, some journalists are already calling this thing. Roger Simon declares in Politico today thatÂ the race is â€śessentially over.â€ťÂ Â In one of the most creative analogies weâ€™ve seen to date, Simon writes:
Two guys are out camping, when they hear a bear clawing into their tent.
The first guy jumps up and starts pulling his shoes on.
â€śDonâ€™t be an idiot,â€ť the second guy says. â€śYou canâ€™t outrun a bear!â€ť
â€śI donâ€™t have to outrun the bear,â€ť the first guy says. â€śI just have to outrun you.â€ť
Simon then aptly concludes:
Mitt Romney doesnâ€™t have to outrun the bear. He doesnâ€™t have to be a perfect candidate. He doesnâ€™t have to be the reincarnation of Ronald Reagan. All he has to do is outrun Ron Paul, Jon Huntsman, Newt Gingrich, Rick Perry, Rick Santorum and Buddy Roemer.
The most likely second-place finishers in New Hampshire are Ron Paul and Jon Huntsman. The most likely second-place finishers in South Carolina are Rick Santorum and Newt Gingrich.Â The point is, the battle for second place doesnâ€™t matter as long as the same candidate keeps winning first. And, like Simon, we still donâ€™t see anything out there that seems likely to change that outcome.
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