Mitt Romney Is Looking Past the Primaries
As his New Hampshire speech shows, Mitt Romney knows the nomination contest is over
January 11, 2012
Did you notice what former Gov. Mitt Romney didn't say on Tuesday night? He didn't use the words "South Carolina."
Traditionally on the night of the New Hampshire primary, every candidate pledges to continue the nomination fight in South Carolina, Nevada, Florida, and beyond. That's what Rep. Ron Paul, former Gov. Jon Huntsman, former House Speaker Newt Gingrich, former Sen. Rick Santorum, and even Gov. Rick Perry did yesterday.
Romney's victory speech was a general election speech, entirely focused on drawing a contrast between himself and Barack Obama. He didn't mention his opponents, even to compliment them. The presupposition: The nomination contest is over.
It's hard to disagree. South Carolina will kill off Perry and either Santorum or Gingrich. Ron Paul will never quit, and Huntsman earned South Carolina immunity based on his solid performance in New Hampshire, so four candidates will be alive for Florida. But it's hard to see how any of them challenge Romney, who is broadly acceptable to Republicans even among those who would prefer someone else.
Running for president is harder than it looks (isn't that right, Governor Perry?). Giving credit where credit is due, Romney has run a nearly error-free campaign. He has shown remarkable discipline in every aspect of the campaign and paced himself well. Yes, he's benefiting from divided opposition and a weak field, but Romney has sealed off paths to the nomination by others.
This is very different from the McCain campaign. McCain's impulsiveness was part of his charm and appeal, but it made party professionals nervous and led to mistakes like suspending the campaign during the bank crisis in the fall of 2008, after which that campaign unraveled. The buttoned-down Romney campaign gives establishment Republicans confidence.