A senior Romney aide points out that the former Massachusetts governor has maintained his position in the top tier of Republican presidential candidates for many months, an achievement in itself.
He has done this by minimizing errors, remaining steady when under attack, raising lots of money, and most of all by staying on message. Romney has relentlessly criticized President Obama on the economy rather than getting distracted by other issues such as criticism of Romney's Mormon religion and his healthcare plan in Massachusetts, his advisers say. "We stick to our policies and our own plan," the senior Romney aide told me.
Rommey advisers say it would be wrong to see the current GOP presidential campaign as a repeat of 2008, when the leading candidate, John McCain, faded and then came back to win the nomination (by defeating Romney and others). This time, different candidates have risen to the top in the polls, only to quickly drop back under the weight of their own mistakes, media scrutiny, and the criticism from their rivals. All the while, Romney has held onto from 20 to 25 per cent of the GOP vote in the polls. Politicohas an interesting analysis here.
And the early debates have been key. Many Americans have been paying close attention, and some candidates such as Texas Gov. Rick Perry have harmed themselves with weak performances. Others, including Romney and businessman Herman Cain, have done well. And the debate phase isn't over, with one Romney senior adviser estimating that there could be 13 more such encounters between now and the end of January.
But from now on, the candidates are also expected to increasingly focus on television ads, building their grass-roots organizations, giving major speeches, and retail campaigning in the states with early nominating contests--Iowa, New Hampshire, South Carolina, Florida, and Nevada. It's in all these areas that the Romney team expects to shine.