The GOP's Worst Week

Snowe's retirement, Obama's comeback, and Romney's close call in Michigan bode poorly for Republicans.

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[See a collection of political cartoons on the 2012 GOP hopefuls.]

And yet Romney not only remains unable to close the deal with GOP voters, but he has earned the disapproval of 52 percent of likely voters nationwide, according to the Battleground Poll. His slim Michigan margin prompted another round of pundit advice on how he can turn around his campaign, including further paeans to his base. Romney had already told reporters Tuesday afternoon that he wouldn't "light my hair on fire to try and get support." This despite abundant evidence that if he thought it would secure the nomination, Romney would cheerfully soak his scalp with kerosene, strike a match (an Ohio match, because Ohio flames are just the right temperature), and then implacably insist that he had always been severely bald and that people shouldn't worry because not only is he a Hair Club for Men client, he just bought the company.

Romney is caught in an inauthenticity trap: How does a notorious political chameleon recast himself without it seeming like more of the same shape-shifting?

Romney now staggers into what is shaping up to be less a Super Tuesday for the GOP than a Stupor Tuesday. Early polls put Santorum up 11 points in Ohio and Newt Gingrich (yup, he's still around) up 15 in Georgia. As New York magazine's John Heilemann notes, Romney faces a tough road in states like Alaska, Georgia, Idaho, Oklahoma, and Tennessee, where a majority of the voters figure to be evangelicals. Throw in GOP primary voters' habit of fleeing the most recent victor and you have a formula for a fractured decision that leaves an already weakened party with the prospect of a lengthy string of really bad weeks.

  • See a collection of political cartoons on the Catholic contraception controversy.
  • Read the U.S. News debate: Can Mitt Romney Close the Deal With Conservatives?
  • See pictures of Obama's Re-election Campaign