It’s Mitt Romney’s Nomination to Lose

Mitt Romney is once again the clear frontrunner for the Republican nomination.

Mitt Romney is once again the clear frontrunner for the Republican nomination.

WaPo (“Rick Perry slips, Herman Cain rises in bid for GOP nomination, poll finds“):

After a quick rise in the race for the Republican presidential nomination, Texas Gov. Rick Perry has experienced an almost equally dramatic decline, losing about half of his support over the past month, according to a new Washington Post-ABC News poll.

Perry’s slide, which comes after several uneven performances in candidate debates, has allowed former Massachusetts governor Mitt Romney to resurface atop the GOP field. But the most direct beneficiary of the disenchantment with Perry is businessman Herman Cain, who is now tied for second place.

Romney has a slim lead in the RealClearPolitics poll of polls but is leading in all three of the most recent polls taken and has a whopping lead in the two polls taken this month.

Rick Perry, like Michele Bachmann and Donald Trump before him, has proven not ready for the national spotlight. Chris Christie has declined, yet again, to run. And time is fast running out on Sarah Palin’s ability to jump in.

Herman Cain is a bright guy and a good speaker. But he’s never held elective office before and seems prone to saying odd things. Even with his folksy appeal to the Tea Party faction, it’s hard to see someone whose claim to fame is a stint running the seventh largest pizza chain in America getting nominated to take over as leader of the free world.

Romney doesn’t inspire much enthusiasm but he’s got a plausible presidential resume, is running a competent campaign, and would have an excellent chance of winning over independents in a matchup with President Obama.

While it’s not exactly and endorsement likely to endear himself to the Republican base, David Brooks thinks Romney is the right man for the time.

There are two important features of the current Republican moment. First, this is not a party riven by big ideological differences. This is not Reagan versus Rockefeller. Whoever wins the nomination will be leading a party with a cohesive ideology and a common set of priorities: reform taxes, replace Obamacare, cut spending and reform entitlements. The next president won’t have to come up with a vision, just execute the things almost all Republicans agree upon.

Second, the challenges ahead are technically difficult. There’s a reason that no president since Reagan has been able to reform the tax code. There’s a reason no president save Obama has been able to pass health care reform. These are complicated issues that require a sophisticated inside game — navigating through the special interests, building complex coalitions. They are issues that require executive expertise.


Romney’s skills are not to be underestimated. In the first place, he doesn’t throw interceptions. As with quarterbacks, the chief job of a president is not to give the game away with unforced errors. [Brooks had apparently been watching Tony Romo highlights before writing the column – ed.] Romney does not take excessive risks. He doesn’t make decisions without advance preparation.

He does adapt. It has been stunning to see how much better Romney is as a candidate this time around than in 2008. This improvement must have come from a pretty thorough period of self-examination and self-correction.

He seems to know how to pick staff. His economic advisers include R. Glenn Hubbard of Columbia, Greg Mankiw of Harvard, former Senator Jim Talent and Vin Weber, a former congressman. This is the gold standard of adviser teams.

He could probably work well with the leaders of his own party. If Romney were to be elected, he would probably share power with the Senate minority leader, Mitch McConnell, and the House speaker, John Boehner. These are not exactly Tea Party radicals. Instead, they are consummate professionals and expert legislators who could plausibly work together. More presidents have been undone by the Congressional leaders in their own party than by members of the opposition.

That’s not exactly the stuff of stump speeches and TV commercials. But it’s actually likely to resonate with the type of voters that are in play in general elections.

The extended campaign is quickly weeding out the yahoos. With Perry looking to be toast, we’re left with two plausible presidents in the Republican field: Romney and Jon Huntsman. And, as much as some of us would prefer otherwise, Huntsman is  simply not catching on; he’s actually losing ground as the race goes on.

None of the candidates currently running against Romney can win the nomination. And we’re about three weeks away from it being virtually impossible for a new candidate to meet filing deadlines in crucial early primary states, much less set up an elaborate organization. So, the unexciting one may be the last man standing.

FILED UNDER: Campaign 2012, Public Opinion Polls, US Politics,
James Joyner
About James Joyner
James Joyner is Professor and Department Head of Security Studies at Marine Corps University's Command and Staff College and a nonresident senior fellow at the Scowcroft Center for Strategy and Security at the Atlantic Council. He's a former Army officer and Desert Storm vet. Views expressed here are his own. Follow James on Twitter @DrJJoyner.


  1. ponce says:

    Rudy Giuliani was the clear favorite at this point in the 2008 Republican primary:

    Fred Thompson a close 2nd…

  2. Moosebreath says:

    And in 2004 Democratic race at this point, the leaders were Wesley Clark and Joe Lieberman.

    Until Romney has over 35% of Republican primary voters supporting him, there’s plenty of room for someone to be the Anyone but Romney candidate.

  3. mattb says:

    In some ways, is 2012 looking to be an inverted 2004 — a president who many see as vulnerable versus a next-in-line opposition candidate (with a history of changing positions) who the base aren’t particularly jazzed about…

  4. Trumwill says:

    @mattb: I agree, though the dynamics (economy a much bigger issue, foreign policy not so much) are different enough that the results could be different. The 2004 election was actually reasonably close (but for 100,000 votes or so in Ohio). The 2012 may go the other way or Obama could win handsomely.

  5. Hey Norm says:

    “…It’s Mitt Romney’s Nomination to Lose…”

    And with that proclamation…I’ll add that the presidency is still Obama’s to lose.
    This in spite of 3 years of the so-called republicans mission of partisan economic destruction. The Teavangelicals have proven repeatedly that taking Obama’s job is more important to them than saving American jobs. If Obama explains those facts clearly…he wins. Period.

  6. Hey Norm says:

    Um…what happened to the Koch Brothers thread?

  7. ponce says:

    Um…what happened to the Koch Brothers thread?

    Are there no limits to their power 🙂

  8. Hey Norm says:

    Are they funding OTB???
    Along with the Tea Party and the Heritage Foundation???
    Criminy…I better check my house for Benzene gas tonight!!!

  9. PD Shaw says:

    @Hey Norm: OTB has a new sponsor.

    [Edit: Little late on the draw]

  10. James Joyner says:

    @ponce: @Hey Norm: Some odd technical glitch turned it to draft mode while I was on my commute home. It’s back up now.

  11. G.A.Phillips says:

    Romney sucks!!!!

  12. G.A.Phillips says:

    …And having to give damn near every other freaking lib on here so far a like really really sucks!!!!

  13. David says:

    You really have to be hating that, G.A.

    You would think that, considering the sitting President’s current approval rating, the Republican candidates for President would be a tad more impressive. Out of the names that look like they currently have a chance, I would go with Gov. Romney having the best chance to unseat Pres. Obama. I don’t think Gov. Perry or Mr. Cain can go the distance without imploding. The rest of the field either can’t get the nomination (Huntsman) or would stand no chance in the general election (insert basically everyone else not mentioned).

  14. James Joyner says:

    @ponce: Your link doesn’t actually support that, since it only goes to the beginning of 2008, at which point McCain and Huckabee were 1 and 2. @

    Moosebreath: Who? As pointed out, it’s essentially got to be someone currently running. Perry is in a tailspin and doesn’t have the backing to recover in the way that McCain and Kerry did the last couple of cycles. There really aren’t any other serious candidates in the race except for Huntsman, who’s an unknown in the low single digits and unlikely to captivate Iowa or overtake Romney in New Hampshire.

    @Hey Norm: I’ve been saying that all along. I think Romney has a very good chance of beating him but the dynamics of the Electoral College are such that an incumbent president is mighty tough to knock off, especially if he’s disciplined and well-funded.

  15. samwide says:


    That one was for you, GA.

  16. G.A.Phillips says:

    lol, Obama is all done, I don’t pay him much attention anymore and anyone of then can beat him including another Dem I think.The corruption I believe will finally catch up to him. I would put my money on Cain If I had any. I will be voting for him if I have to write him in in the primary. So far from what I hear he is The T.E.A. Party and Bible based Christian favorite and the money and exposure is starting to flow.

  17. ponce says:

    Your link doesn’t actually support that, since it only goes to the beginning of 2008, at which point McCain and Huckabee were 1 and 2. @


    The polls are grouped by polling company and you just looked at CNN which started polling in 2008.

    Scroll down to check out the Associated Press-Ipsos poll or USA Today/Gallup polls to see polling from 2007.

  18. Herb says:

    @Moosebreath: Here’s the thing though: “The Anyone but Romney candidate” can’t beat Obama. Whoever gets the nomination is going to be facing an incumbent with a steep statistical advantage and almost total support among certain demographics.

    I know most partisans don’t want to hear this, but the candidate who can beat Obama is going to have to try, even insincerely, to win those folks over. None of the other candidates even seem interested in that.

  19. Hey Norm says:

    What does Christies decision say about Romney’s chances?
    In Christies mind is he convinced Obama beats Romney and it’s Christie in ’16? Or does he think Romney can win and he’s content to sit until ’20?
    I don’t think this guy wants to wait for 9 more years.

  20. James Joyner says:

    @ponce: You’re right: Giuliani imploded somewhere between late December and early January; Thompson slightly earlier.

    Several differences occur to me.

    First, Giuliani turned out to be a lousy national campaigner and Thompson apparently wasn’t informed that merely announcing he’d be willing to accept the nomination was just the beginning. Romney has run a solid campaign previously and is running a much better one this time.

    Second, the field is simply weaker this time. Last time, McCain, Romney, Giuliani, Thompson, and Huckabee were plausible presidents at least in terms of experience. This time, it’s really just Romney, Perry, and Huntsman. And Perry has already peaked and started to flame out.

    Third, the eventual winner was John McCain, an early frontrunner whose “turn” it was based on his showing in the previous contested Republican primary and who seemed to run into trouble because he was insufficiently conservative for the base. That’s who Romney is this time. (Technically, Huckabee finished with more delegates, but only as a function of remaining in the race months after it was over.)

  21. Steven Donegal says:

    Whoever wins the nomination will be leading a party with a cohesive ideology and a common set of priorities: reform taxes, replace Obamacare, cut spending and reform entitlements.

    You don’t have to read further in Brooks’ piece to see that the whole thing is twaddle. There is no consensus among Rs to “reform” taxe. They may agree that corporate and personal rates should be cut, but will they do any actual reforming–no. There is certainly no replacement for the ACA in the works. You saw all everyone embraced RyanCare–it was like it was toxic waste. Spending will be cut modestly at the margins no matter who is elected. The Rs won’t touch entitlement reform with a 10 foot pole. Hell, they all ran against entitlement reform in 2010. This is Brooks at his “all the reasonable people agree with me” best. It does not describe reality.

  22. Ron Beasley says:

    @Steven Donegal: You are so right – Brooks is following Broder down the path to senility.

  23. James Joyner says:

    @Hey Norm: I think he’s calculated that he doesn’t want to be president enough to go through a grueling campaign. Further, he’s genuinely decided that he’s not “ready” in terms of seasoning. Obama made a different decision and it worked out well for him, but he’s alone in modern American history in getting elected to the presidency on such a thin resume.

  24. Hey Norm says:

    You think it was all personal introspection and no political calculus?

  25. Wayne says:

    Romney has been stuck around the same number for some time now. Cain numbers have been on the rise. Cain is now tied in the latest CBS poll.

    Mitt has his core supporters but can’t seem to attract anyone else. The question has been where will votes go once the other candidates drop out. Paul, Bachman, Perry, and Cain supporter will not likely vote for Mitt. So whoever comes out on top of those four will get the vast majority of those votes. The Gingrich, Huntsman, Santorum and the undecided will likely be split between Mitt and the winner of the above four. That is assuming Mitt can attract some of them which he hasn’t been able to do so far. That doesn’t bode well for Mitt.

  26. OzarkHillbilly says:

    Call me when they figure it out….

  27. Fiona says:

    I don’t think Perry is dead yet. If he puts in a decent performance at the next couple of debates (and the bar for his performance is likely to be set so low that if he doesn’t make a major gaffe, he’ll easily clear it), he can likely revive his campaign, especially now that Christie is out of the race. Romney just can’t pull a lot of the evangelical base for a number of reasons I’ve noted before.

    Should be an interesting primary season in Republican land.

  28. samwide says:

    Romobomany it is. Knives line up over here. Brickbats over there. Religious bigots are advised that they can only get in one group.

  29. Wayne says:

    Mitt problems is the same one Newt has. People simply don’t trust him. If people don’t trust you, many won’t vote for you regardless of how good of a pedigree you have.

    The problem many presidential candidates have, is once they are candidates they get too caught up in the political games and listening to their handlers too much. They lose themselves in the campaign and people notice they are phonies. Once trust is lost it is very hard to get back. A Presidential candidate that people can trust will often win against an untrustworthy with good policies candidate.

  30. Tlaloc says:

    If romney flipped the conservatives the bird and campaigned as a moderate republican I’d strongly consider voting for him, and i say that as someone who has never voted GOP on teh national level.

    Of course, it’s far more likely he’ll got the McCain route and try to suck up to the neanderthals.

  31. Hey Norm says:

    “…the next couple of debates…”
    Crap…how many are there???

  32. Fiona says:

    @Hey Norm:

    There’s one coming up in the next couple of weeks, and who knows how many after that. But lots. And lots. Primary season is still several months off.

  33. Moosebreath says:


    “Here’s the thing though: “The Anyone but Romney candidate” can’t beat Obama. Whoever gets the nomination is going to be facing an incumbent with a steep statistical advantage and almost total support among certain demographics.”

    I don’t disagree, but that doesn’t mean the average Republican primary voter would.


    On some level it doesn’t matter which of the current right-wing Republicans ends up as the winner of the death-cage match. Cain is trending up now, Santorum is due for a run, and there’s plenty of time for Perry to have a resurgence. One of them will go into January as the favorite of the anti-Romney voters, and the survivor will come out in a 2 person race against Romney, one which does not favor Romney.

  34. ponce says:

    Several differences occur to me.


    Even after Giuliani “collapsed” he was polling close to where Romney is polling now and he had gusted well into the 40% range at his peak.

    Romney’s lead doesn’t look very secure…and I think Herman (Mc)Cain has a better shot at winning than OTB is giving him.

  35. Ron Beasley says:

    Josh Marshall says it well – Get Ready for the Shotgun Wedding
    Yes, the Republicans have Romney and a clown show. It’s a repeat of 2008 – a candidate no one wants – Romney. What is different is that I don’t think any Republican could have won in 2008. If the Republican base gets their way a vulnerable Obama will win a second term.

  36. PD Shaw says:

    Buddy Roemer for President.

  37. anjin-san says:

    Mitt problems is the same one Newt has

    I’ve never seen any evidence that Romney is a raging, slimy asshole.

  38. WR says:

    @anjin-san: The campaign is young yet.

  39. anjin-san says:

    They lose themselves in the campaign and people notice they are phonies.

    Not Cain. He is letting his crazy bigot flag fly high…

  40. Wayne says:

    The left likes Romney. How wise would it be to let your opposition choose their opponent?

  41. Moosebreath says:

    “The left likes Romney.”

    Only for defintions of the left like bithead uses (i.e., anyone not to the right of conservatives’ faulty memory of Reagan). Actual people on the left side of the aisle, not so much.

  42. Wayne says:

    All of the left poster in OTB supports Mitt to be the GOP nominee. Not that they will vote for him in the general election. Some will say they will “consider it” but in the end they will vote for Obama.