The Romney Myth

One thing I’ve noted in passing several times on OTB Radio but haven’t posted upon here is my bewilderment that Mitt Romney continues to be treated by the media the other Republican contenders as a First Tier Candidate. In fact, he’s a distant fourth and within the margin of error of Newt Gingrich. His fundraising efforts have been dismal, saved only by his ability to continually lend his campaign millions out of his own pocket.

Here is where the race is today:

RealClearPolitics Republican Polling Numbers July 2007

Here are the trend lines:

RealClearPolitics Republican Polling Trends July 2007

Despite all this, WaPo’s Chris Cillizza recently pronounced Romney the odds-on favorite to win the nomination.

Romney continues to sit in the cat bird’s seat for the nomination. Romney has built the strongest Iowa organization and if McCain is reduced to second tier status in the contest, Romney’s chances in the New Hampshire primary will rise. If Romney can emerge victorious in Iowa and New Hampshire, he will be extremely hard to beat.

Professional pollster Charles Franklin, examining the trend lines of the major candidates (as discussed in my previous post) mentions “the rising candidacies of Romney (in IA and NH) and Fred Thompson (nationally and in FL and SC).”

While Romney is technically rising, his share of support remains negligible nationally. He’s gone from 6.9% in February to 9.9% in July.

Now, it’s true that he is doing well — leading in fact — in Iowa and New Hampshire. But even Cillizza admits that Romney’s “the only major Republican candidate on the airwaves” and that “the race isn’t yet engaged” in those states. Indeed, Giuliani and McCain have simply written Iowa off.

Traditionally, winning Iowa and New Hampshire created momentum that was nearly impossible to overcome. With the race so frontloaded, though, I’m dubious that this will matter at all.

The fact that Romney has been considered a frontrunner from the beginning of the race — being part of the infamous “Rudy McRomney” that conservatives have been struggling to find an alternative to — yet remains an afterthought in the polls and seems unable to raise money from people not named Romney would indicate that he’s stuck in the second tier. He has somehow managed to ward off that conclusion.

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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.

Comments

  1. I hope your right, but I get the feeling about Romney that I got about George W. Bush in 2000: namely that the party establishment has decided he’s the candidate and thus we’re going to have him rammed down our throats until we accept him as inevitable, whether we like him or not.

  2. Bithead says:

    Could the spreading of this myth, be a diversionary tactic away from the real leaders, thereby misdirecting the republican primary electorate?

  3. Michael says:

    This directly following a post about Giuliani’s decline matching McCain’s decline. I’m beginning to wonder if anybody is going to win the Republican nomination.

  4. James Joyner says:

    I’m beginning to wonder if anybody is going to win the Republican nomination.

    Somebody has to, I suppose.

    The Republicans are in the same boat the Democrats were in in 2004: Looking for the perfect guy. Given the conflicts within the big Republican tent, that’s not going to happen. Ronald Reagan wouldn’t be “conservative” enough were he running today.

    My guess is that any of the top tier Republicans, save perhaps Romney, would be acceptable once he’s a fait accompli. Certainly, given Hillary as the likely opponent, there will be plenty of enthusiasm for the nominee.

  5. yetanotherjohn says:

    I think the definition of Romney as a first tier candidate is legitimate. As you point out, he has a path that could realistically get him the nomination (take Iowa and NH, then use those for a springboard for Feb 5th knockout). How likely that path to success is a great debate, but it isn’t a pipe dream.

    The ‘also rans’ don’t have that shot (neither in the polls nor the money). And lets be realistic, there is a very decent chance that we will see the 2008 republican convention with out a first round ballot win. At that point, any delegates you pick up could be key (to either the nomination or to the VP slot).

  6. just me says:

    I agree a bit with Stormy on this one-I think Romney is a favorite among the GOP estalishment good ol’ boys, and they want to ram him down our throats.

    That said, I am not so sure the GOP voter is willing to accept the annointing this go around.

    I don’t think Romney is exactly a top tier candidate, but unlike some of the other lower tier candidates, he does seem to have the ability to be a politician, and one of the current top tier candidates still hasn’t announced-that candidate probably pulls from both Romney and Guliani.

  7. Austin says:

    Comment in violation of site policies deleted.

    Those wishing to buy candidate advertising should send inquiries to otb@blogads.com

  8. Andy says:

    These are national polls? Since when do these matter in the primaries?

  9. Phil says:

    “Slow and steady wins the race!”

    Romney’s polling seems to be going entirely in the same direction all the time – up! Look at the graph and compare it to McCain’s abysmal polling. Now ask yourself, who is a top tier candidate?

  10. Traditionally, winning Iowa and New Hampshire created momentum that was nearly impossible to overcome. With the race so frontloaded, though, I’m dubious that this will matter at all.

    I see the frontloading as making Iowa and New Hampshire even more important. Suppose Romney wins those two. With the compression there’s so little time for any other candidate to steal momentum. There’s no much time after Iowa and New Hampshire for anyone (yet along a primary voter) to breathe.

    I see it like 2004 which wasn’t nearly as compressed. Dean loses Iowa, screams, loses momentum, and gives Kerry the opening he needed.

  11. bjalder26 says:

    Wow, horrible analysis, you’re only paying attention to national polls which are largely based on name recognition and familiarity, while completely ignoring the fact that Giuliani, Thompson, & McCain don’t want to compete with him head on. His “dismal” fundraising is actually tops on the Republican side, sure he’s spent more, and thus had to put more money into his campaign, but he’s raise more money from outside sources than any Republican Candidate.

  12. James Joyner says:

    His “dismal” fundraising is actually tops on the Republican side, sure he’s spent more, and thus had to put more money into his campaign, but he’s raise more money from outside sources than any Republican Candidate.

    Huh? No, he’s raised far, far less than Giuliani from “outside sources.”