In a fresh indicator of trouble ahead, the top analyst and data-hound in the Romney camp — that would be Romney himself — says he is not sure he will win his home state of Michigan.
In a Fox Business Network interview last night, Romney said he “can’t tell you 100 percent that I’ll win.” But he said he hopes the people of Michigan understand that he gets them. “I’m planning on it, and I’m going to work hard for it. And I think the people of Michigan understand that this is the chance to select as our nominee a person who was born and raised in Michigan, who understands Michigan values and who will do everything in his power to get Michigan working again.”
"I hope I win all the remaining contests. But remember last time around, John McCain, lost 19 states on his way to getting the nomination. You don’t win them all.”
But McCain’s model is not a happy one. He won the nomination in a fractured battle in which the conservative base never fully embraced him. Republican turnout in the fall was depressed, and McCain went down in flames. It’s that model that has GOP experts worried.
Romney should win the war of attrition. "To date Romney has won about 1.1 million votes,” blogged Middlebury College political scientist Mathew Dickenson , “compared to about .8 for Gingrich and only 430,000 for the Rickster. Paul trails the field with 305,000 votes. I think that's probably a relatively accurate barometer of their strengths as candidates right now."
But Dickenson predicts a blood bath: "Bottom line? I expect Mitt Vader and the Romney Empire to strike back with all the force the Dark Side can muster against Young Rick VestWearer. The next two weeks won't be pretty."
And it’s this possibility that concerns former Reagan speechwriter Peggy Noonan at The Wall Street Journal, who wrote that Romney’s camp is “better at dismantling than mantling” and “better at taking opponents apart than building a compelling candidate of their own. The result is that he gives plenty of reasons not to vote for the other guy, but few reasons to vote for him.”
Noonan is looking for passion and purpose: “A particular problem is that he betrays little indignation at any of our problems and their causes. He's always sunny, pleasant, untouched by anger. This leaves people thinking, 'Excuse me, but we are in crisis. Financially and culturally we fear our country is going down the drain. This guy doesn't seem to be feeling it. So why's he running? Maybe he thinks it's his personal destiny to be president. But if the animating passion of his candidacy is about him, not us, who needs him?'"
“He’s been trying to win this with overwhelming throw weight — with more money, negative ads and manpower,” former Romney adviser Alex Castellanos said in the Washington Post. “They’re trying to win this tactically in each state, separate from the other, which gets expensive and long. Either he elevates his purpose, he elevates from a campaign to a cause, or the big Romney bulldozer has to now turn, grindingly slow and powerful, and crush everything in its path.”
The sputtering nomination fight raises the real possibility of a brokered or contested convention, where no candidate enters with a majority and the eventual winner may not have been running previously. Noonan quotes one former GOP governor raising that possibility, and Jon Ward at The Huffington Post quoted another insider: "Now normally that's a joke, I mean normally that just can't go anywhere. But could it go somewhere now Now, is that likely to happen? Hell no, it ain't likely to happen. But it's the first time in my life time where there's a real chance.”