Mitt Romney is the Republican nominee. Now what?

at 06:30 AM ET, 05/30/2012

Mitt Romney formally clinched the Republican presidential nomination on Tuesday night, crossing the 1,144-delegate plateau with his victory in the Texas primary.


Republican presidential candidate, former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney, and his wife Ann, center, hug former Nevada first lady Dema Guinn. (AP Photo/Gerald Herbert)
In reality, the GOP nomination fight has been over for the better part of two months — since former Pennsylvania senator Rick Santorum formally ended his candidacy on April 10, a week after he fell short in the Wisconsin primary.

In the intervening six weeks (or so), we’ve learned that Romney can raise money ($40 million collected in April alone), can draw crowds (5,000 people in San Diego on Memorial Day ain’t too shabby) and can take a hit (Romney appears to have weathered — at least for now — a Washington Post story detailing some bullying behavior in high school).

We’ve learned that chatter about Romney struggling to unite the GOP base after a fractious primary was overblown and that, barring some sort of major development, we are headed to a very close national election this fall between Romney and President Obama.

Romney also remains an awkward candidate on the stump who struggles with give and take of the sort demanded by the 24-hour news cycle and the unblinking eye of social media.

So, where does Romney — and the race more broadly — go from here?

If Romney cresting the delegate threshold Tuesday in Texas amounted to the formal end of one chapter of the presidential race, the next 89 days — between today and Aug. 27, when the Republican National Convention opens in Tampa, Florida — represent the next chapter.

Races can (and have) been won and lost during this period, as the two candidates battle to define themselves and one another. (President Bill Clinton’s onslaught against an under-financed Bob Dole during these months all-but-ensured the incumbent’s reelection in 1996.)

This definitional period of the race poses considerable danger for Romney. Already, the Obama campaign forces have made clear that they plan to mine Romney’s record during his time running Bain Capital in an attempt to cast him as an out of touch 1-percenter.

While the Romney team has to feel good about how they — with an assist from Newark Mayor Cory Booker — have parried the Obama attacks on Bain thus far, they are also smart enough to know that the president’s campaign has only just begun to fight on the issue. While talk of Bain has dominated the cable chat shows, the Obama campaign hasn’t put much money behind its ads attacking Romney on the company. That’s coming.

The next three months will be a time of testing then for Romney and his campaign. Can he withstand what will be a withering attack on his record in the private (equity) sector and emerge as a still-credible pick in the eyes of voters? Or will the Obama campaign use its financial might to drown out Romney with ads in swing states — ads that turn the November election from a referendum on the incumbent into a choice between Obama and Romney?

All of the above is not to say that the next 89 days aren’t important to Obama as well. If Romney has to find a way to weather the Bain attack, Obama has to find a way to sell it — whether that’s one particularly devastating story of takeover by Romney and his cohorts or simply a political death by 1,000 cuts for the GOP nominee.

Should Obama fail at that task, we could well enter the final phase of the race — marked by Labor Day — talking about the incumbent as an underdog.

Welcome to the definition chapter of the 2012 campaign. These next three months will introduce Romney to the general election voter. How that introduction goes could well make the difference between winning and losing this fall.

Trump says U.S. got ‘nothing’ from Iraq: In remarks at a Romney fundraiser Tuesday in Las Vegas, Donald Trump didn’t say anything about his continued questioning of Obama’s birthplace.

He did, however, offer some Trump-esque comments.

Per the pool report...

On Iraq: “We have wars. We get nothing from them. … We leave Iraq. What do we get out of it? They’re having a field day with the second largest oil reserves in the world. We get nothing.”

On the event: “This has really been a special day and a special evening. It’s been amazing the amount of money we have raised.”

On China: “They look at us. They laugh at us. They think we’re stupid. When (Romney is) president, they will no longer think we’re stupid.”

Fixbits:

Romney goes after Obama on Syria.

Ron Paul supporters will hold their own festival in the runup to the Republican National Convention in Tampa.

Jeb Bush reiterates that he would consider being Romney’s running mate.

Sen. Rob Portman (R-Ohio) goes to Israel to meet with Benjamin Netanyahu.

The conservative-leaning Civitas Institute polls former Charlotte mayor Pat McCrory (R) with a 10-point lead on Lt. Gov. Walter Dalton (D) in the open North Carolina governor’s race.

A new poll in Florida shows Gov. Rick Scott (R) trailing former governor Charlie Crist 48 percent to 34 percent, assuming Crist ran as a Democrat.

Michelle Obama says she won’t be running for Senate.

The National Republican Congressional Committee is up with a new video and website tying Rep. Larry Kissell (D-N.C.) to embattled former North Carolina Sen. John Edwards (D-N.C.).

New York Assemblywoman Grace Meng (D) picks up another big endorsement — from the retiring congressman she hopes to succeed, Rep. Gary Ackerman (D).

The Democratic establishment is rallying around attorney Preston Brittain in South Carolina’s new 7th district, after state Rep. Ted Vick (D) dropped out of the race following a DUI arrest.

New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg (I) looks like he’s about to endorse Rep. Charles Rangel (D-N.Y.) in a tough primary.

Must-reads:

Super PAC timing raises questions” — Dave Levinthal, Politico

Mitt Romney’s nomination marks milestone for Mormon faith” — Sandhya Someshekhar and Jason Horowitz, Washington Post

 
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