Mitt Romney is officially the Republican Party’s nominee for president in 2012. This should come as a surprise to absolutely no one. But that’s because we’ve had time to get used to the idea.
Step back for a minute. Romney is the former governor of Massachusetts, one of the bluest states in the union. He used to describe himself as a pro-choice progressive. He signed a health-care reform law that was the predecessor to Obamacare, and included an individual mandate. He’s lost more elections than he’s won. He’s a finance guy in a populist moment. And he’s running in a party that’s swung far to the right, that sees Obama’s health-care plan as the single largest threat to the country, that is obsessed with winning, and that has never much liked Romney.
That accomplishment is sometimes dismissed as the accidental result of a very weak field. But as Jonathan Bernstein has written, the Republican field wasn’t that weak. The list of participants included Herman Cain and Michelle Bachmann, yes, but it also included Haley Barbour, Mitch Daniels, Bobby Jindal, Chris Christie, John Thune, Tim Pawlenty, Jon Huntsman, Rick Perry and others. Some ended up backing off fairly early in the process. But they did that because they didn’t believe they’d win — a calculation that was, no doubt, influence by Romney’s money, campaign staff and poll numbers. “Pawlenty at least, Barbour almost certainly, and at least a few of the others were defeated by Mitt Romney, even if those defeats didn’t take place in Iowa, New Hampshire, or South Carolina,” Bernstein wrote. “It’s just become the case that Republicans winnow early, but that doesn’t mean that the first ones out were actually the weakest candidates or had the smallest chance of winning.”
Romney isn’t always the best speaker. He can be wooden on the stump and gaffe-prone off of it. But his very public weaknesses can obscure the fact that he’s a very, very good politician. He’s an incredible fundraiser. He’s a strong debater. He’s disciplined in his message. He’s strategic. He’s good at picking campaign staff. And the results show: He’s now the Republican nominee for president.