Vote Gromit! Or Mittens! (Charles Dharapak/AP)

For most people, finding more than eight people who prefer you to the Republican candidates for president is not difficult. Even I can do it, and I once began an appearance on ESPN by quoting Oscar Wilde.

But like many things that seem easy for most people, Mitt Romney barely managed to get it done.

Whenever anyone books that many appearances on morning talk shows and confidently announces that he’s spending the New Year in Iowa, you can read the writing on the wall. Nothing spells doom like announcing confidently to the world, “No, I really have it this time.”

At first I thought Romney knew something I didn’t. Perhaps weird sisters had saluted him on the way to an event as “Thane of Ames, Thane of Iowa, Mitt that shalt be king hereafter.” But then the Duggars showed up in-state, and they were for Santorum. Perhaps a bird had flown overhead in a pattern that seemed auspicious. But all the eagles were at the Rick Perry rallies, thumping their chests and shooting off expensive guns. And if any miracles were in store, Michele Bachmann clearly had dibs.

So I wondered why he was so confident.

The results party at the Hotel Des Moines looked promising – well, as promising as any party organized by a conservative Mormon in his mid-sixties can possibly look. It was in a fancy ballroom with candelabras in sconces. There was even a bar.

But as disappointing parties go, Romney’s victory gathering gave the Donner a run for its money. Picture, if you will, a room of enthusiastic people in suit-jackets unhappily attempting to perform complicated subtraction while almost no one drinks, and you have a good sense of the evening.

I am not saying that any event where Mitt Romney recites three verses of America the Beautiful — “And there’s another great verse. . .And one more verse, let me just quote” — could be the sort of shindig one writes home about.

But the best comparison I can come up with for the general feeling in the Romney ballroom was of a giant family reunion watching Grandpa repeatedly lose a moderately challenging level of Guitar Hero. “Awwwwww,” everyone said, as the results updated again and again, showing Santorum ahead by a nose, then a hair, then a nose-hair. “C’mon! Mitt!”

This Iowa level is just too hard.

Sure, he did it this time. But we had to stay up until 1 a.m. to make sure. And Rick Santorum was eight votes away! Rick Santorum, whose months of rallies drew blockbuster turnouts only in the sense that most Blockbusters are abandoned buildings in neighborhoods overrun by crabgrass and raccoons. Rick Santorum, who on a day when he was soaring to front-runner status, barely got them to turn off the vacuum that was going in the background.

This hasn’t been Mitt’s week. It’s a poor party that hinges on the arrival of eight people.

Mitt’s whole appeal is supposed to be his electability. But for someone so electable, very few people seem willing to vote for him. And in spite of eight years of campaigning, a recent Vanity Fair poll revealed that 4 percent of Americans still think his real name is either Gromit or Mittens.

What went wrong?

The decor was so nice. But where was the party?

That’s what Mitt’s been asking for years now.