Mitt Romney’s $10,000 bet at Saturday’s Republican debate has cast further doubt on the candidate’s ability to connect to middle-class voters. It is a theme theme Post reporter Ann Gerhart explored in the first of our week-long series on The Contenders, in-depth profiles of the 2012 Republican presidential candidates.


View Photo Gallery: A look at the former Massachusetts governor now seeking the GOP presidential nomination.

A relentless problem-solver, Romney’s rational approach to governing has not necessarily translated at the polls, where voters perceive a lack of authenticity, Gerhart writes.

Further complicating Romney’s ability to connect is this: Unlike the best of the glad-handing retail politicians, he doesn’t seem to need the applause of strangers to lend him energy. He works rope lines with a kind of obedient enthusiasm, using a silver Sharpie marker to autograph photos people press at him, making pleasant talk. But he is executing a task to achieve a goal. He isn’t going to talk about feeling their pain. It seems he just wants to get to work relieving it.

Romney is Dudley Do-Right in a Kim Kardashian world, a man temperamentally disinclined to revel in the disorder and lack of rules in modern campaigns. He’s a man forced to submit to a chaotic process he can’t remake or control.

Romney’s campaign has been working to regain control after Saturday’s $10,000 bet controversy, which put Romney squarely on the other side of debate “chaos.” When Gov. Rick Perry infamously forgot the third government agency that he wanted to eliminate if he became president (known as Perry’s “oops” moment), it was Romney who piped up with an assist (as Gerhart notes).

Today, Michael Leahy explores Perry’s struggle to overcome campaign missteps, which have left “Texas political analysts wondering whether his relatively easy political victories in Texas led to a serious miscalculation about the appetites of the national electorate.”

Confidence, Leahy writes, may be Perry’s trademark, but it may not be enough to sustain the Texan’s presidential ambitions: “Such self-assurance has accounted for most of his major moves in life and politics. But what has happened in his four-month presidential campaign has demonstrated the limits of how far confidence can take a driven person without ample preparation.”

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This week, we will continue to evaluate the GOP field with deep-dive profiles of Michele Bachmann on Tuesday, Newt Gingrich on Wednesday, Ron Paul on Thursday, Jon Huntsman and Rick Santorum on Friday. As we do, we are also kicking off a daily round-up of the day’s best campaign coverage.

What are your must-read stories of the day? Tell us with #Campaign Reads and we’ll publish the best on Election 2012.

Read more about The Contenders.