Carter is right: Among the political class, the longer a pro has been around, the more certain that person is that Mitt Romney will be the GOP presidential nominee. Is it a classic hope vs. experience scenario where the experienced will prevail, or are the establishment thinkers missing something? I don’t think Romney’s nomination is certain, but I think it is more likely than anything else. We will know soon enough.
Two other observations from Carter’s press corps dinner in New Hampshire: First, the idea that Rick Santorum or Newt Gingrich could win in South Carolina is valid, but would it be an upset for Romney? Is Romney now on the hook to win every state? Is he supposed to win in Dixie state Republican primaries against a smaller field? I ask this question not to make a point, but because I don’t know the answer. When is the last time someone won all the primaries? Weren’t we always headed for a contest between a front-runner and a viable challenger? The Romney campaign needs to carefully manage expectations in the coming weeks.
Second, it is more than a little ironic that a Republican candidate is being attacked in a primary because of his successful private sector experience. But, it is better that it happen now than in the fall, when voters could be surprised by any new major line of attack. That said, I think the attacks are misguided. We need more successful private equity investment in the United States, not less. I do not have any private equity interest, but I have been around the business enough to see the good it can do, and I respect a good investment manager. As I have written before, private equity is a pure form of capitalism. The investment manager is the last one to get paid. If you don't make money for other investors first, you don’t make anything for yourself, and you certainly don’t get rich. And, oh by the way, no one will invest with you a second time if you didn’t make money the first time. That does not appear to be the Romney record.
But Romney isn’t exactly helping himself by playing to the stereotype of Mr. Potter from “It’s a Wonderful Life.” “I’ll bet you $10,000, I made Senator Kennedy mortgage his house” and “I like to fire people” are going to be rolled into a clever catchphrase or metaphor, probably by Gingrich, and Romney will be hammered with it.