Who is Mitt Romney's worst enemy?
- 6 February 2012
- From the section US & Canada
The Republican rodeo and we - camp followers from the media - have trekked from the snowy mountains of New Hampshire to the beaches of Florida, from the smallest of small towns on Iowa's flat plains to the refined elegance of Charleston in South Carolina.
But the view from early February, after the result from Nevada, looks exactly like the outlook on New Year's day, when my travels began. In a sense, nothing has changed since last summer.
All along, most people have thought Mitt Romney would probably end up as the man taking on Barack Obama in November.
It is now even more probable. I expect there will be more hiccups like the South Carolina result, and I wouldn't rule out another Newt revival. But few would bet their house against Mitt making it.
Given the numbers of self-declared Tea Party supporters who voted for him in Florida, Republican fears that come the autumn right wingers will simply sit on their hands and not vote seem fanciful. That is not the problem.
This strange ultra democratic exercise in internal democracy will leave its mark.
The way that Mitt and Newt have torn chunks out of each other leaves not only scars but wounds that can fester and weaken.
Gingrich's attacks on Romney's wealth and they way he earnt it, will be used again and again in Democratic ads.
It is powerful not because the gravitates of the former speaker will carry weight with undecided voters. It is that the nature of Gingrich's charges chime exactly with the image of Romney that the Democrats will push: out of touch, elitist, too rich to understand ordinary Americans.
But, unfortunately for the Republicans, Newt is not the only one reinforcing the stereotype.
Romney himself does a pretty good job of it. Indeed he has a remarkable capacity to underline the charges against him.
It was part of a sentence when he also said he wasn't concerned about the very rich. His point was that he was focused on the more than 90% in the middle.
Fair enough. But politicians have to be canny enough to avoid such pitfalls.
Romney is not Herman Cain. He is not unseasoned, he doesn't say stupid things because he has never really thought much about them. I suspect he really saw no problem suggesting that he didn't care about the poor.
Just as he saw no problem betting $10,000 in an imaginary wager. Or saying he liked firing people. Or that he was unemployed.
For such an experienced politician with a reputation for caution, he can be unusually clumsy and cloth-eared over the concerns of the middle class which he says is his focus.
The White House will exploit that to the full.