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Massachusetts Liberal

Observations on politics, the media and life in Massachusetts and beyond from the left side of the road.

Tuesday, January 08, 2008

Mitt Mash

Mitt Romney is the ultimate salesman. But I think he's going to have a real problem convincing people he has spent all this time and all this money on a couple of "silver medals."

The Flip Flop Express came in second in New Hampshire, following up on its disappointing finish in Iowa five days earlier. The one constant in the two races is that voters preferred someone else over the former Massachusetts governor.

Conventional wisdom says Romney will remain in the race -- if for no other reason than the remarkably unsettled GOP field. Iowa winner Mike Huckabee trailed a distant third in New Hampshire, a mirror image of John McCain's Iowa showing. Huckabee remains anathema to the GOP mandarins who fear his nomination would decimate the party in November.

Meanwhile, John McCain defied his political obituary writers to handily win New Hampshire from the former governor of a neighboring state (and New Hampshire taxpayer). But while McCain will undoubtedly get a fund-raising boost based on his death-defying performance, he also faces challenges revolving around how he is viewed by party mandarins.

Romney has been their choice based on his wealth, fund-raising ability and the intangibles, including his presidential-like appearance. That enabled them to overlook things like his pretzel-like ability to be all things to all people.

But Romney has now lost in a state where evangelicals dominated the caucuses. The disdain for his Mormon faith certainly played a role in that.

Maybe worse, Romney has now lost in a state where he is very well known. The first Massachusetts candidate to fail to win New Hampshire, Romney was able to unite the Boston Globe and Union-Leader as no one before.

Romney will undoubtedly soldier on, spending his sons' inheritance and looking for redemption in his real home state, Michigan. But his fund-raising ability is likely to dry up and he now carries the mantle of two-time loser. In every past election, that has been fatal.

So where do the Republicans turn? McCain lives to fight another day and could very well end up with the nomination -- even as his positions on the surge and immigration alienate different ends of the voting spectrum.

Rudy Giuliani will likely re-emerge from his cocoon -- and has a good shot at Florida and the Super Tuesday states. But Bernie Kerik is never far from the picture.

Huckabee should not be counted out in the move southward. Romney can also play the spoiler.

A fractured GOP might just turn to someone not currently in the race. Former House Speaker Newt Gingrich has been extremely flirtatious and could be very susceptible to a draft movement -- especially one he launches.

And here's a real long shot wild card. Republicans could turn to a man who has a war record, a distinguished if not unblemished career as a Cabinet officer and who has served as a role model to the point where he was once considered a candidate to be the first African American president.

Colin Powell, will the GOP turn its lonely eyes to you? It's as crazy as any other scenario where Romney thinks he is still the front runner based on winning the caucus in Dick Cheney's home state.

Stranger things have happened. What ever happened to Hillary's inevitability?

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