Clearly Mitt Romney is the Rodney Dangerfield of American politics. He "gets no respect"- anywhere. A strange consensus has emerged among the Punditocracy of both Left and Right. They even seem to be using the same phrase book.
Romney hasn't "made the sale", can't "close the deal", doesn't "excite the base", fails to "connect with orsdinary people", is "dull, gaffe prone", and lacks eloquence or humor.
Even when he wins, it’s never good enough. States he wins are discounted because he once lived there or has a summer home there (Michigan, Massachusetts, and New Hampshire). Other winning jurisdictions are dismissed because a lot of Mormons live there (Nevada, Arizona, Idaho, American Samoa).
When he wins key swing states like Ohio, or Michigan his margin is "too small", but when he comes very close in states where he wasn't even supposed to be competitive (Alabama, Mississippi) he gets little credit.
In times past a highly organized, well- funded national campaign was viewed as a sign of impressive strength (e.g. Bush 2004, Obama 2008) but with Romney these same attributes are merely reasons to devalue any success he enjoys.
As the multi-candidate GOP road show rolled across the country in every contest the mainstream media (and many conservatives) were inclined to add up all the votes of Romney's competitors and declare them not votes for, say Newt Gingrich, or Ron Paul, but votes "against Romney".
The companion narrative to all this is that the Republican Party with its divisive, negative, unending Primary campaign, second rate candidates, and woeful front-runner is in the act of committing electoral suicide with Obama as joyful spectator, and beneficiary. The sum of all these fears is that continuing Republican follies combined with a reviving economy mean that once bright GOP prospects in this historically critical election are rapidly turning dark.
What's wrong with this picture? A lot. An awful lot.
Let's start by asking why the Democratic National Committee and the labor unions are spending millions of dollars running ads against only one GOP candidate: Romney. Why did the Democratic Party in Michigan and other states allowing cross-overs quietly urge their followers to "Go vote for Santorum"?
The answer to these questions is that the Democrats have known all along that Romney will be a very formidable opponent for Obama in the fall.
They know that he will compete very well for those independent voters who decide every Presidential election. They know that Romney's negatives among independents which went up in the wake of blistering attacks by his GOP rivals can go down just as quickly, as the volatile polls of this political season have repeatedly demonstrated.
The Democrats are not buying the conventional wisdom that the bitter GOP primaries have fatally damaged Republican prospects because they remember very well how quickly their own party came together in the wake of the monumental slugging match between Hillary and Obama.
While the Republicans are wringing hands over Romney's relative weak performance with the "very conservative" or "Evangelical" demographic, Democrats know that those "clingers to guns and religion" will rise from their death beds to vote for absolutely anyone who might save them from Obama. What Democrats are very alert to is that Romney does very well with precisely that segment of the electorate that was vital to Obama in 2008: suburban white women, the affluent, the college graduates, and professionals. They also know that the youth vote so critical for Obama in 2008 is much less enthusiastic this time around, and will be buried numerically by Romney's best voting bloc- Senior citizens.
All things considered the outlook for Romney and the Republican Party is far from bleak.
Ignoring the fact that I - like most political sages in this strange year- have been flat out wrong again and again, herewith my fearless forecast for the twisting electoral road immediately ahead-
March 24 Louisiana (46 delegates): A wounded Newt's last chance at any electoral credibility. Santorum needs it, but the active support of highly popular Gov. Bobby Jindal gives Romney a good chance to make a very competitive race.
April 3 Washington D.C. (19 delegates), Maryland (37 delegates), and Wisconsin (42 delegates): A Romney sweep (Santorum didn't even make the ballot in "winner take all" D.C.).
Beyond this point, polling shows Romney to be favored in fourteen of the nineteen remaining Primary states. Even a Gingrich withdrawal can't save Santorum as recent polls show 40% of Newt's supporters going to Romney.
Around this time billionaire Foster Friess- the financial backbone of Santorum's painfully unorganized and amateurish national campaign- begins to have second thoughts. Simultaneously the numerous unpledged delegates begin their inevitable migration to Romney.
Prediction: Romney will have the magic 1,144 delegates well before Mormon Utah's "winner take all" primary on June 26th.
William Moloney's columns have appeared in the Wall St. Journal, USA Today, Washington Post, Philadelphia Inquirer, Baltimore Sun, Washington Times, Denver Post, and Human Events.