The recent endorsement of former Speaker of the House Newt Gingrich by the key New Hampshire newspaper, Union Leader, is the latest roadblock on Mitt Romney’s path to the GOP presidential nomination. The endorsement is also evidence that the former Massachusetts governor is indeed standing weak among Republican voters.
However, the “anti-Romneys” – GOP presidential candidates who have alternatively shared the top tier of the GOP polls – are actually helping Romney’s campaign by shielding the candidate from the continuous and eroding scrutiny he would otherwise have to endure as a lone front-runner.
Texas Governor Rick Perry, pizza tycoon Herman Cain, and now Gingrich have in turn enjoyed the perks that come with front-runner status – such as the kind of media exposure that provides national name recognition and potentially attracts donors and supporters. Nevertheless, by sucking up a big part of the media oxygen with often extreme and erratic performances, the “anti-Romneys” have made their opponent look steady and moderate by comparison, potentially helping him with centrist voters during the general election, if he indeed ends up winning the GOP primary.
The “anti-Romneys” are also helping Romney’s campaign (arguably, the Republican field’s best-funded and best-organized) by lending it underdog status as the media portray them as conservative dark horses ready to rally a supposedly angry and dissatisfied base (i.e. the Tea Party).
Romney’s strategists have been very content to stay below the radar for now, which has permitted them to maintain the campaign’s war chest by saving money that otherwise would have to be spent in early television ads in a game of defense against the media and other candidates. Romney, the establishment favorite, has also been able to avoid media overexposure and reserve his attacks for President Barack Obama specifically.
The consecutive meltdowns – like when Perry forgot both the voting age and the general election date, Cain “reassessed” his campaign after new sexual harassment allegations surfaced, and Gingrich tripped on immigration by promoting a very non-conservative policy towards it – have helped Romney by making him appear consistent. This has driven key endorsements to his campaign – such as the recent backing of Cuban-American lawmakers in Florida, which will help Romney woo Hispanic voters and solidify support in this important battleground state, while strengthening his perception of electability.
Timing is everything in politics. And the most important contribution that the “anti-Romneys” have made to Romney’s presidential campaign is saving it from the electoral fatigue produced by an early and perceived-as-inevitable frontrunner from the party’s establishment. This is what contributed to bring down the campaign of former Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton when she ran for the Democratic presidential nomination in 2008. That is why the more fringe characters parade as “front-runners” in the media primary, the better for Romney, who will continue his slow but steady march towards the GOP presidential nomination.
Photo Credit: Gage Skidmore