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November 28th, 2011

Déjà vu: Is Romney About See It All Slip Away Yet Again?

Since the moment that John McCain lost the 2008 presidential election to Barack Obama, Mitt Romney was anointed as the frontrunner to win the Republican presidential nomination in 2012. Even though five different candidates have led in national polls this year, Romney has been considered the race’s only legitimate frontrunner, mainly because of the consistency of his poll numbers and his fundraising ability.

Even with the volatility of the polls, Romney has seen every candidate who has risen in the polls self-destruct once they faced the scrutiny of being a frontrunner. So, while it has become clear that the electorate isn’t all that excited about Romney being the Republican nominee, nobody has yet to mount an effective campaign to replace him as the Republican frontrunner.

In many respects, Romney and his campaign team have to feel good about where they are positioned at the beginning of December. Romney has what seems to be an insurmountable lead in New Hampshire and is now dedicating more resources to Iowa. But Romney also finds himself in a familiar situation to where he was four years ago – stagnate, while other candidates seem to be gaining momentum.

At this time four years ago, Mike Huckabee had momentum in Iowa and began to become the conservative alternative to Romney. In New Hampshire, Romney had a substantial lead, but he and John McCain were in a dead heat in the national polls, trailing Rudy Giuliani and Fred Thompson. Still at the time, most believed that Romney would win Iowa and New Hampshire, which would have quickly ended the nomination contest.

While mainstream political pundits have declared him a winner in every debate because he didn’t take any direct shots from his competitors, he has also failed to deliver a noteworthy or impressive performance and has struggled at times to outshine what many consider to be a weak field of candidates. Romney’s inability to outshine his competition on the debate stage may explain why the polls have been so volatile.

Even thought Romney seems to be well positioned, he is in real danger of having to relive what happened to him four years ago. Just as he never really thought Mike Huckabee was ever an actual threat to him in Iowa, the anti-Romney sentiment is stronger than I can ever remember it being in Iowa. Most of that is of Romney’s own doing. His hands-off approach to Iowa has inflicted unnecessary damage to his campaign.

His biggest Iowa critic to date is Governor Terry Branstad, not WHO Radio’s Jan Mickelson, who had an altercation with Romney on the state’s largest radio station during the last cycle. By not investing more time campaigning in Iowa and skipping some multi-candidate events like the National Association of Manufacturers’ forum in Pella and other friendly GOP events, Romney has turned up his nose to the type of Republican voter who he could have otherwise easily won over.

With Just over a month to go, it seems likely that either Newt Gingrich or another candidate who can consolidate the state’s ample social conservatives around his or her campaign will win Iowa. While losing Iowa wouldn’t be a deadly blow to Romney’s presidential hopes, his big investment in New Hampshire might not provide him with the fail-safe win he might be counting on.

Romney is expected to easily win New Hampshire. In the Real Clear Politics poll average, Romney has an 18-point lead over his closest competitor. It’s very possible that New Hampshire has been rendered irrelevant since Romney has such a commanding lead there. Or worse, if Romney can’t meet or exceed expectations in New Hampshire, his campaign could suffer.

Just as it seems impossible for candidates like Rick Perry and Michele Bachmann regain the momentum their campaigns once had, Romney also seems to be stuck in neutral as the race enters its final phase before the Iowa caucuses. As we saw four years ago, Romney was unable to slow down the momentum that Mike Huckabee and John McCain were able to generate. Both passed Romney like he was standing still.

It seems as if that’s about to happen again. While everyone wrote off Newt Gingrich in the summer, there is no doubt that he has a real head of steam. In a nomination cycle as unpredictable as this one, it would also be foolish to write off Rick Perry, Michele Bachmann, Rick Santorum, or even Ron Paul.

The only thing that seems to be certain is that the Romney campaign has once again fallen into the trap of thinking that they can win the nomination by simply surviving. That may work in theory, but politics is all about timing and seizing opportunities. Romney has done neither in this election.

There is a real possibility that the 2012 Republican nomination might give Romney a case of déjà vu. What once seemed so certain may again slip though his fingers because he let other candidates gain momentum.


Photo by Dave Davidson,

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About the Author

Craig Robinson
Craig Robinson is the founder and editor-in-chief of, a political news and commentary site he launched in March of 2009. Robinson’s political analysis is respected across party lines, which has allowed him to build a good rapport with journalist across the country. Robinson has also been featured on Iowa Public Television’s Iowa Press, ABC’s This Week, and other local television and radio programs. Campaign’s & Elections Magazine recognized Robinson as one of the top influencers of the 2012 Iowa Caucuses. A 2013 Politico article sited Robinson and as the “premier example” of Republican operatives across the country starting up their own political news sites. His website has been repeatedly praised as the best political blog in Iowa by the Washington Post, and in January of 2015, Politico included him on the list of local reporters that matter in the early presidential states. Robinson got his first taste of Iowa politics in 1999 while serving as Steve Forbes’ southeast Iowa field coordinator where he was responsible for organizing 27 Iowa counties. In 2007, Robinson served as the Political Director of the Republican Party of Iowa where he was responsible for organizing the 2007 Iowa Straw Poll and the 2008 First-in-the-Nation Iowa Caucuses. Following the caucuses, he created his own political news and commentary site, Robinson is also the President of Global Intermediate, a national mail and political communications firm with offices in West Des Moines, Iowa, and Washington, D.C. Robinson utilizes his fundraising and communications background to service Global’s growing client roster with digital and print marketing. Robinson is a native of Goose Lake, Iowa, and a 1999 graduate of St. Ambrose University in Davenport, where he earned degrees in history and political science. Robinson lives in Ankeny, Iowa, with his wife, Amanda, and son, Luke. He is an active member of the Lutheran Church of Hope.

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