Just off the top of my head, I can recall at least half a dozen pieces over the last ten days in the Wall Street Journal, National Review Online, the Weekly Standard, etc., that all urged Mitt Romney to develop a big idea or two, a message, a vision. For reasons known only to Gov. Romney and his advisors, he never did. The result?
From Byron York’s report in today’s Washington Examiner:
The shift to Santorum was fast and overwhelming. In the end, Santorum beat Romney by 27 points in a state [Minnesota] Romney had won by 19 points back in 2008. Santorum scored an even bigger victory in Missouri’s beauty-contest, nonbinding primary, beating Romney by 30 points. And even in Colorado, where the race was closer, Santorum came out ahead. For a candidate who hadn’t won since his narrow and belated victory in Iowa, it was three victories in one night. Santorum has now won four contests to Romney’s three and Gingrich’s one….
On Tuesday morning, as it became clear Romney would not have a good night, his campaign’s political director, Rich Beeson, sent out a memo trying to put things in perspective. “John McCain lost 19 states in 2008, and we expect our opponents to notch a few wins too,” Beeson wrote. “But unlike the other candidates, our campaign has the resources and organization to keep winning over the long run.”…
After the returns came in, I asked Santorum spokesman Hogan Gidley what he thought about Rich Beeson’s message. Sure, Santorum did well on Tuesday, but doesn’t Romney have the money and infrastructure to outdistance Santorum, and everyone else, in the long run?
“What an inspiring message,” Gidley said sarcastically. “That is really inspiring. I can’t wait to put a bumper sticker on my truck that says MONEY-INFRASTRUCTURE 2012.”
“No one had more money and infrastructure than Hillary Clinton, and hope and change wiped her off the map,” Gidley continued. “We’ll have money, and we’ll have infrastructure, but our nominee has to have a message that people can get behind and inspires people.”
Gingrich and Paul represent non-factors, at least for now, while Romney has been placed, to a really astonishing extent, on the defensive–if he achieves anything less than an enormous victory in Michigan he’ll look vulnerable. Money and organization still count for a great deal, of course, and the Intrade odds that show Romney the heavy favorite to capture the nomination remain plausible.
But this is Rick Santorum’s moment.