Warning signs for RomneyBy Alexander Burns
July 06. 2011 7:27PM
Mitt Romney has spent the past few months shoring up his position as the Republican presidential front-runner, and the news today that he raised $18.25 million helps confirm that he's still the man to beat.
In the time since Romney formed a presidential exploratory committee, however, there have also been a number of signs that the man to beat remains extremely beatable. Here are a few of them:
His fundraising quarter wasn't bad, but it wasn't a tour de force either. Raising $18.25 million puts Romney way ahead of the GOP pack but behind Romney's own 2007 performance in his first quarter as a declared candidate. It's half what George W. Bush raised during his first quarter in 1999 and well below Romney's own initial goals. A bigger number from Romney - north of $30 million - would have shown that he was on his way to cornering the market on major-donor support. As it is, he can't come close to saying that.
His polling is solid, but stalled. In an April WMUR/University of New Hampshire poll, Romney had 36 percent support in the Granite State. In a new WMUR/UNH poll released yesterday, that number was 35 percent. For a candidate who's had a strong couple of months, delivering his own message well and facing virtually no attacks from other Republicans, the lack of movement is troubling. There's been little polling out of Iowa and South Carolina, but Romney's numbers there have been less formidable. Nationally, his polling has improved, but it's almost always stuck in the 20 and 30 percent range, raising the prospect that there's a ceiling on his support.
His personal shortcomings haven't disappeared. The biggest vulnerability in Romney's operation may be the candidate himself, whose awkwardness and tone-deafness on the stump are already cropping up as potential areas of concern. In a business where one bad gaffe can make the difference between political life and death, Romney is living on the edge.
In late April, he stumbled at an Americans for Prosperity dinner in New Hampshire by saying that Republicans would 'hang' President Obama with his economic record. In mid-June, Romney drew a derisive response from Democrats when he joked to a group of out-of-work Floridians: 'I'm also unemployed.' Over the last week, Romney has struggled to explain why he briefly denied arguing that Obama had made the economy 'worse,' when he has said so quite plainly on numerous occasions.
The fundamentals of the campaign are still largely in Romney's favor, with the most important piece of that being the absence - so far - of a strong Republican challenger. You can't beat someone with no one, and the anti-Romney wing of the GOP hasn't figured out who their someone is going to be. But while there's not exactly blood in the water yet, there's plenty of data to confirm that Romney remains quite vulnerable.
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