If there is a man in politics right now who can't seem to get no respect, it has to be Mitt Romney. He is very much like the weak and skinny kid at the beach, who keeps getting sand kicked in his face by the boorish jock. Every time he tries to assert himself, people and events slap him around and push him back to the ground.
Race in Hell
Romney has been suffering these indignities throughout the presidential race, beginning on the very day he announced his campaign for the GOP nomination in New Hampshire on June 3 last year. He was overshadowed that day by Sarah Palin's visit to the same state, where she had a clam bake as part of her "nationwide" publicity tour. In an ABC News interview with Romney, he was questioned more on the fact that Palin didn't announce her own candidacy than the fact that he did.
In the months leading up to the primaries, Republican voters seemed reluctant to fully embrace Romney, and rather gave every person who entered the race for the GOP nomination the instant lead in the polls -- as if desperate for anyone but him.
First up was Minnesota's Michele Bachmann, announcing her campaign in June, who immediately surged in popularity and appeared a serious challenge to Romney. She just as quickly faded as Texas Governor Rick Perry came into the picture. His poor showings in the September debates, however, opened the door for Herman Cain, who energized the base with his legendary 999 tax plan. Unfortunately, Cain was hit by sexual allegation stories that forced him out of the race in December 2011.
Cain's ignominious exit finally opened the door for Newt Gingrich. He had "officially" launched his campaign back in May, but most people had dismissed it as a publicity stunt for his new book. Suddenly gaining traction, he quickly bested Romney in popularity in national polls, and he proved a fiery debater who consistently outshone the field.
Shaken and Stirred
The GOP primaries were not smooth sailings for Romney. He was forced to split the first two in Iowa and New Hampshire with Rick Santorum, who was declared the winner in Iowa by 34 votes. Then, Newt Gingrich trounced him in the South Carolina primary, taking 40% of the votes to Romney's 28%.
Romney still couldn't close the deal on Super Tuesday, March 6, when he carried only six states, while Santorum carried three, and a fast-fading Gingrich, dogged by past controversies, took his home state of Georgia. While in the subsequent twelve events that March, none of the other rivals could make significant gains on Romney, he still could not convince his own party that he deserved their full endorsement. It wasn't until the final week of April before the RNC officially declared him the presumptive nominee and backed him fully.
Romney finally seemed to seize the reigns of destiny in his bid for the White House. He began beating Obama in fundraising and taking center stage in the national political dialogue. Yet, heading to the Republican National Convention for his GOP crown, Mother Nature took her turn at kicking sand in his face through Hurricane Isaac, which wreck havoc precisely during the same week the convention took place in Florida. Contrary to what Politico theorizes, Romney's failure to jumpstart his campaign had nothing to do with his acceptance speech or the turbulence within his organization. The fact is that media coverage was more concerned about the storm's path of destruction than the fist-pounding at the podium. The rambling "empty chair" speech by Clint Eastwood didn't help either, but that was still a sidebar to Hurricane Isaac. As a result, Romney never got the expected "bump" in the polls, which Obama got for himself at the Democratic convention later.
Today, Romney appears desperate to shake off the bad luck that has been such a drag on his campaign, but his quick jabs at Obama have often proven inadvisable, ill-timed -- or simply ignored. His criticizing of Obama after the killing of U.S. Ambassador to Libya J. Christopher Stevens was deemed inappropriate, for example. But even worse, the subsequent, violent protests in the region have completely taken the focus away from his campaign, to the point where his own supporters and party members question whether he actually has any ability to beat Obama after all.
With the presidential debates just weeks away, Romney supporters wonder if their man has even a ghost of a chance against someone who is arguably a sharper, more focused, more articulate speaker; a man who could probably give even the Great Communicator himself, Ronald Reagan, a run for his money. The memories of Romney's often poor showing during the primary debates are still fresh in their minds. They are poking this lethargic beast that is the Mitt Romney presidential campaign, trying to get it to pick up its pace. The finish line draws dangerously near and their man, while still staying close to Obama, seems to be running out of breath -- and out of time.