You'd think Mitt Romney had a good night last night if you just looked at the numbers. He swept two very different states, one in the shrinking Rust Belt and one in the growing Southwest. He won 40 delegates and came back from a 10-point deficit to win Michigan by 3 points. If self-identified Democrats hadn't voted overwhelmingly for Santorum in an explicit bid to hurt the Republican Party, Romney would have won by 8 points, CBS News reports. But you're probably not just reading the numbers. You're reading the blogs and the newspapers, which have decided that Michigan, a "crucial test" according to everyone yesterday, didn't really count, and that Romney merely "staved off disaster," as the Los Angeles Times puts it.
Romney has faced so many "crucial tests" -- measuring his appeal to conservatives and non-wealthy whites -- he must feel like an overtested elementary school student tortured by No Child Left Behind. But now Romney faces a new "big test": Ohio. Ohio will be the final arbiter of whether Romney is, basically, good enough. But before we analyze Romney's chances in this test, let's look back a the crucial tests Romney has already passed.
- "The real crucial test for him is New Hampshire. That is his firewall." -- Bloomberg News' Lisa Lerer on Political Capital with Al Hunt, December 23, 2011
- "Unaligned N.H. vote a test for Romney" -- Boston Globe, December 27, 2011
- "Romney faces big test today in N.H." -- Boston Globe, January 11, 2012
- "Santorum could test Romney in South Carolina" -- Charlotte Observer, January 5, 2012
- "In South Carolina, Hopes Of Passing a Crucial Test" -- The New York Times, January 10, 2012. The article states: "South Carolina is an important test of [Romney's] ability to appeal to his party's base."
- "S.C. a test for Romney, its governor" -- Atlanta Journal-Constitution, January 11, 2012
- "South Carolina is Romney's big test - and rivals' last chance" -- The Washington Post, January 16, 2012
- "Gingrich, Romney face ultimate test" -- CNN, January 21, 2012
(In fairness, Romney failed this "crucial test" when Newt Gingrich beat him.)
- "Mitt Romney's next big test isn't N.H. or S.C., it's Florida" -- Christian Science Monitor, January 5, 2012
- "Lawmakers can think what they want, but voters outside New Hampshire have simply not warmed to Romney, who now faces a crucial test in Tuesday’s primary in Florida." -- editorial in The Hill, January 25, 2012
- "Romney passes mega-state test" -- editorial in The Dallas Morning News, February 1, 2012
- "Passing a crucial test among conservatives" -- The Washington Post, February 1, 2012
- "Michigan primary a crucial test for Romney" -- Detroit Free Press, February 12, 2012
- "A poll-battered Mitt Romney faces a crucial test in his home state of Michigan tomorrow." -- Boston Herald, February 27, 2012
- "A Crucial Test for Romney" -- Wall Street Journal, February 28, 2012
And now Ohio
- "Romney's Double Win Sets Up Next Big Test in Super Tuesday Races" -- San Francisco Chronicle, February 29, 2012. "Mitt Romney's double-barreled victory in the Arizona and Michigan primaries yesterday gave him a burst of momentum in the Republican presidential race as the contest shifts to Southern states and Ohio, where his appeal among evangelical and working class voters will be tested anew."
- "Ohio on Super Tuesday next week will be a fairer test between the two candidates, since Romney won’t have a home-field advantage." -- Rich Lowry at Fox News. (And since we're noting certain echoes: Lowry's headline? "Romney's great escape." Which happens to be the exact same headline from John Dickerson's story at Slate on January 8 about Romney's performance in a debate.)
Romney has faced so many "crucial tests" in the last three months that if you go through the stories warning of them archived on Lexis Nexis, you catch yourself thinking, What a weird sounding word -- crew- shul. What does 'crucial' mean anyway? The word has lost all meaning.