If politics is a zero-sum game, there has to be at least one winner, right? But to read the latest news from the top three Republican presidential campaigns, it sounds like every campaign is in disarray, or close to it. Mitt Romney's donors are mad he didn't lock things down after winning Florida, and Politico offers five steps to totally makeover his campaign as tons of Republican officials anonymously offer advice that he stop doing pretty much all the things he's been doing. Rick Santorum is trying to look presidential -- that means not talking about how JFK makes him barf -- and not succeeding. Newt Gingrich's supporters are asking him to quit. The 2012 Republican primary is struggling through its awkward stage.
Mitt Romney told some of his biggest donors to just relax, everything's going to be okay, at breakfast and lunch events at New York's Waldorf-Astoria Wednesday, The New York Times' Ashley Parker and Nicholas Confessore report. His friends in high places are "frustrated with the narrative that has begun to crystallize around Mr. Romney as an out-of-touch, gaffe-prone politician who cannot connect with voters." They ask, why didn't he take a huge lead after his victory in Florida? Why didn't he try harder to win Mississippi? Would he still get delegates even in the states he lost? (The last one, at least, could be answered with a concrete yes.) “It’s going to be a long tough road, but we’re going to rough it out, and we’re going to be the nominee,” Romney fundraiser John Catsimatidis told the Times.
But if Romney's going to rough it out, he needs a makeover, Politico's Maggie Haberman argues. His supporters anonymously advice he stop talking about delegates, stop talking about himself, stop predicting victory, stop talking about grits if you're going to be so awkward about it that everyone cringes. Embrace being rich. And he needs a real message, she writes. "Go out and talk about your conservative bona fides," one supporter told Politico. Another said, ”You’ve got to fully engage... run to win, not run to not lose.”
Rick Santorum appears to finally be able to envision himself actually winning the election, The New York Times' Katharine Q. Seelye reports. He's trying to sound more presidential, but he's not very good at it yet, she writes. When meeting with the governor of Puerto Rico Wednesday, he wore a suit, not a sweater vest. That made for a nice image. But there was still some JV awkwardness, like when he met with some veterans at a restaurant, and then, at the end of the event, instead of leaving himself, Santorum's campaign just had a new group, businesspeople, file in. And though he's said he'd stop talking about hurling when he thinks of John F. Kennedy's speech on the separation of church and state, he can't help himself. Seelye reports:
Mr. Santorum started by complimenting the former president... “But,” Mr. Santorum added, “he went far too far in separating out faith in the public square absolutely, and that’s what he said, he said people of faith have no role in public discourse. That is, of course, incorrect. That is not what the First Amendment says.”
Nor was it what Kennedy had said. But Mr. Santorum was off and rolling, and he was far more passionate on this topic than anything else that came up during his day.
He also said Puerto Rico couldn't become a state unless it make English the official language. The Constitution does not require this.
Gingrich's campaign has fallen so far that it's mostly discussed in terms of which other campaign his zombie candidacy hurts. Most argue that Gingrich's staying in the race, despite winning only his home state and South Carolina. Politico's Ginger Gibson talked to Gingrich supporters who took that view. Richard Land, president of The Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission, told her "I know there are people who have been talking to him and have been calling on him to pull out and endorse Rick but so far, they have been unsuccessful." (Land himself hasn't endorsed anyone.) An anonymous supporter worried:
"If he is staying in to somehow thwart Romney at the convention, that would be fine with me... But I would have to be convinced of his plan. If he is staying in it just because he can, I think that is selfish... I think his getting out now benefits Santorum. If that hurts Romney, fine. My trouble is, I would hate to see Santorum get the nomination.”
But ABC News' Gregory J. Krieg argues that maybe it's Romney who Gingrich hurts by staying in the race. Krieg declares the "Gingtorum" vote a myth -- Gingrich voters tend to value experience, and that's not one of Santorum's strengths. But if both Gingrich keeps getting delegates, he could throw them all to Santorum at the convention, blocking Romney. If Gingrich quits the race, that removes a path to victory for Santorum.
Unfortunately, no one is arguing that Newt Gingrich's staying in the race helps Newt Gingrich.
If all three of these guys are losing -- and Ron Paul, too, who has failed to win anything -- doesn't one of them has to be losing less bad than the others? That would probably have to be Romney, who's still way ahead in delegates.