Mitt Romney's Expensive Self-Immolation
Clinton and McCain Rebound to Take N.H. Romney 2nd in GOP Contest; Iowa Winner Huckabee Is 3rd
By Michael D. Shear and Juliet Eilperin Washington Post Staff Writers Wednesday, January 9, 2008; A01
MANCHESTER, N.H., Jan. 8 -- Sen. John McCain of Arizona, the early Republican front-runner whose campaign imploded last summer, handily won the New Hampshire primary Tuesday, dealing former Massachusetts governor Mitt Romney his second loss in the GOP nomination contest.
. . . For Romney, who has invested more than $20 million of his own money in his campaign, the second-place finish is devastating. His methodical campaign was built on the idea that victories in Iowa and New Hampshire would propel him to the nomination. But accusations that he is a flip-flopper dragged him down as he waged a multi-front campaign against both McCain and Huckabee.
Romney, who had led polls for months in New Hampshire, vowed Tuesday to continue his campaign, asserting that his twin second-place showings to two different candidates mean he is the only contender who is broadly competitive across the country. In a brief concession speech, Romney vowed to go "on to Michigan and South Carolina and Florida and Nevada and states after that," adding: "I'll fight to be back here in November, in those states and in others."
$20 million gone out of the old personal pocket and the final tab depends upon the size of Mitt's ego and his willingness to engage in that sweaty old Vegas loser's strategy of doubling-down; double the bet, double it again and then once more in a desperate bid to get even.
It can work. It takes deep pockets and Mitt has deep pockets, but they were always his own pockets. $9 million in outside contribution doesn't show a whole lot of Republican faith in the guy behind the dice.
He's spent $20 million of his own so far and we've seen Steve Forbes and Ross Perot play that game, with nothing to show for it but a variably sized hole in the family fortune.
Two 2nd place finishes are the devil's work, if you happen to believe in the devil. 'Close' is the temptation of the weak or the self-indulgent and no one so far has accused Mitt Romney of weakness. Not personal weakness anyway.
But he kicked his own legs out from under himself by showing that flicker of willingness to say anything, do anything, be anything in order to win. Poker players clean out a guy like that--he telegraphs a busted hand by that flicker, the furtive glance, the salesman's grin of acceptance.
My sense of it is that America isn't ready for salesman's snake-oil. America wants a candidate to show some anger at coming in 2nd second twice. The country needs fire in the belly instead of ever-expanding menus of platitude and too much willingness to cover the check.
But it's high-theater to watch the rich go up in flames when they personally pay to strike the match.