Thursday, January 27, 2011

Romney and the GOP Detente

In the 2008 cycle, candidates started early. As noted in a previous post, Mitt Romney formed his exploratory committee on January 3, 2007. Reid Wilson reports at National Journal:

As presidential candidates jockey for position ahead of next year’s nominating contests, Republicans in New Hampshire believe that the race will come down to former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney—and the rest. If Romney is to be defeated, both friends and foes say, someone will have to emerge as the anti-Romney consensus.

At least, that’s the conventional wisdom among the Granite State’s political class. But what has them scratching their heads is a more fundamental question: Where, exactly, has Romney gone?

He has not held a public event in New Hampshire since late October. His next scheduled stop is an address to the Carroll County Republican Committee’s annual Lincoln-Reagan dinner, on March 5. As other contenders hit the trail, Romney has left his best battleground undefended for four months.

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Romney benefits, perhaps more so than his rivals, from the d├ętente that’s preventing the 2012 campaign from kicking off in earnest. Until the campaign gets under way, he will not suffer the slings and arrows sure to head his way once it starts. As the perceived front-runner, Romney will become an easy foil for long shots, and for anyone determined to be the anti-Romney.

The seeming lack of urgency extends beyond Romney to the rest of the field. After the grueling pace that political professionals kept over the last three cycles, all of which produced tumultuous political climates, starting the next cycle so early holds little appeal. Jumping into a presidential race early, strategists for many contenders point out, means that a candidate has to start spending resources earlier.

“One of the lessons we learned from the last campaign is that things got started way too soon. Mitt is in no hurry to make an announcement,” [Romney spokesman Eric] Fehrnstrom said. Added the adviser who asked to remain anonymous: “There was a real fatigue in the campaign four years ago. It was a long slog.”