If you are a Republican who hates a mess, or if you are a member of that real but elusive and hydra-headed thing, the GOP establishment, you are beside yourself with anxiety and unhappiness. You think: “They’re losing this thing! They’re going to limp out of South Carolina, they’ll limp through Florida, they’re killing each other and killing the party’s chances. How will they look by the fall? What are independents going to think of the guy we finally put up? We all know politics ain’t beanbag, but it’s not supposed to be a clown-car Indy 500 with cars hitting the wall and guys in wigs littering the track!”
There’s been a lot of damage. We lose sense of it in the day to day, but in the aggregate it’s going to prove considerable…
Other polls have Mr. Romney in the lead, some solidly so. If Newt is rising, if he has real momentum, what are the reasons? One obvious answer: his strong debate Monday night. He was Good Newt—creative, bold, in command of the issues and of himself—and not Bad Newt, the whiny, slightly mad one. An obvious reason for Mr. Romney’s decline is the fallout from the attacks on Bain Capital, his old firm. Those attacks have not been ringingly answered, except by Dan Henninger in these pages. And there would be damage from the issue of Mr. Romney’s personal tax returns (why didn’t the Romney campaign see this coming?), the comparatively low income taxes he’s apparently paid, and revelations that he has kept offshore bank accounts in the Cayman Islands. None of these issues has been answered or explained at any length, and all are good news for the Obama campaign, whose 2012 themes will center on the rich versus the rest.
It’s possible that a solid week of pounding on these issues is dinging the main argument South Carolina Republicans give for supporting Romney: that he is the most electable candidate.