On Tuesday, turnout was below the levels in 2008. Republicans are fervent in their desire to defeat the president in November but can’t work up much enthusiasm for their candidates. That is especially true of the designated front-runner. One lesson out of the first nine contests is that, when Romney does not have a built-in advantage, he must rely on negative campaigns to win.

Two of his victories came on friendly turf: New Hampshire, where proximity to Massachusetts helped him, and Nevada, where the sizable Mormon population was an asset. On more neutral terrain, he owes much of his success to the power of negative campaigning. He almost won the Iowa caucuses, and came close only after he and the super PAC behind his candidacy spent millions trashing Gingrich with negative ads. Romney’s victory in Florida came after another heavy investment in attack ads aimed at the former speaker…

“I’m sure that right now, the Romney campaign bulldozer is slowly turning and grinding its way forward to roll over and crush Rick Santorum with negatives,” said Alex Castellanos, a GOP strategist. “However, Romney is winning tactically, not strategically. He can’t seem to find a way to win the war. Instead, he has been reduced to fighting and winning 50 separate state-by-state battles, with more money, power and negatives instead of message.”