Mitt Romney is now talking and acting like the Republican Party’s presidential nominee. He hasn’t won all the delegates he needs, but failing a catastrophic turn of events, he will be the man to face Barack Obama in November.
He still has a number of primaries to negotiate, including those in big states like Texas and California. Romney should win them all handsomely. Ron Paul says he’ll stay in the race until the party’s convention in August but Newt Gingrich is expected to drop out next week, with an endorsement for Romney.
Republicans, who have for so long been cold to Romney and hoped someone else may step into the contest, now seem to accept that while he may not have been their first choice to beat Obama, he is now the only one. The remaining contests are about him taking a victory lap, raising money and strengthening his organisation in battleground states.
Those are pretty straightforward tasks for a campaign which has appeared organised, disciplined and well-funded. The biggest issue might be making sure the candidate is ready for the fight.
The former Massachusetts governor has made some serious missteps which have cost time, money and much more importantly support.
He has been campaigning for the nomination for the best part of six years, has built a national organisation and raised an incredible amount of money. Yet some the problems he’s had can be blamed on one person – the candidate himself.
Tactically, his game needs to be sharp. The Obama Machine has had four years to prepare it’s battled hardened and ready to go.
Romney lost Colorado in the primary process because he believed, having won there four years ago, victory was certain. Rick Santorum saw an opportunity while Romney was trying to beat off a resurgent Newt Gingrich and took the state. Added to victories on the same day in Minnesota and Missouri, Santorum became a significant threat to Romney’s nomination procession and that extended the nomination fight for two months.
That meant Romney had to divert more money into the primary campaign, cutting in to his war chest, spent more time fighting off serious and perhaps even damaging criticism from his fellow Republicans and had to hold off turning his full attention on the Obama administration.
Then there is the tendency for Mitt Romney to put himself into awkward positions by not articulating his position properly. In February, the day after a significant win in the Florida primary, he killed much of the momentum by going on TV stating “I’m not concerned about the very poor” a truly clumsy way of saying he would concentrate his efforts on middle-class voters.
Later that month, while campaigning in Michigan, the state where he grew up and which has nearly 9 per cent unemployment, he told a crowd his wife drives a couple of Cadillacs. And a few days after attending the Daytona 500 car race, he said "I have some great friends who are NASCAR owners" comments which critics claim were privileged and elitist.
Romney won five state primaries this week in New York, Rhode Island, Connecticut, Delaware and Pennsylvania. His victory speech essentially marked the start of the general election campaign. This was about putting Obama in his sights, highlighting what he sees as the errors of the current administration and giving a broad-brush outline of his own campaign. It boils down to talking about jobs, the economy and again, jobs.
The ability to continue to return focus on to Obama and his record over the past three and a half years has been a highlight for the Romney campaign. To be successful it has to continue to operate with assured consistency. And so does the candidate himself.