Down and pretty close to out in Grand Cayman

It’s not over yet for Romney, as many unpredictable things can happen in life and politics.

Romney could be the only presidential candidate since 1996 to exit the primaries with net negative approval [EPA]

Columbus, OH – Rick Santorum has finally sauntered off the big stage, leaving him with plenty of time to lament the length of high school girls’ skirts and bark at the moon about its nocturnal promiscuity.

So you’d think it would be high times for Team Romney, right? Wrong.

What once seemed like it would be the GOP’s race to lose, or at the very least a spirited general election contest, has seen Mitt Romney and what remained of his party’s brand deconstructed and defenstrated. To put it in Yogi-Berra parlance, for the Romney Campaign, “it got late early out there”.

Sure Santorum is technically gone, but he’ll be with Romney for the rest of this race. Every time the former Massachusetts Governor has to answer to an independently-inclined woman in the Milwaukee or Philadelphia suburbs about why he’d “get rid” of Planned Parenthood, or explain to a Latino family in Las Vegas or Phoenix why he’d “veto” the Dream Act, the ever-cherubic apparition of a sweater-vest-clad Santorum will be smiling gaily over his shoulder.

There is no doubt that some things are beyond Romney’s control. The falling unemployment rate. The Dow’s hitting and now hovering around 13,000. The delay in creating those three jobs, building that car elevator thingy that takes you between the garage and the stadium-sized basement in Romney’s third house (and favourite structure not located in the Grand Caymans). These were all unexpected.

People & Power – Promo: Mitt Romney and the Mormon factor

But not putting Santorum away early while outspending him like 9:1, so that the social-issue firebrand could stick around and pull the primary so far right Attila the Hun would have been a moderate? Mitt has only himself and his ever marvellous personality to blame for that.

Very unpopular

The end result – because of Santorum’s squatting in the race as long as he did, while taking a rhetorical hatchet to Romney in much the same language as Democrats did, Romney is so unpopular right now if his dog Seamus were still around, he might put Romney in the dog kennel on top of the car.

According to CNN polling, the Governor will be the only presidential candidate since 1996 to exit the primaries with a net negative approval rating.

If want the thumbnail sketch, just take a look at North Carolina. This is a state President Obama barely won in 2008, bringing it into swing state territory for the first time in a generation of electing right-winger Jesse Helms to the Senate consistently. Changing demographics have moved the state to the Left, no doubt, but going into this election most observers would call it a lean-Republican state if they were being honest.

Yet, at this point, Obama is up 5 points, 49 per cent to 44 per cent. And the internals of this Public Policy Polling survey tells the story of how badly Romney is doing. This man, who seems like he has been running for President since the Ford Administration, is only viewed positively by 29 per cent of voters in the Tar Heel State, with a whopping 58 per cent viewing him unfavourably.

Basically, he’d have to make a pretty steep climb north just to reach the favourability level of Kanye West or Encephalitis.

It is not over yet for Romney, as there are many unpredictable things that can happen in life and politics (think terrorist attack, economic crash, or perhaps mass hypnosis of American voters). But one thing is for sure – he’d better start Etch A Sketching. Stat.

Cliff Schecter is the President of Libertas, LLC, a progressive public relations firm, and the author of the 2008 bestseller The Real McCain.

Follow him on Twitter: @Cliffschecter