Mitt Romney’s spokespeople have been telling the media that Romney did not expect to do well in South Carolina. But their strategy of lowering expectations is not working. The Romney campaign has spent more money and built a more robust organisation in South Carolina than anyone else. They have two campaign offices in the state and has been flooding inboxes with mailers and issuing personalised robo-calls across the state. “Hello, Smith Family, I’m Mitt Romney.”
Romney also had two absolutely terrible debate performances. And he was leading in polls when the week began. So there is not going to be any “moral victory” in second place. South Carolina will be something that Romney lost.
Perhaps this is just the worst week of Mitt Romney’s inevitable nomination. He lost a caucus he thought he had won in Iowa. Rick Perry dropped out and endorsed his chief rival. The dismal weather is depressing his turnout of voters. And two great Gingrich debate performances created a bandwagon effect, that allowed anti-Mitt voters to get excited about participating in what seemed like an unlikely upset victory.
But suddenly, the idea that Mitt Romney could lose this nomination seems possible. The likelihood of his nomination on Intrade has been in free fall from 90 per cent mid-week down to percentages in the low 70s.
It’s obvious that the media has had the effect of intensifying trends. Media interest in Santorum going into Iowa helped him get a 20 point bounce. Media interest in Huntsman’s surge, lifted him from 7 per cent to 17 per cent in New Hampshire in just three days. Gingrich is getting that bandwagon surge now.
But how much blame does Romney get for losing? What kind of bounce does Gingrich get into Florida? Can Romney find a way to reverse what look like ugly trends for him? That’s what we’ll be mulling tonight as the results come in.