Thursday, February 7, 2008

Buh-Bye Mittens

Mitt Romney. photo Stephen Crowley/The New York Times.

Mitt Romney Withdraws From Campaign.

That's it on Romney.

Mitt Romney of Massachusetts withdrew from the presidential race this afternoon.

The New York Times

“This is not an easy decision for me. I hate to lose,” Mr. Romney said. “If I fight on in my campaign, all the way to the convention, I would forestall the launch of a national campaign and make it more likely that Senator Clinton or Obama would win. And in this time of war, I simply cannot let my campaign, be a part of aiding a surrender to terror,” he said during the conference. Members of the audience shouted, “No!” as Mr. Romney spoke.

Mr. Romney did not endorse John McCain in his speech. The two have clashed during this campaign over who is the real conservative.

Mr. Romney faced a series of enormous challenges in the campaign, not the least of which was trying to reconcile the moderate political views he espoused as the governor of Massachusetts, a liberal state, with the more conservative views he championed on the campaign. That tension – and his decision to change positions on a number of emotionally-charged issues, including renouncing his past support for abortion rights – led his rivals to continually lambaste him as a flip-flopper.

Then there was the question of his Mormon religion. After the candidacy of Mike Huckabee, a former Baptist preacher, exploded in Iowa, where it was fueled by evangelical voters, Mr. Romney was moved to give a major speech in Texas defending his faith and denouncing the rise of secularism.

And although Mr. Romney, a former management consultant, ran what many described as a textbook campaign, he never really recovered after failing to execute the original strategy of winning the first two contests in Iowa and New Hampshire, and using those wins to build momentum. Iowa went to Mr. Huckabee, and New Hampshire to Mr. McCain, who tried to paint himself as a straight talker to contrast with Mr. Romney’s flexibility.
This leaves only Mike Huckabee between John McCain of Arizona and the Republican nomination.
The New York Times

Mr. Huckabee has proved this year to be an articulate and affable candidate, and his surprise showing in winning a half-dozen Southern states on Tuesday was one reason that Mr. Romney bowed to what was inarguably the inevitable and quit.

But Mr. Huckabee is a candidate with some shortcomings – in particular, his lack of experience in foreign affairs – and, more significant, not much money to soldier on. What is more, Mr. McCain has a big lead in delegates coming out of Tuesday night, and under party rules, Mr. Huckabee would have tough job catching up even if he had the money to do so.

The question now for Mr. McCain is how far he needs go now in reaching out to conservatives who have been wary of him – if not flat out opposed to him – given his history on issues like easing immigration restrictions and changing campaign finance laws. Mr. Romney was arguably Mr. McCain’s greatest threat on the right and his greatest impetus for moving right; now that he is gone, some of the motivation for moving right is gone.

Mr. McCain, who will address the Conservative Political Action Committee later in the afternoon, has a slightly different task now. He cannot win a general election without having the unambiguous support of conservatives around him – especially going up against a Democratic Party that is so, to borrow a phrase from Barack Obama, fired up and ready to go.

But the extent to which he emphasizes conservative positions could complicate his effort to win over the moderate and independent voters who have so long been drawn by Mr. McCain and is one of the reasons why many Democrats view him as the toughest candidate the Republicans have.
It may take a few more contests to settle Huck's hash, but it's a done deal as I see it.

Gear up for McCain.

Now if only it were this clear for the Democratic Party.