For some reason Romney can’t do that. Or at least it seems like he can’t. His authentic inauthenticity problem isn’t going away. And it’s sapping enthusiasm from the rank and file. The turnout in Iowa was disastrously low, barely higher than the turnout in 2008 — and if Ron Paul hadn’t brought thousands of non-Republicans to the caucus sites, it would have been decidedly lower than in 2008. That’s an ominous sign given how much enthusiasm there should be for making Obama a one-term president. It’s almost as if Romney’s banality is infectious.
Santorum’s tie in Iowa is widely attributed to his diligent door-to-door campaigning. The Iowa political hacktocracy is deeply invested in the idea that the retail politicking in Iowa pays off. But it wasn’t paying off three weeks before the voting, when Santorum was in single digits. No, Santorum’s Iowa success was attributable almost entirely to Gingrich’s Newtacular implosion. Santorum was simply the last non-Romney standing who hadn’t been torn apart by the press or Romney’s super-PACs.
The most persuasive case for Romney has always been that if he’s the nominee, the election will be a referendum on Obama. But that calculation always assumed that rank-and-file Republicans will vote for their nominee in huge numbers no matter what. That may well still be the case, but it feels less guaranteed every day.
Every four years, pundits and activists talk about how cool it would be to have a brokered convention. This is the first time I can remember where people say it may be necessary.
— Jonah Goldberg is editor-at-large of National Review Online and a visiting fellow at the American Enterprise Institute. You can write to him by e-mail at [email protected], or via Twitter @JonahNRO. © 2012 Tribune Media Services, Inc.