So Mitt Romney inches ahead. But has the nomination process hurt him so badly that he cannot win in November? Maybe not. True, we’ve seen stories about his stumbles, such as his cringe-worthy efforts to identify with working-class Americans. But the contest did not create his flaws: It merely revealed them. If they hadn’t come out in the primaries, they would have come out in the general-election campaign.
And although intraparty sniping scratched his image, it involved information that was already available to Democratic opposition researchers. So Gingrich and Santorum didn’t do the Democrats’ work for them: Rather, they used up some of their best attack material.
Four years ago, Democrats worried about the bitterness of the Obama–Clinton contest. They had some reason. “The data suggest that the continuing and sometimes fractious Democratic nomination fight could have a negative impact for the Democratic Party in next November’s election,” Gallup reported. “A not insignificant percentage of both Obama and Clinton supporters currently say they would vote for McCain if he ends up running against the candidate they do not support.” But it didn’t happen, in part because issues such as Reverend Wright had become old news by autumn.