The other night I was having dinner and Pat Cadell, Jimmy Carter’s pollster and a very honest liberal, came up to me. He said bluntly that if his side’s front runner had lost 3 of the first 8 elections and been swept out last Tuesday, by Wednesday the Democrats would have a new candidate in the race.
He is right.
Yet the Republican Party has decided instead of finding a new guy to do what it can to get Romney across the finish line no matter how bad the limp.
On Tuesday, Santorum swept. Romney came in third in Minnesota. Counties he won big in Colorado turned on him overwhelmingly. Our “frontrunner” has won three of the first eight. With the exception of Florida, he has shown he can only win states with strong family ties like New Hampshire and states with strong Mormon participation like Nevada.
That may give him Michigan and Arizona, but it spells trouble elsewhere.
This is the seventh CPAC I have been to. The crowd is the least excited I have seen. On the first day, before the candidates have had a chance to bus in their supporters to stack the deck and straw poll, this is the least excited I’ve seen them. The crowd’s heart is with Santorum. But in their mind they do not think he can win.
Today, Mitt Romney must convince the crowd he is one of them or at least won’t betray them. Rick Santorum must convince them he can beat Barack Obama. Newt Gingrich must convince them he is still viable.
Along the way a funny thing has happened. Romney supporters are starting to be openly critical of him. The business whiz has failed to restructure his own failing organization. His support is a mile wide and an inch deep.
And he has been replaced as front runner by the crowd. They are with Rick Santorum in heart, but also in money and votes. On the horizon looms a brokered convention.