Mitt Romney ended his presidential campaign after carefully calculating that John McCain had collected so many delegates on Super Tuesday that he had an insurmountable lead. (The Washington Post, free registration) Romney, a former Massachusetts governor, had staked his bid on building a viable, nationwide coalition of conservative supporters, but the conservative vote was split between him and former Arkansas governor Mike Huckabee. (The Boston Globe, free registration)
What the commentators said
Romney, a former consultant and entrepreneur, did Republicans a favor by forcing McCain to "speak more clearly about the economy," said The Wall Street Journal in an editorial. But he's a "technocrat," and that's one reason "his campaign never caught fire." Americans like "a businessman candidate, but they don't find them inspiring, so "rarely do they elect one as president."
If you're looking for a reason for Romney's failure, said Timothy Egan in The New York Times' Outposts blog, "blame Christians." Romney is a Mormon, and "by significant margins, in poll after poll, in vote after vote a solid block of evangelical Christians said they would never vote for a Mormon." Evangelicals cast nearly half of the Republican primary votes in some states, so "Romney was up against a deep well of distrust of a religion that many evangelicals still label a cult."
The thing that killed Romney's chances was that "he flip-flopped too much," said USA Today in an editorial. "Voters don't want mindless consistency in the face of changing reality, but they expect reasonable constancy on core values. At various points in his Massachusetts political career, Romney backed abortion rights, gun control and gay rights—none of which he did in his presidential campaign."
The irony is that if Romney had just mustered the courage to be himself, he might have won, said The Boston Globe in an editorial (free registration). The man Massachusetts elected as governor in 2002 was a "smart, data-driven, can-do executive who wouldn't let ideology get in the way of pragmatic solutions"—just the kind of leader we need when the economy falters. But when Romney became a presidential candidate he "shed his pinstripes and donned a Tarzan suit, thumping his chest about immigration, gun control, morality, and religion. The new suit never quite fit, and the voters knew it."