Romney: Why his candidacy fell flat

"He seemed like the candidate from central casting,

"He seemed like the candidate from central casting,” said Scot Lehigh in The Boston Globe. Tall, handsome, wealthy, articulate, and with an impressive business career, former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney appeared to have everything a Republican presidential hopeful might need. But despite a personal investment of $35 million, his candidacy never gained traction, and last week he bowed out. So what went wrong? Take your pick, said Byron York in National Review Online. Romney’s tendency to speak from his head and not his heart—symbolized by his PowerPoint presentations—often left him seeming robotic. He claimed to feel deeply about the unborn, the sanctity of marriage, and other conservative principles, even though, not long ago, he believed in a woman’s right to choose and gay rights. But Romney’s biggest problem went deeper. Voters look for “something ineffable” in presidential candidates, a spark that reveals their essence. In the end, voters were left asking, “Who is this guy?”

It’s a shame more voters never had a chance to find out, said Dean Barnett in The Weekly Standard. The people who know Romney well (I volunteered for his 1994 Senate campaign) will tell you he is extremely intelligent, with an “encyclopedic command of the issues.” He also happens to be a wholly “decent” man, and as he proved when he brought fiscal conservatism to liberal Massachusetts, he knows how to bring people together to get things done. “The great shame of the Romney campaign is that he was never able to fully convince the public that he sought the presidency not just out of ambition,” but because “he wanted to take America in a very well-defined direction.”

If Romney’s parting shot is any indication of that direction, said the St. Louis Post Dispatch in an editorial, then good riddance. In his withdrawal speech, Romney told a conservative audience that he was stepping aside because “I simply cannot let my campaign be part of aiding a surrender to terror.” You see, Romney explained, the nation is at war with terrorism, and Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama would “retreat” and “declare defeat.” So he was withdrawing to allow Republicans to unite and save the country. Like everything Romney said in the course of his pandering campaign, said John Dickerson in, that final statement was utterly calculated. By portraying himself as a loyal soldier, evoking the fear of terrorism, and slandering the Democrats’ patriotism, Romney was touching “all of the Right’s political buttons”—if, per chance, he decides to run again in four years.

Subscribe to The Week

Escape your echo chamber. Get the facts behind the news, plus analysis from multiple perspectives.


Sign up for The Week's Free Newsletters

From our morning news briefing to a weekly Good News Newsletter, get the best of The Week delivered directly to your inbox.

From our morning news briefing to a weekly Good News Newsletter, get the best of The Week delivered directly to your inbox.

Sign up

Continue reading for free

We hope you're enjoying The Week's refreshingly open-minded journalism.

Subscribed to The Week? Register your account with the same email as your subscription.