THE REAL DEAL….So why did Mitt Romney crap out against a field of weak competition? The press narrative is pretty clear:

Boston Globe: “In the end, his campaign foundered for one basic reason: He lacked authenticity.” New York Times: “Mr. Romney’s advisers…conceded that they had failed to overcome doubts about Mr. Romney’s authenticity as they sought to position him as the most electable conservative in the race.” LA Times: “Romney failed the ‘authentic’ test.” Slate: “[Romney] faced one fundamental problem that almost all the papers summarize with one word: ‘authenticity.’”

Well, maybe. That’s certainly how Romney seemed to me. Still, I can’t help but notice that none of the news pieces hawking this narrative really presents much evidence for it. And based on a scientific poll of a friend I had lunch with yesterday, I’m beginning to wonder about this. To battle-hardened reporters and cynical liberals, Romney probably did seem phoney. But when I mentioned this offhandedly at lunch, not really expecting an argument, my Romney-supporting friend was clearly taken aback. That had never occurred to him. To him, Romney seemed like the real deal: conservative, good business background, command of the issues, good looks, etc. etc.

So I’m not sure. But I will say this: it felt to me that Romney’s real problem was a lack of passion from his opinion-leader supporters. I read National Review’s The Corner pretty regularly, and the magazine was editorially committed to Romney. Despite that, The Corner’s actual support was lukewarm at best: only a few of their contributors agreed with the editorial line, and even those who did never seemed especially committed to the cause. He was sort of the anti-Obama in that regard.

But judging from his spittle-flecked CPAC speech yesterday, he’s learning. Maybe by 2012 he’ll have figured out how to act more authentically wingnutty and he’ll be ready for a second losing run. And why not? He even has the “little man atop the wedding cake” look made famous by the Republican Party’s best known two-time loser, so he’s well cast for the role. Now about that Mormon thing…..

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