Mitt Romney: Running to Stand Still

The weak field of GOP candidates is still on track to produce an Iowa winner with the lowest vote share of any winning candidate from either major party in the history of the caucuses. Historical comparisons of Iowa performance are even more unflattering if they are made specifically about Governor Romney.

In 2008, Romney secured 25.2 percent of the votes in the GOP Iowa Caucuses. He has been running hard for the intervening four years, spending tens of millions of dollars, giving hundreds of speeches and interviews and logging thousands of hours of retail campaigning. The result? The proportion of Iowa caucus-goers who support him today is even lower than it was in 2008.

In trying to explain why, against all evidence, some GOP players keep talking up the possibility of a “savior” candidate entering the race after Iowa, most people have focused on conservative fears that Romney is a closet moderate. But the smartest people in the GOP must surely also be worried for a more prosaic reason: No matter what Romney says (and clearly he will say anything), no matter how much he spends, no matter how hard he campaigns and no matter how many press-the-flesh events he holds, he just can’t get many voters to like him. If Romney were my horse in a race against a politican as skilled as Barack Obama, I’d be fantasizing about a deus ex machina candidate too.

[Cross-posted at The Reality-Based Community]

Keith Humphreys

Keith Humphreys is a professor of psychiatry at Stanford University. He served as a senior policy advisor at the White House Office of National Drug Control Policy from 2009 to 2010.