Of all the bizarre aspects of the Republican presidential race—and they have been gloriously plentiful—nothing has been odder than the kid-glove treatment accorded the likeliest nominee. While every other pretender, from Donald Trump to Rick Santorum, has had his record and rhetoric parsed and pilloried, Mitt Romney has sailed through months (heck, years) of campaigning and oodles of debates without so much as a nick or scratch. Until now. Sunday’s New Hampshire debate featured memorable smackdowns by Jon Huntsman and Newt Gingrich. But far more ominous for the former Massachusetts governor is the sudden dam-burst of criticism of the central rationale for his campaign: Romney’s job-creating business experience at Bain Capital, which the candidate argues makes him uniquely qualified to be America’s recession-era CEO. Among the revelations, The Wall Street Journal reported today on the high rate of bankruptcies and closures among the companies Bain invested in during Romney’s tenure. Ezra Klein dug into Romney’s job-creation claim at Saturday night’s debate—more than 100,000 net jobs—and found it “untrue.” And while Romney maintains a wide lead in New Hampshire polls and a smaller edge in South Carolina, his opponents are—very belatedly—howling about Bain’s takeover tactics. The attacks will soon ramp up when the Gingrich campaign airs “When Mitt Romney Came to Town,” a 27-minute ad, in South Carolina; the trailer calls Romney a “corporate raider.” While Romney’s previous placid march to the nomination might not be halted, we’re surely—finally—glimpsing a preview of what a general-election campaign will produce.
So They Say
Daily Meme: Here Comes Huntsman!?
- Nate Silver: He has momentum, but needs a “lights out” showing in New Hampshire.
- Daily Beast: He’s “the man to watch” in contrarian New Hampshire.
- Washington Post: After Sunday’s debate, he’s “suddenly Mr. Popular.”
- Jonathan Carl: “He might just be moving the market.”
- Real Clear Politics: He’s finally drawing crowds, and can “feel the surge.”
What We're Writing
- In New Hampshire, Harold Meyerson marvels at the vapidity of Romney, “a banker out of his element on the stump, grasping for homilies and clichés.”
- In South Carolina, Jamelle Bouie reports that Santorum is connecting—but also playing catch-up.
What We're Reading
- David Remnick reviews The Obamas—and discusses the history of presidential marriages.
- Todd Palin endorses Gingrich, but Sarah stays mum.
- How Obama-hating became a cult movement.
- The presidential field is putting Republicans in a funk.
- Is Romney the Republicans’ McCain 2.0?
- Wake Walter Shapiro when New Hampshire is over.
Poll of the Day