Please note: I am not the Devil.
For those of us who keep an eye on such things, there is a perverse joy to be had in watching Mitt Romney limp towards the Republican nomination over in the US. The primary results seem to be taking on an oddly predictable pattern; Romney wins a contest, and then the next time the vote heads in the direction of Gingrich or Santorum. It is as if the Republican party faithful realise that there is an inevitability to Romney's nomination, but at the same time they resent it; so half the time they accept what is inevitable, and the other half they want to kick against Romney and go for someone - hell, anyone - else.
So what is the Romney problem then? The first thing to acknowledge is that he is being (relatively) successful simply because he is faced with a bunch of the incompetent, idiotic and unlucky; he is running against those who for whatever the reason are quite simply not destined to be the nominee, let alone in the White House. Herman Cain was buried underneath a landslide of snide innuendo; he didn't even make it to the primary season. Rick Perry sank his own campaign by appearing to be more stupid than George W Bush (which is no mean feat), while Michele Bachman failed to inspire the sort of misplaced confidence that many have/had in Sarah Palin (who herself seems content to sit this one out). And then we have Gingrich, the thrice married Catholic social conservative with a focus on moon bases. Of course, there is also Rick Santorum, who puts the mentalist in Christian fundamentalist. And finally there's Ron Paul - whose own woes are (or will be) the topic of a different post* - who, with the best will in the world, is painted as an extremist by an increasingly disinterested media. Rather like Cameron on this side of the Atlantic, Romney ends up being aided by the fact that he is surrounded a group of people who are basically (Paul excluded) fucktards against whom he looks faintly credible. But again, because he is for many the least worst option is no hearty endorsement; and like Cameron, he fails to inspire.
And that is another component part of his problem; he fails to inspire even his own base. This manifests itself not only in the occasional victories handed to much less mainstream and credible candidates, but also in the hopes of some for a brokered convention or the rise of a realistic alternative to him. Romney's success is not because he is the chosen one, but rather because there is no-one else to choose. He is a grudging compromise of a candidate; his faltering baby steps towards the Republican nomination remind me of John Kerry as the 2004 Democrat nominee; Kerry was chosen not because he was any good (and the general election of the year showed that beyond all reasonable doubt) but because he was less mental than the alternative.
But that then leads us to what the worst of Romney's issues actually is and what is at the heart of the Romney problem; as things stand, he's not going - even if nominated - to beat Obama (as some affiliated with his party are starting to acknowledge) in the race for the White House. That's right, he's not going to be able to take the White House back from that incompetent incumbent. Even now, he's struggling to make any headway against Obama. Come the actual election, when the massive Obama war chest is turned against a Mitt Romney already crippled by attacks from his own side during the primary season, the latter will be the one who almost certainly falls. Obama will be re-elected grudgingly because the alternative is too samey and uninspiring to provoke any sort of change; further, if the American economy continues to improve (largely despite rather than because of Obama's policies) then we could be about to witness the grudging landslide. Obama wins a second term not because he is any good, but because the alternative is so uninspiring that he actually becomes the best option. And the irony is that it is exactly the same logic allows Romney to win the opportunity to lose the election in the first place.
So what is Romney's problem? In a nutshell, he's going to lose. It is just a question of when.
*I'm writing it at the moment...