In 2008, Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney was anointed the pre-primary front-runner just like today. But after spending $10 million in the Iowa caucus campaign, former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee beat him in the Hawkeye State.
After that, Arizona Sen. John McCain beat former Massachusetts Gov. Romney in his near-home state of New Hampshire, then South Carolina, then Florida. And then Romney’s campaign was toast.
But this time around, things will be different, congressmen who support Romney tell The Hill.
“He is both a much better campaigner and running a much better campaign than was the case four years ago,” said Rep. John Campbell, R-Calif. “Four years ago, he was tentative. This time he is much more confident, much more comfortable.”
While Newt Gingrich has now risen up to challenge Romney, the former House Speaker’s personal baggage is seen detracting from his strength. Romney’s backers say he is clearly the most electable candidate in the Republican field.
“As your options whittle down, you get more practical about what you’re doing,” Romney backer Rep. Mike Rogers, R-Ala., told The Hill. “People will gravitate toward the people who can beat Obama, and that is what they really care about. Romney may not be anybody’s perfect candidate, but he is pretty clearly the best general election candidate.”
Romney’s backers note that a number of his opponents have risen and fallen over the course of the last four months – Michele Bachmann, Rick Perry, Herman Cain – while the former governor has remained steady at or near the top of polls.
“The media pick a candidate of the week or the month,” Romney supporter Rep. Judy Biggert, R-Ill., told The Hill. That’s why I like that Mitt Romney has stayed on a path, one that has not been disturbed.”
Romney’s supporters say he has been smart in putting little emphasis on winning the dicey Iowa caucuses, so that a defeat there wouldn’t be devastating for his cause, as it was in 2008.
“If you lower expectations, it’s different,” Campbell said. “I don’t think Iowa is any easier for him than it was four years ago. But they are being more realistic this time, and not talking about making a sweep everywhere. Last time, they felt like they could win everywhere.”
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