Romney could learn from his rivals after Super Tuesday

March 7, 2012 6:55 am

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Some presidential candidates surge toward a nomination, some sneak up upon a nomination in the dead of night. Former Gov. Mitt Romney of Massachusetts, believing his hour has come round at last, at best seems to be slouching toward the 2012 Republican presidential nomination.

With a mixed result on Super Tuesday, Mr. Romney once again has missed an opportunity to put away the race, perhaps even to wrap up the nomination.

And there are dangers ahead. Alabama, Mississippi and Missouri vote next week, and they are by no means natural Romney territory. But despite Tuesday night's muddled finish, Mr. Romney remains in the best position eventually to capture the GOP prize.

"I've listened, and I've learned," he said from his Boston headquarters Tuesday night.

And it is after mega-contests like the 10 conducted Tuesday that candidates girding for a long struggle often pause for introspection.

If Mr. Romney does so, perhaps he might reflect on what he has learned thus far, not from the states he has won and lost but from the rivals who have remained with him in the race:

What Mr. Romney can learn from Rick Santorum

No major figure on the American political scene has been as far down as Mr. Santorum, who lost his own re-election battle by 18 points six years ago, used his wilderness years to make money and build connections and finally began a presidential campaign that optimists called a long shot and realists called loony.

But with grit and creativity -- and not inconsiderable study, especially in foreign affairs -- the Pennsylvanian battled back, probing the established candidates for weaknesses, searching the political scene for openings.

He visited all 99 counties of Iowa, a quixotic mission reminiscent of Richard Nixon's doomed 1960 promise to visit all 50 states. But for Mr. Santorum that voyage underlined his resilience and established his reach.

Mr. Santorum, victor Tuesday night in North Dakota, Oklahoma and Tennessee, proved that a consistent message, repeated consistently, is a potent political weapon.

Unlike Mr. Romney, who is accused of changing his positions the way he changes campaign vestments, Mr. Santorum generally has avoided trimming his positions to the fashions of the seasons.

First Published 2012-03-07 05:55:39

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