There’s a lot of talk these days among pundits that Mitt Romney has “lost his general election narrative.” We’re told he is “suddenly headed for the kind of political and ideological cul-de-sac that losing presidential candidates often end up occupying.” And that despite winning Michigan, “his path to the White House has narrowed considerably.”
So just for fun, I went back and checked where Ronald Reagan stood in March 1980. And here’s what I found (courtesy of Craig Shirley’s excellent book Rendezvous with Destiny: Ronald Reagan and the Campaign That Changed America). As Shirley reports,
Reagan may have been doing well with Republican primary voters, but he still wasn’t breaking through to the general population, according to a new poll in the Chicago Sun-Times. The survey showed that in a matchup against Carter, Reagan would get blown out in Illinois, 60-34. [George H.W.] Bush was doing much better against Carter in Illinois, down only 42-36; Anderson was actually doing better than Carter in Illinois.
On Election Day 1980, Reagan beat Carter 50 percent v. 42 percent in Illinois, with John Anderson winning 7 percent of the vote. Reagan, by the way, beat Carter 489 v. 49 in the Electoral College vote.
I’m not saying Mitt Romney is Ronald Reagan. I’m not even saying Mitt Romney is the sure-fire 2012 GOP nominee. But what I am saying is all this talk about Romney having lost his general election narrative, finding himself trapped in ideological cul-de-sacs, and his path to the presidency having been narrowed considerably is wildly premature. Today is March 1; the election is November 6. Whoever the GOP nominee is will have lost and re-found his general election narrative roughly ten dozen times between now and then. It’s far too early for Republicans to panic and Democrats to rejoice. The election will probably be close, and it won’t pivot on anything Mitt Romney has said, or not said, so far in this campaign.