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The Writing on the Wall for Mitt Romney

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Republicans can't say they weren't warned about Mitt Romney.

As the party's nominee reels from gaffe to gaffe, they might recall Newt Gingrich's comment last winter: Mitt Romney, he said, was the weakest Republican front-runner "since Leonard Wood in 1920."

Leonard who? Exactly.

The writing was on the wall for this campaign as long ago as January 10. That was when New Hampshire held its presidential primary, and Romney showed he couldn't even get 40 percent of the Republican vote in what is, in many ways, his home state.

And he was running, I might add, against an incredibly weak set of opponents. Much of the national political media failed to understand the NH vote then, which is probably why a lot of them are surprised by the inept Romney campaign now.

I remember watching the NH primary coverage that night with disbelief. Bill O'Reilly said Romney "won big." Chris Matthews called his win "an historic feat." Some political analyst on CNN announced, "He ran the table... He won with Republicans, with people who identify themselves as conservatives, Tea Party supporters, evangelicals, and of course, those very important independent voters."

Total nonsense.

The message of New Hampshire was simple. The voters who knew Mitt Romney best, had followed him the longest, and had met him most often, most upclose, and most personal, didn't want to vote for him.

He could only get 39 percent of the Republican vote. Against Gingrich, Santorum and Ron Paul. Romney actually lost one of New Hampshire's ten counties to Ron Paul.

The people of New Hampshire know Romney better than anyone. Romney has a summer home there. Much of New Hampshire is an extended suburb of Boston. And Romney had schmoozed the Granite State hard for at least eight years. He spent $3 million trying to win them over in the 2008 primary, and another $1.2 million -- says the Associated Press -- campaigning there in 2012. In the end, in 2012, he was able to secure just 97,500 votes. That's about $43 per vote.

Romney is trailing Obama there in the polls, too.

Most politicians fare better as they go on, and as voters get to know them better. With Mitt Romney it is the reverse.

I've been following the man for nearly twenty years. None of this current campaign is coming as a surprise.

I live in New England. I used to live in New Hampshire. I was a columnist on the Boston Herald while Romney was governor of Massachusetts. On occasion I trekked up to the Granite State to watch him campaign.

In his famous 1994 Senate race, Mitt Romney was actually neck and neck against Ted Kennedy in mid-September, less than two months before the election. He then lost by 17 points.

He nearly lost his 2002 race for governor, too -- even though all the lights for him were green. It was a big Republican year. He had just finished the Salt Lake City Olympics. He had a very weak Democratic opponent. Rudy Giuliani even came to campaign for him, a year after 9/11. In the end Romney squeaked out a victory by 5 points -- and only then after going negative in the final weeks.

His problem isn't that he's too right wing, too moderate, too rich or too anything else. He is just a terrible, terrible campaigner. He has no people skills. He commits incredible gaffes. As was once said of a British politician, he only opens his mouth to change feet.

He lacks even those "executive" skills he likes to brag about. What kind of executive keeps his money in the Cayman Islands while running for president? What kind of executive renovates his La Jolla mansion -- complete with a new elevator for his cars -- during a campaign? These are not issues of ideology but of common sense. Would you really want this man running your company?

As I recently reported, even his success at Bain Capital was wildly overstated. He just happened to borrow money and buy stocks at the perfect moment in history in which to do so. He was like a guy making money flipping Las Vegas condos ten years ago.

The latest news on the economy has been lamentable. The August nonfarm payroll figures, at 96,000, were very weak. So far they've averaged just 139,000 a month this year, worse even than 2011. Yet the betting at InTrade now gives Obama a 63 percent chance of getting re-elected. Back in June he was barely at 50 percent.

Bah. I recently published a biography of Romney, The Romney Files, looking at his entire professional career, from the early days as a management consultant to his governorship and beyond.

But I'm only going to sell a lot of copies if he wins.

In a perfect world I could hedge my investment by placing large bets on Obama. But the only bookmaker in the country that will take bets on the election is the Iowa Electronic Market, a minor betting market run as an experiment and a teaching tool by the University of Iowa. The limits are small. I've managed to wager a few hundred bucks, but that's it, alas.

Maybe I should have listened to Newt.

Brett Arends is the author of 'The Romney Files.'