So, when will Mitt Romney be "inevitable," again? And why are his weaknesses and failures a constant source of surprise?
Romney will be the inevitable challenger to Barack Obama when and if he walks on stage in Tampa to deliver his acceptance speech. A good start would be winning somewhere with a positive message, rather than the avalanche of negativity he's relied on so far in taking only three of the first eight states, losing three in embarrassing landslides.
As to why the ever "inevitable" Romney's repeated belly flops come as surprise, well, chalk it up to a sort of hive media phenomenon.
Romney, naturally, is doing what he always does.
Rickrolled. That's what happened to Mitt Romney in Minnesota, Missouri, and Colorado. It's also a notorious meme in which Internet users, conned into clicking on something promised to be awesome, are left with whitebread soul singer Rick Astley's rendition of "Never Gonna Give You Up."
His new move, having lost three states in Tuesday night's big blow-out, is to attack Rick Santorum. As "an insider." (Actually, he is a far right neocon fundamentalist.) Like Romney is an "outsider?"
The "outsider" Romney is in Washington Thursday raising money from lobbyists. He's even designating "Industry Finance Chairs" for the oil and energy, finance, and defense sectors. So much for being an "outsider."
Romney's super PAC is busy attacking Newt Gingrich now in Ohio, where the former House speaker leads.
But Romney is also adjusting his message.
It's a somewhat more humble message, a matter of positioning really, asserting that he comes from humble beginnings because his father was once a carpenter who rose to the heights of running a major car company and being governor of Michigan.
Of course, that is his father's story, not his. Romney is a scion of great privilege.
So he will talk more about his own religious work with the downtrodden and otherwise distressed as a Mormon missionary and as a lay pastor. Romney was a Mormon missionary in France in lieu of serving in the US Armed Forces during the Vietnam War. And he was actually a bishop in the Mormon Church.
He's also talking up his time as head of the 2002 Winter Olympics in Salt Lake City, which he rescued from the embarrassment it was shaping up to be for his home state and religion.
Despite his massive financial and organizational advantages, Romney has now lost five of the first eight contests, three of them in epic landslide fashion. This is one very deeply flawed "inevitable" frontrunner. As I may have mentioned once or twice in the past several months.
Mitt Romney, noting the relatively small crowd at his Denver victory party which wasn't, tried to put a brave face on a triple play loss.
Including this Huffington Post piece at the beginning of the week, explaining how Romney's Nevada victory over the weekend actually pointed up his profound weaknesses, and those of Gingrich, allowing the rise of Rick.
Romney's supposedly long assured march to the Republican presidential nomination is, at best, a choppy and awkward procession dependent almost entirely on overwhelming spending and record blizzards of negative advertising.
There is something about Romney, like his Bain protege Meg Whitman, the billionaire he successfully urged to run for governor of California in 2010, which leads to his success being dependent almost entirely on overwhelming spending and blizzards of negative advertising. Like Whitman, who was crushed by Jerry Brown, when he can't concentrate that fire on an opponent, and an opponent without the resources/wherewithal to fight back, he is in very big trouble.
It's not all that hard to see, especially since Romney spent nearly all last year stuck at 25% in the polls, despite never being challenged in debates by the media or his opponents, while a procession of unlikely reality show-type characters took the lead.
Can you say "inevitable?" Rick Santorum won all three states Tuesday night -- Minnesota, Missouri, and Colorado -- from supposedly inevitable Republican presidential frontrunner Mitt Romney. The first two contests were landslides; the latter was a state that Romney won in a landslide in 2008.
But a hive mind media, driven by stenography and churn (much of its twitter-pated), snark and hype (from consultants eager to provide "content"), kept on ignoring warning signs, even awarding him the perception of an "historic" sweep of Iowa and New Hampshire when it was actually Santorum, as I warned early on, who won Iowa.
Then, too, the conventional news media only budgeted for the early contests.
When you plan for an early result, you look to an early result.
As a result, there has been far too much "Inevitable Romney" blithering and not just from the ever energetic insider boosters at Politico and Time Magazine's Mark Halperin operation.
Notice there are hardly any polls now. There were only a few polls of Nevada, too, despite its official designation by the Republican National Committee as one of the First Four contests. And there was no debate, even though Las Vegas is a great city for one.
The truth is that the national (read: East Coast-based) news media never wanted to cover Nevada or take it seriously. It wasn't convenient. That was true in 2008, too, with the big Democratic contest there. The difference is that Nevada had a great champion in Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid. And other party leaders saw the wisdom of what my old friend and boss Gary Hart had been preaching since the early 1980s, that much of the West could be turned into Democratic territory, if the party made appropriate adjustments. The Republicans, however, had no such leadership. And Nevada's Republican leadership not only did not include a powerful Senate leader, what clout it had disappeared in a flurry of scandals.
So what next?
Romney has some big fundamental problems. He and his "independent" super PAC can't concentrate their fire on two opponents at one time. There is something about Romney which doesn't work when he's running a positive campaign. And the road ahead is full of proportional representation contests that make it impossible for Romney to lock up anything unless his opponents comply.
If Romney fails to develop a compelling positive message, he might succeed in shooting down Santorum, but that may allow for the re-emergence, once again, of Newt Gingrich, who has already shocked people twice in that regard.
Or voters may just figure out that Romney is nothing more than a negative campaigner, and turn on him no matter who the alternative is.
But Romney may just reach within and surprise us.
So, unless you enjoy the constant surprise of clicking on the Inevitable Romney button only to be serenaded by the stylings of Rick Astley, a Romney-style pop star if there ever was one, perhaps we should see how events actually play out. A radical thought, to be sure.
You can check things during the day on my site, New West Notes ... www.newwestnotes.com.