E.J. Dionne points out the main difficulty facing the GOP as it approaches Super Tuesday tomorrow. In a key state like Ohio, the primary should be a chance for the candidates to introduce themselves to the voters with a view toward not only winning the primary but laying the groundwork for the general election. Even someone relatively well known in Washington, someone like Sen. John Kerry for example, was not well known outside the Beltway and outside Massachusetts. When the swift-boaters descended, he found himself defined by his opponents. Conversely, in 2008, then-candidate Barack Obama used the primary season to introduce himself to voters on his own terms and without having to pander to the ideological extremes on the left.
Unfortunately for teh GOP, the dynamics of the nominating contest have them appealing to the base and alienating centrist and independent voters they will need in November. Dionne is even-handed in his treatment of the GOP candidates, but I actually think this is more Romney's problem than Santorum's. If Santorum pulls of a win and were to secure the nomination, he would be able to re-introduce himself to the electorate as the the dragon-slayer, the underdog who defeated the "inevitable" Romney and, if he could stay focused on his working class message, Santorum could prove to be more of a challenge than some think. But, Romney is uniquely incapable of pivoting from the primaries to the general because his won base is so suspicious of his ideological credentials, and the rest of the country sees him, as Jon Huntsman famously said, as a well-oiled weathervane. And, there is nothing Romney can do to change this dynamic.
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