Former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney talked about wanting to do what was best for the party and for the country and at some level he was no doubt quite sincere. But on Thursday, Romney acted like the businessman who amassed the fortune that made it possible for him to play politics, and decided to cut his losses.
He had already spent at least $35 million of his own money on the race for the White House, and the chance of catching and displacing Sen. John McCain might have been greater than zero, but not much. There was little hope that former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee, propelled by religious support and ego, was going to drop out. So the two former governors, neither of whom looked much like conservatives before they started running, would have kept on splitting the conservative GOP vote without gaining any ground on McCain.
It is both obvious and a little mysterious why Romney never quite got enough Republican voters to warm up to him. There were the shifts in position from his previous campaigns and his time as governor on issues such as abortion, gay rights and immigration, of course. While it shouldn’t have made any difference, his Mormon faith no doubt was a factor. And there was the sense that he was just a little too buttoned-down, a little too modulated, almost a little too — well, perfect.
Perhaps if he had tousled his hair, loosened his tie and showed a little more warmth and humor? He might apply these lessons in 2012, which this graceful exit could facilitate.