In Upcoming Contests, Pressure Is On Romney

Many U.S. Republicans may have growing concerns about their presidential front-runner Mitt Romney, but no one is pushing the panic button - yet.

That could change quickly, however, if Romney does not reverse Tuesday's three-state losing streak to Rick Santorum by winning in Arizona and Michigan on February 28, and then having a strong showing in 10 "Super Tuesday" contests on March 6.

Romney's losses on Tuesday - by 5 points in Colorado and by blowout margins of 20 in Missouri and 28 in Minnesota - were marked by low voter turnout and gave new life to questions about his ability to inspire conservative Republicans who distrust him for his tenure as governor in liberal Massachusetts.

The apparent lack of enthusiasm, Republican strategists acknowledged, also fueled doubts about Romney's prospects for luring independent voters in a potential race against Democratic President Barack Obama in the November 6 election.

Another stumble, the strategists said, could cause many in the party's establishment to rethink their backing of Romney and remind them of why they doubted him to begin with.

Meanwhile, national polls indicate that the percentage of independent voters who view him negatively has risen in recent weeks. Obama's campaign issued a memo from pollster Joel Benenson, cheerfully noting the decline.

"If Romney can't win Republicans now, how is he going to win independents in November?" said Republican strategist Ford O'Connell. "He had a chance to knock this race out of the park and he hasn't done it."

Read more from John Whitesides and Sam Youngman at Reuters

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published this page in In The News 2012-02-09 01:53:00 -0500
Analysis & Political Strategy