Thursday’s Washington Post contains a Dan Balz column that demonstrates why Balz remains one of the country’s most respected campaign analysts. He makes the point that, yes, this has been a singularly unpredictable political year, as many have noted over the months of fluctuations in the political fortunes of Republican presidential candidates. But one thing has remained constant—the campaign strategy and operational discipline of former Massachusetts governor Mitt Romney.
Now, says Balz, this constancy has paid off in Romney’s position as the almost prohibitive front-runner.
There are two noteworthy aspects of this piece. The first is Balz’s smart and sharply analytical portrayal of the thinking of Romney and his campaign operatives, from the beginning, through the early contests and down to the present. No retrospective revisionism. Few political writers have Balz’s breadth of knowledge on the inner workings of politics, and almost nobody spends more time traversing the country in pursuit of inside interviews on the unfolding drama. Thus his rendition of what the Romney folks were thinking during the planning stages has credibility.
The second notweworthy aspect is Balz’s suggestion that Romney now enjoys a commanding lead that will be difficult for anyone to obliterate—except perhaps Romney. At this stage in any presidential nomination battle, when a front-runner seems emergent, many commentators and pols cast about for possible scenarios that could upend that front-runner—possible stumbles, a dramatic change of fortune in Illinois or some such place, a late entry into the race, a late surge by someone already in the race. Yet these things never seem to materialize.
That’s because there is a psychological component—along with the mathematical component— in the multiprimary nomination process of our time. Once such a front-runner emerges, the challengers’ money dries up. Voters begin to embrace what seems like the inevitable. The front-runner picks up momentum while everybody else loses it. This is a reality of the current system, for good or ill.
Not from Balz will we get commentary that misses this fundamental political reality—or any other political reality. This piece reflects smart reporting.