Mitt Romney apparently likes to be the underdog.
Ten days after an unexpected loss in the South Carolina primary, Romney turned on the campaign equivalent of turbo boosters and trounced Gingrich and the rest of the field in the Florida primary.
Saturday night, Romney was once again on the ropes. A scrappy Rick Santorum swept three contests on Tuesday and the national polls were showing a Santorum surge. Pundits and Republican activists criticized Romney for his inability to connect with the party’s conservative base. The term “fragile frontrunner” was once again attached to Romney’s lapel.
And, once again, Romney delivered when he needed it most. First came word that Romney had won the Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC) straw poll, beating out Santorum in what should be Santorum-friendly turf. The Romney campaign credits the ex-governor’s speech to the CPAC on Friday – where he laid on the conservative rhetoric really thick – for his straw poll win.
Then, just an hour later, Romney was announced as the winner of the Maine caucuses, beating out an aggressive Ron Paul effort in the state. Paul even skipped the CPAC confab – where he’s won the straw poll two years’ running – to spend more time in Maine.
To be sure, Romney’s wins Saturday are not going to put questions about whether he can seal the deal with the conservative primary voters. After all, he won both Maine and CPAC with less than 40 percent of the vote. Moreover, with Paul’s dismal showing Saturday night, and his second place showing in the CPAC poll, Santorum can claim the mantle – for now – of the “Romney alternative.”
But, the best news for Romney is that after a very bad week, there’s no bad news for his campaign this weekend.
For now, that counts as victory.