Mitt Romney is "presidential," right? Then why isn't he more popular inside the GOP?

Nine Republican candidates took the stage, but only one took the hearts of Florida’s Straw Poll participants on Saturday: Herman Cain. Pulling a whopping 37% in a field of nine was no small accomplishment. But wait a minute. Mitt Romney “won” that debate handily, didn’t he? At least that’s what pundits are declaring. He gave the right answers…spoke with confidence…demeaned Perry cunningly…railed at President Obama effectively…and of course, looked good. Campaigning non-stop for four years, he has no other job. And before this he campaigned at least four more for the last presidency. He has spent millions of his own dollars and by now we all know at least in part, his oft recited resume. So why didn’t he win the straw poll?


But then Romney loses a lot of contests, be they straw polls or primary elections. Consider this damning paragraph from Newsweek's cover story on Romney written by Andrew Romano:


Mitt Romney is missing something. On paper, and onstage, he is almost flawless. But elections aren’t decided by algorithms or debate audiences; they’re decided on the trail. And the bottom line is that Romney is not very good at winning votes. In fact, over the course of his 17-year political career, he has notched only one electoral victory: the 2002 contest that made him governor. Most of the time—in 18 of his 23 primaries and elections, to be exact—Romney loses. He lost to Ted Kennedy in the 1994 Bay State Senate race; he was expected to lose the governorship in 2006 (but didn’t run for reelection); and he wound up losing 16 primaries by the time his 2008 presidential bid was over. The most remarkable part of all this losing is that Romney’s support almost always peaks early on, then plummets as Election Day approaches. He was ahead in Iowa and New Hampshire at this point four years ago; he lost both. He was lapping his rivals in most polls from May 2010 to August 2011; he now trails Perry by 8 points. The pattern is clear: the more time Romney spends in front of voters, the less willing they are to vote for him.


Romano's piece uses some psychoanalysis on Mitt - and it's a must read.


So what to make of all of this? The bottom line is, he is softly the front-runner just as fall of 2011 begins - but the clamoring all weekend for Chris Christie definitely means something.


Put it this way - four years ago, nobody in the Democratic field was saying there needed to be another candidate to challenge Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton.

You can't go too far without reading political coverage documenting how solidly Mitt Romney is as a presidential candidate in 2011, compared to his first run in 2007-2008, and CL doesn't disagree with that general sentiment.

Forget about comparing him to Rick Perry in the debates - Romney's finest moment, in this reporter's opinion, was when he addressed that Jim DeMint Tea Party event in South Carolina back on Labor Day, where he refused to pander to one of the most conservative audiences he had addressed in the campaign.

Romney made the decision early on this year that he wouldn't compete in any straw poll after pouring tons of money into Iowa's in 2007, and it makes sense. Michelle Bachmann victory in Iowa last month wasn't a game changer, and Herman Cain's victory on Saturday won't be either.

But Romney has been campaigning a lot in Florida, and the fact that he finished a distant third behind Cain and Perry is nothing his camp should be crowing about. In fact, a conservative blogger named Sandy Rios asked this question on the TownHall website.

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