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Romney's Other Problem

Speaking of Romney getting under people's skin, one of the themes I'm going to be exploring while I'm out here is the extent to which the rest of the GOP field detests the guy. Not long after he dropped out of the race, Sam Brownback seemed to sing the praises of the pro-choice Rudy Giuliani as a way of sticking his finger in Romney's eye. Rudy seems to have an even harder time than usual concealing his contempt when he and Romney share a stage. That's more than you can say for John McCain, who often doesn't even bother to conceal his contempt for Romney. And now Mike Huckabee seems to be nursing some ill-will toward the former Massachusetts governor. Huckabee practically lectured Romney about what it means to work your way through college at the YouTube debate a few weeks back. Now there's this from Ryan Lizza's piece in this week's New Yorker:

My own sense, from talking to Huckabee, a Southern populist, and Mc­Cain, a border-state senator, is that they are genuinely appalled by Romney’s tac­tics, not only because of the damage to their campaigns but also because of the damage they believe he’s doing to the Par­ty’s image.  ...

“He’s clearly distorted my record as well as my position,” Huckabee told me. “But I’m not interested in getting in a war with him to see which of us can be the meanest son of a gun running for President.” He went on, “My experience has been—not just in politics but in any realm of life—when people keep saying something over and over, and louder and louder, it’s to compensate that they don’t want you to know that’s really never what they believed.”

Why do all the GOP candidates despise Romney? I think it's partly related to something Jonathan Martin alluded to several months ago--Romney's hypocrticial self-righteousness. The other candidates feel like this guy spent much of his adult life to the left of many Democrats, which makes it hard to swallow a lecture from him about being a real Republican. Part of it may be bitterness at the fact that, in what's turning out to be a brutal fundraising environment for the party, Romney can effortlessly dip into his several hundred million-dollar fortune. And part of it, as in Huckabee's (and to some extent Thompson's and Giuliani's) case maybe simple class resentment. These guys feel like they had to scratch and claw for everything they have in life; they feel like Romney got it handed to him. (That's not actually true--Romney scratched and clawed every bit as hard as the other guys. But he clearly had some advantages the others didn't enjoy.)

Whatever the cause, I think this is a real, underappreciated problem for Romney going forward. What you've basically got is a bunch of guys who, if they start to feel things slipping away, may derive a lot of satisfaction from taking him out. Call it the "Maybe I won't win, but I'll be damned if he's going to" mindset.

--Noam Scheiber