The Political Landscape Without Romney

1202483304Somewhere in Belmont, Mitt Romney is sleeping for the first time in months. He snores handsomely as Ann puts on a pot of Folger’s and lets the snow-covered newspapers sit on the front steps until Mitt’s ready to read about the end of his campaign. Later, the couple will probably go on a long horse ride. Maybe they’ll watch Ellen like all unemployed people.

When the Romneys finally crack open those papers, they’ll have plenty to read about.

Now that the news has had time to sink in, political junkies have come to the same conclusion: Romney changed too drastically and too quickly, which alienated voters. In Salt Lake City, the Desert Morning News laments the loss of the man they once knew.

Why didn’t national primary voters see the same Mitt Romney I saw in 2002?

That guy would have trounced a mean-spirited, over-the-hill John McCain in a nanosecond. That guy would have had Mike Huckabee carrying his suitcases — and working a magnetometer when he was off duty.

Where was that guy?

Boy, that sounds familiar.

Yesterday, as they surveyed the wreckage of his campaign, even his most ardent supporters conceded that Romney had not played to his strengths as a turnaround artist, management expert, and fiscally conservative governor.

Nationally, Slate columnist Bruce Reed laments the loss of Romney.

[W]hen Romney gamely suspended his campaign this afternoon, there was heartfelt sadness on both sides of the aisle. Democrats are sorry to lose an adversary whose ideological marathon vividly illustrated the vast distance a man must travel to reach the right wing of the Republican Party. Romney fans lose a candidate who just three months ago led the polls in Iowa and New Hampshire and was the smart pick to win the nomination.

But now that Romney has moved aside for the good of his party—and the troops—his chief rival has the daunting task of bringing the conservatives into his court. Only a couple of hours after Romney’s swan song, which was greeted with shrieks of horror from the hardcore conservatives, John McCain spoke to the same crowd and was booed.

Many at the gathering responded to Mr. McCain’s speech with a mixture of resistance and resignation. . . As soon as Mr. Romney announced that he was ending his campaign, a few activists appeared in the hotel lobby with handmade cardboard signs saying, “Republicans Against McCain.”

Welcome back to civilian life, Governor Romney. Now you can watch the drama unfold from the outside with the rest of us. Trust us, it’s more fun (and less expensive) this way.