Published June 12, 2011
Mitt Romney had his first good week. It was startling. He stepped out from the blur. The other candidates now call him "the front runner." By most standards he was the front runner months ago, but nobody talked about him. He didn't live in the Republican imagination. It was "Will Mitch run?" and "You like Pawlenty?" Only seven minutes into the conversation would you get, "How will Romney do?" He was so '08, that disastrous year.
But this past week he got three big boosts. He had a reasonable announcement speech followed by a lot of national interviews.
Then the Washington Post poll: Mr. Romney leads President Obama.
On top of that, the two most visible Republicans the past 10 days were Sarah Palin, on her magical mystery tour, and him. They got all the coverage, and for a moment it seemed like a two-person race. Meaning a lot of Republicans got to think, "Hmm, Palin or Romney—a trip to Crazytown or the man of sober mien." That did not hurt him.
The financial reporting period ends June 30. Mr. Romney's focused like a laser on getting the kind of numbers that will demoralize rivals and impress the media.
Money leads to money. At a Manhattan fund raiser this week, an organizer said they raised about $200,000, not bad for an hour at the end of a long day of fund raising. The roughly 70 attendees were mostly men in suits. There was no vibration of "I'd walk on burning coals for this guy." More an air of "This is a sound choice."
On the other hand, no one was distractedly checking his BlackBerry in the back of the room, as I saw once at a Giuliani event in 2008. He was talking, they were scrolling. That's what we call "a sign."
Mr. Romney's emergence means a new phase in the primary contest begins. So some quick observations on the front runner.
We'll begin with shallowness and try to work our way up.
All candidates for president are network or local. Romney is a network anchorman—sleek, put together, the right hair, a look of dignity. He's like Brian Williams.
Some candidates are local anchormen—they're working hard, they're pros, but they lack the patina, the national sense.
Reagan, Clinton, Obama—they were network. This has to do not only with persona, but with a perceived broadness of issues and competencies. It's not decisive, and it can change—Harry Truman was local, and became network. But it probably helps Mr. Romney that he's network.
His seamless happiness can be grating. People like to root for the little guy, and he's never been the little guy. His family has never in his lifetime known financial ill fortune, and his personal wealth is of the self-made kind, the most grating because it means you can't even patronize him.
Peggy Noonan is a Wall Street Journal columnist. To continue reading her column in The Journal, on Mitt Romney and the 2012 presidential campaign, click here.