By Ken Feltman
Mitt Romney has some explaining to do. His leading contributors are growing increasingly frustrated. His staff is under attack from those contributors and from pundits and party officials. Polls show him losing ground to Obama. The list of problems just keeps getting bigger.
But Romney is the favorite, despite Rick Santorum’s impressive showings in Alabama and Mississippi. Those two states have large percentages of Evangelical voters. True, Santorum has alienated many Roman Catholics, women and moderates of all stripes. But Alabama and Mississippi provided an almost ideal environment for Santorum and he took advantage of it.
Meantime, Romney dithered and looked foolish talking about how he loved grits. He looked more foolish when he predicted victories in both Southern states shortly before the polls closed.
Surprise! Despite the media coverage that painted Romney as the loser, when the votes in Hawaii and American Samoa were added to those Romney picked up in Alabama and Mississippi, Romney got six more delegates Tuesday than Santorum.
Now comes a big test: Illinois. Unlike the Evangelical-rich Southern states, Illinois is favorable ground for the type campaign Romney wages as well as presenting a more favorable voter profile. But Illinois Republicans are spread throughout the state. Winning in Cook County is not enough. If you look at a map, you see that Illinois stretches further to the south than Richmond, Virginia. That will be fertile Santorum country. So Romney has some work to do.
Before he can even start that work, Romney needs to shore up his financial base. The money folks want answers. A few want heads to roll. Romney is in danger of losing control of the mechanics of his close team.
Top that off by the comment of a key Illinois Romney supporter who is disappointed with the Romney efforts in the state so far: “(Romney) and his team are slow learners.”
We will see.