In comments, DivGuy argues that I’m being too hard on poor Willard. Responding to my point about how Clinton’s foolish Iraq War vote probably cost her the nomination:
However, if we’re accepting the Clinton comparison, I think that’s a good argument against saying Mitt’s “drawing dead.” It would have taken only minor shifts in the electorate or in the primary voting rules for Clinton to have won the nomination. She was hurt by her vote, not hamstrung by it. I’d guess Mitt’s the same way. He’s still got a good shot, especially with the enormously weak crowd of candidates he’s currently in competition with.
I don’t buy it, for two reasons. First, I think Romney instituting a decent health care policy is Massachusetts will be a far bigger drag on his candidacy than the Iraq War vote was for Clinton. The Iraq War was a peripheral issue in the 2008 Dem primary — it mattered only because it was so close and it gave Obama the traction he needed — and that won’t be true of health care for the GOP in 2012. But the even bigger problem here is that the comparison between Mittens and Clinton is way, way too charitable to the former. Clinton was (or is, should she run again in 2016) inherently a much stronger candidate. The 2008 primaries make that clear. Even with the Iraq War vote dragging her down, she finished a very close second to another formidable mainstream Democratic candidate. Mittens, without his health care policy having transformed from reasonable compromise to the death of liberty itself, finished a distant second although the 2008 field didn’t have a serious campaign from an orthodox conservative. If Romney can’t win in that context, he has no chance. Whether it’s Pawlenty or Daniels or someone else, a plain-vanilla conservative is going to get some traction in the 2012, and there’s no way Romney can survive against one. Even without the health care albatross he’d be a huge longshot; the Republican demonization of the ACA just settles the question.