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January 31, 2008

NBC Called This One Wrong

In the aftermath of last night's debate, NBC reported that the Mitt Romney campaign would not buy ads in the upcoming Super Tuesday states. Many of us puzzled over that news, and this morning all references to it seemingly disappeared. A report from the AP may explain why:

Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney plans to run a "significant" level of television ads in California and other states that vote Tuesday in essentially a national primary, aides said Thursday, signaling a willingness to aggressively try to derail Republican front-runner John McCain.

Since his defeat in Florida Tuesday, the former Massachusetts governor has been debating over just how much of an effort to make in which of the 21 states that hold primaries and caucuses Tuesday. Romney has tried to cast himself as more conservative than McCain.

It made no sense for Romney to pull back now. He has one serious advantage this week in organizational strength. Because 21 states all go to the polls on Tuesday, none of the candidates can campaign effectively in all of them. Therefore, the candidate who has the money and the infrastructure to run coordinated advertising in these states can essentially make up the lost face time in a way the others cannot.

Will it be enough? It's hard to say, but not doing it at all would have been tantamount to a withdrawal. Romney has to use his organizational advantage to blunt John McCain's momentum coming off his Florida primary victory. The advantage here will not exist after February 5th, either. After that, the pace drops back to a leisurely stroll through America, and McCain can simply match Romney's travel schedule to eliminate the cash and organizational advantage.

Last night's report quoted "sources within the campaign." The question today would be -- which campaign? Romney's, or someone else's?


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