Today on This Week (now with George Stephanopolous) George Will phrased the essence of what happened in South Carolina in a simplistic but accurate way. He said, “Mitt Romney’s problem is somehow his Romney-ness… there is something about him that is not connecting.”
The populist wing of the republican party wants a game changing candidate. They want someone who is going to change and challenge the system, not work within it. Romney’s brand is, at its essence, someone who smilingly plays the game and happily bends himself to the nature of that game he is playing. Romney still has an authenticity problem and it is at the core of everything that has happened in this race so far.
Too many are overlooking the obvious and getting the analysis somewhat wrong. I’ve seen too many lists about the “lessons” we all learned after South Carolina and they all include a “debates matter” point. Debates themselves do not intrinsically matter in the sense that voters care about per se debate performance. Their importance lies within the GOP electorate’s (now apparent) demand for an authentic candidate. Gingrich performs well because he makes politically risky statements, directly answers questions and does not sound like he is up there to please anyone but himself.
That is how you appear authentic.