Did Romney Lose Conservative Media?

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The right’s reception of Mitt Romney’s health care speech in Ann Arbor last week was pretty icy. The vaunted Wall Street Journal op-ed page savaged the him before and after the event. National Review‘s editors declared it a “failure.” The Washington Examiner‘s Philip Klein headlined his analysis “Romney makes passionate case for violating personal freedom at state level.” So, is he permanently tarnished? No.

Romney got plenty of glowing coverage this week. Newt Gingrich certainly made it easier, drawing heat off Romney by mounting his own defense of state-level individual health insurance mandates on Sunday and breaking with party dogma on Paul Ryan’s entitlement proposals. But there’s something else going on.

Matt Drudge led with an item showcasing Romney’s Monday phone-a-thon fundraiser for most of Tuesday. Rush Limbaugh, off on a tangent about Gingrich, said the following in handicapping the field: “Look, Romney is obviously the front-runner now with all the money. They’re saying Romney’s gonna be able to raise a billion dollars, too. Romney raised something like $10 million in eight hours.” This week’s gushing isn’t just about money per se. It’s about electability.

It’s Obama who’s raised expectations for a $1 billion-plus campaign. With potential Republicans passing or imploding left and right, the party is clearly looking for an answer. If Romney convinces conservative media that he’s the only one with the juice to test Obama, everything else becomes an afterthought. The same goes for many Republican primary voters.

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