Here’s the thing to remember about the detached-and-plastic line on Romney: It seems to be a function of the size of the room. In front of a huge audience, he can seem robotic. In front of a smaller audience (a few hundred or so), he’s more impressive, because he connects much better. In a small group at a party or press conference, he’s really charming. What this means is that if he can keep up a fast enough pace practicing retail politics in small rooms in Iowa and New Hampshire, he’s going to win over a lot of voters. But that means the early contests are more important for Romney than for anyone else. If he doesn’t build momentum by winning early, it’s hard to see him doing much on Mega-Tuesday. Giuliani and maybe Thompson can get away with coming in second in Iowa or New Hampshire and still win the nomination; I doubt that Romney can.
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