The New Romney?

It’s becoming conventional wisdom that Mitt Romney is a better campaigner than he was in 2008. Is it true? On the evidence this week in New Hampshire, I think the answer is “yes,” but that it’s mostly a function of the different context of 2012.

Take the debates. He’s thrived in them, but he hasn’t had much competition, certainly not compared with last time. In 2008, he was the most hated man on stage and was pounded by John McCain, Rudy Giuliani, Fred Thompson, and Mike Huckabee, all men with gravitas or great communication skills or both. I’m not sure any of the other candidates this year matches any of those four on a debate stage. Newt Gingrich and Herman Cain are both strong voices, but Gingrich has been harder on debate moderators than on his fellow candidates, and Cain has more often assisted Romney than slammed him.

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