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Politics

Mitt Romney's Lamontagne Problem

February 3, 2011

And, very pointedly, Lamontagne has made clear he is not wedded to backing Romney a second time. Last week, Lamontagne held a private meeting with former Minnesota Gov. Tim Pawlenty (R), and his PAC hosted former Pennsylvania Sen. Rick Santorum (R) for a speech (Pawlenty will be the next to speak to the group, though a date hasn't been set).

Romney was in a no-win position when it came to the Senate primary. Endorsing Lamontagne, or any contender, would have risked alienating some of the many voters who picked another candidate. Staying out irritated Lamontagne's fans. And perhaps Romney is unfairly taking blame; after all, neither Pawlenty nor Santorum endorsed Lamontagne, either. But Romney is the 800-pound gorilla in the room, and he could have played kingmaker.

Staying on the sidelines won't cost Romney every vote, and there's no indication that he's lost too many friends among his former supporters. But we were surprised how many times we heard the same refrain from different people, independent of each other: Romney had abandoned a friend, they said, and the lack of an endorsement was notable.

It is moments like that, decisions that seem obvious at the time and present no-win situations, that make up presidential primary campaigns.

An ironic postscript: Lamontagne himself is considering a run for governor in 2012, as Sean wrote, and he's already met with consultants to discuss a possible race. That means he will become more averse to offering his own endorsement in a crowded presidential primary, for fear of alienating New Hampshire Republicans who choose to back a different candidate.

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