The Long Haul

Michael Tomasky: Romney Wins Big in Nevada Caucus, But Trouble Awaits

It was a nice way to end the week, but Romney faces a long, arduous road ahead.

Mitt Romney got the expected big win Saturday night in Nevada, but I’d bet that if he’s looking back at this past week as the loser on Nov. 6, it won’t be the Nevada win he’ll reflect on. He might spend a little more time reflecting on the weird and seemingly petty axing of his new debate coach, proving, I guess, that he really does like being able to fire people. He really might spend more time thinking over his remark that he’s not concerned about poor people—just an inartful misphrasing, really (or was it?). And finally, he might ponder the numbers 243,000 and 8.3, which were, of course, the jobs-created and unemployment figures released by the Labor Department the day before his victory.

Those numbers may loom largest. If they signal a general economic rebound—if it’s the beginning of a streak of plus-200K months, driving the jobless rate down to or maybe even below 8 percent—then Romney has to completely retool his message between now and November (the time may come to hire that debate coach back!). That was the most important political event of the week, much more than a caucus whose result was a foregone conclusion.

On the plus side for Romney, the strength of his win Saturday signals that he has a very good shot at winning Nevada in November. I’ve long considered it the state that has usually been red that Obama won that is most likely to snap back in 2012. Yes, even more so than North Carolina, and simply because of the unemployment rate in Nevada, around 13 percent. It is a place where Romney’s rhetoric about Obama’s failures will probably still resonate, and he should be able to swipe those six electoral votes. But if the jobs numbers keep coming like they have been, the list of Nevadas will get shorter and shorter, and that is what the Romney people are thinking about today.