The Mitt Romney campaign has arrived at its Lee Atwater moment. Having won the New Hampshire primary decisively, Boston must now decide how much fire-power to focus on the South Carolina primary.
If Lee Atwater were alive, he would answer with three words: “All of it.”
That’s what the 1988 presidential campaign of George H.W. Bush did after their candidate won the New Hampshire primary. They took all of the money that they had raised over the course of four long years of very hard work and poured it into South Carolina and the primary and caucus states that followed three days later on “Super Tuesday.” All in, they probably spent in excess of $10 million on South Carolina and the Super Tuesday primary states, which was real money back then.
The investment worked: Mr. Bush won South Carolina comfortably and went on to win all but one of the Super Tuesday primaries and caucuses. It was the rout that sealed his 1988 presidential nomination.
Mitt Romney now has his opponents by the throat. When you have your opponent by the throat in presidential politics, you best finish the job. For Romney, that means imitating Atwater and going all in on South Carolina.
The alternative is to play some imagined “long game” and “husband the campaign’s resources” for a “national — all 50 states — campaign.”
The longer this thing goes on, the more likely it is that some kind of coalition comes together around someone who is “not-Romney.” Kill that before it is born and the nomination is Romney’s by the end of the month. That means “all in” on South Carolina. That’s what Atwater did. That’s what Boston should do.