It's clear your candidate didn't have a great night when you have to go on CNN and remind viewers not to forget about the American Samoa caucuses.
And Eric Fehrnstrom — the senior Mitt Romney aide who found himself in that precarious position Tuesday night — would probably admit: this was not a great night for his candidate.
Despite early attempts to temper expectations for Romney's performance in Alabama and Mississippi, tight polls and the candidate's own election-eve bravado created the illusion of an open door — another chance to seal the deal with a big, hard-fought win.
Instead, Romney placed a disappointing third place in both Southern states — sending the campaign's spinmasters into high gear as they sought to divert attention Tuesday night from their symbolic defeat, and focus on their ever-widening lead in the delegate race.
While Fehrnstrom took to the airwaves to draw attention to their expected delegate pickups in the South Pacific and Hawaii, the campaign prepped a statement from the candidate, headlined, "ROMNEY WINS DELEGATES IN ALABAMA, MISSISSIPPI."
And indeed, he did. But while the campaign's slow, methodical approach to collecting delegates in obscure, boring, or otherwise un-noteworthy contests has served them well logistically, it hasn't helped them win the argument. The rhetoric of strength and leadership that could give them momentum heading into the general has been replaced with a list of math-centered talking points that deal with delegate counts, percentages, and margins of victory.
Campaign in poetry and govern in prose, the old political adage goes. The Romney campaign, it appears, has chosen to forego words altogether and make their case with numbers. But how long can the party's would-be standard-bearer hinge his entire campaign message on math?
McKay Coppins is a senior writer for the BuzzFeed News politics team, and the author of The Wilderness, about the battle over the future of the Republican Party.
Contact McKay Coppins at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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