Mitt's Downward Spiral

It appears that Mitt Romney finished a humiliating fifth in last night's Spartanburg, SC straw poll, behind Rudy Giuliani, Duncan Hunter, John McCain, and Sam Brownback. Romney's camp is putting out quotes saying that such votes are meaningless, but I can tell you that these straw polls were a key part of the Romney strategy from the beginning, and this is a huge blow. Update: The final order was McCain, Giuliani, Hunter, Brownback, Romney. Romney got 10% of the votes.

Most importantly, it comes just as Romney is desperately trying to rescue his collapsing support among conservatives, as I wrote this week, and he needed to show them something positive -- not this.

And now, Romney himself is mouthing the blame-the-MSM line that his supporters on the right have started using, as I wrote. The Globe's Scott Helman reports from New Hampshire today that Romney told reporters that the mainstream media's focus on him proves that he's the leading conservative candidate. More telling is Romney's phrasing in an interview on the Christian Broadcasting Network, as Helman reports:
"I think it proves that the media has determined who the conservative candidate is, because they're going after me with hammer and tong and that's the way you would expect to go after the conservative candidate," Romney was quoted as saying in the interview. "I'm proud of the fact that the mainstream media isn't wild about my candidacy, and that's why I'm going to win."
Yeesh. Bashing the vast liberal media conspiracy this early in the game? If I was one of the business/finance leaders who contributed to Romney's campaign, I'd want my $2000 back.

Anyway, there's now an awful lot of pressure on Romney's performance at the big Conservative Political Action Conference. He is scheduled to speak at 2:45 this afternoon, and it will be carried on C-SPAN.

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