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Mitt Romney's deafening silence

Mitt Romney has Rick Santorum's vote (finally).
Mitt Romney speaks at a town hall-style meeting in Euclid, Ohio, Monday, May 7, 2012.
Mitt Romney speaks at a town hall-style meeting in Euclid, Ohio, Monday, May 7, 2012.

Mitt Romney has Rick Santorum's vote (finally). An email he blasted out to supporters late Monday night was published by Politico, and buried in a long stream of consciousness about Santorum evaluating Romney's fitness as a candidate, the former Pennsylvania senator issued a final grade:

Above all else, we both agree that President Obama must be defeated. The task will not be easy. It will require all hands on deck if our nominee is to be victorious. Governor Romney will be that nominee and he has my endorsement and support to win this the most critical election of our lifetime.

Not exactly the most effusive praise ever given to a candidate being endorsed, but even that beats Rep. Michele Bachmann's endorsement of Romney last week, when she referred to Romney as the "only option [to] preserve the American dream of prosperity and liberty." Still, it is telling that rather than shouting his support from the mountaintop, Santorum pulled a Jeb Bush and did it in writing to his supporters on his website after almost half of America was already asleep.

So when the East Coast and parts of the Midwest wake up this fine Tuesday morning, they'll discover that Romney now has almost all of his former rivals -- including Santorum, Bachmann, Newt Gingrich and Texas governor Rick Perry, Jon Huntsman (not really), and Herman Cain (kind of) -- -- in his corner. One of the only holdouts is the guy who is still running against Romney; Rep. Ron Paul is still busy collecting delegates.

Some may concentrate on these Romney endorsements having the rhetorical strength of ice cream in the desert, but my first thought is that Romney may be the single luckiest candidate to run for President in recent memory. Not in the way you might think, though.

Romney has managed to become the presumptive nominee of a party that is considered by most to be far to the right of him. That's both a statement both about how far around the (right) bend Romney's competitors went, and about how little of Romney's primary-campaign act is to be believed -- and that's understandable, given that he's still making claims like this. But I'm more convinced sometimes by what Romney isn't saying.

Before Santorum's email arrived in inboxes, Romney gave evidence on Monday that his silence can come off worse than his gaffes. A woman at a Romney event in Ohio prefaced her question to the former Massachusetts governor with some Obama-is-operating-outside-the-Constitution rambling, then offering up almost as an aside that she thinks the President "should be tried for treason." Rather than doing as Sen. John McCain did four years ago when a lady claiming Barack Obama was an "Arab," Mitt Romney didn't address the whole "treason" thing in his response.

See the video below:

I'm not sure what's more damning -- not shutting down the "treason" claim, or entertaining the question she eventually asked. President Obama's campaign was quick to point out that Romney should've spoken up. Romney's silence wasn't broken until after the event, and to reporters:

Romney is no stranger to dog-whistles when it comes to the President's "otherness," including from his own son. but his silence in the face of statements like that may become a theme all their own. It wasn't that long ago that a gay serviceman was booed during a Republican debate, and Romney stood by silently and later gave the audience a pass. Add on the Ted Nugent episode, the odd departure of his gay foreign-policy spokesman, and now this "treason" bit, and we have a pattern of cowardice. Romney may be the single luckiest guy to run for President because while he is prone to repeated, public exhibitions of cowardice, they don't seem to disqualify him in the eyes of the media and the electorate.