A week ago, Mitt Romney and his campaign were right where they wanted to be. The former governor had scored an impressive win in Florida, he was poised to score another victory in Nevada, and the race for the Republican presidential nomination looked to be effectively over.
There was nary a whisper of internal dissension within the Romney camp. Why would there be? Their guy was the "inevitable" nominee.
A week, two caucuses, and a non-binding primary later, confidence from Team Romney has suddenly dwindled. The Washington Post reports that party officials are "expressing fresh concerns" about the former governor and are "increasingly anxious" about his candidacy.
One prominent adviser told the candidate to sharpen his use of conservative code words and create "small pictures" -- vivid imagery, in other words -- to connect with voters. Another flew to Boston to say that Romney's message is too businesslike and broad to capture the passion of angry Republican voters. Still others have gone on television and written opinion columns to hammer home what is becoming a common theme this year: that Romney has not been able to ignite a cause when the GOP is primed to become part of one.
The efforts are themselves interesting, but the larger point is the portrait that's coming into focus: the campaign is not only scrambling in a damage-control mode, but officials are dishing to reporters about the internal disarray.
msnbc's First Read added this morning, "So we've gone from advisers taking credit (in the New York Times) for his turnaround in Florida, to now criticizing him (in the Washington Post) after his defeats on Tuesday. Folks, that isn't characteristic of a winning presidential campaign."
For his part, Romney, as Tricia noted earlier, huddled in D.C. yesterday with "a small gathering of leaders in the conservative movement." The meeting, which lasted more than an hour, included "evangelical organizers, conservative writers and Tea Party activists," and was apparently part of a strategy to help the candidate "reconnect" with the right.
The outreach may or may not pay dividends, but the question that should matter most to Republicans is simple: why is the ostensible frontrunner still trying to "reconnect" at this stage in the race?