Mitt has a problem.  He’s had his chance to run away with the GOP nomination – but the man that so many were eager to name the “GOP frontrunner” has won only one primary, the same number as his two major competitors, Gingrich and Santorum.

One would think that Romney might have had more success in the primaries so far, given the clear weaknesses of his competition. The most distinctive things about Santorum are his religion and his sweater vests.  Newt has his own problems, named Jackie, Marianne, and Freddie Mac.  Romney gets to be the “frontrunner” by default, but because of his ambiguity, Republicans aren’t rallying around Mitt.

Even after Mitt’s strong showing in the debate last Thursday, he remains a whopping nine points behind Gingrich in nationwide polls among Republican voters.  Unless he makes a strong showing in the Florida Primary, Mitt may have missed his chance to really take a stand on the issues that have plagued his public image and campaign.

Just a disclaimer: I volunteer for the Gingrich campaign.

Mitt has failed to gain traction due to his record as a flip-flopper.  In his defense, he is not nearly as extreme as the Democrats’ “Mitt v. Mitt” video makes him out to be.  The video uses quotes taken out of context to say that he supported Obamacare when, in fact, Politifact finds no evidence that he was ever in support of the federal health care law.  If you ask me, manipulating someone’s quotations is a pretty shady form of political lying.  If you ask U.S. law, it’s slander.  No matter what you call it, Mitt missed a chance to respond to that video and clear his name of the most egregious flip-flopping.

A week ago, Mitt Romney released his 2010 tax returns that showed that he kept boatloads of money in accounts in the Cayman Islands, assumedly taking advantage of the lower tax rate.  As a private citizen and a rational actor, chasing the lowest tax rate is exactly what we should expect from anyone, but as president, he had better be playing entirely within the bounds of the laws he’d be sworn to protect.

At the Google Debate in September of 2011, he explained, “What you have to do is make America the most attractive place in the world for business, and that means our corporate tax rates have to be competitive.”  Isn’t Mitt just practicing what he preaches?  Money goes to the places where it is taxed the least, and Mitt’s money went to the Cayman Islands.  Simple solution: Romney shouldn’t duck this allegation or apologize for it; rather, he should pledge to simplify the tax code and lower the tax rates so that all that money finds its way back to America, including his.  Last year was the first year in American history that companies in the S&P 500 paid more taxes outside the United States than inside.  Why, you ask?  Because America has the world’s second-highest corporate tax rate, and “every industrialized nation except America has lowered its corporate income tax over the past 20 years.”

Romney’s time at Bain Capital has been particularly controversial lately.  Ever hear of Dunkin Donuts?  The Weather Channel?  Toys R Us?  Burger King?  Michael’s, the craft supply store?  They are Bain Capital’s best-known clients.  Therefore, every time you purchase something from one of these places, you’re supporting Bain Capital.  Liberals, and a handful of “conservatives,” (really, guys?) would have you believe that Bain and what it stands for is a threat to the moral fiber of this nation.  One such liberal, HuffPo colunmist Edward Flattau, remarked,

“Capitalism is often described as a free market economy based on “survival of the fittest.” Such a system can easily devolve into anarchy devoid of humanitarian sensibilities, which is why it is imperative to place some regulatory restraints on the workings of the marketplace.”

In other words, we better not be too capitalist, or we’ll revert back to being cavemen.  A nanny state it is, then!  Notice how the people saying that government should dictate morality are the very same folks who say that religion, and conservative values, have no place in government.

Partisanship aside, Mitt was a CEO, and a good one.  Bain only got paid if its partners started making money, and Mitt is by far the wealthiest candidate in the race.  Read the tea leaves here; Mitt did something right.  When Mitt’s opponents started to use Bain Capital against him, he should have leaned into that punch and used his Bain Capital credentials to explain that he is a leader who knows how to make large organizations run better.  Instead, he chickened out and resorted to attacking Gingrich while making no serious attempt at teaching the electorate about what Bain really did under his leadership.  A politician forfeiting a chance to say good things about himself?  So, Bain cut jobs.  Don’t we need an executive who is willing to do some serious pruning of our bloated federal bureaucracy?  If you’re one of the 53% of Americans who pays federal income tax, you are an investor in the federal government.  Wouldn’t it be great if we had a President who made the nation profitable for its investors?

Mitt should have never hesitated in releasing his tax returns, something nearly all major candidates have done for the past forty years.  His hemming and hawing looked like hiding.  But when Mittens coughed up that big fur ball that is several hundred pages worth of a federal income tax return, what did we find?  He makes over $20 million per year from returns on investments.  This is apparently a mortal sin, at least according to Gawker, which reported that “rich a–hole Mitt Romney” generates income by “sitting there and watching his investments belch out money.”  Looks like somebody forgot to tell the liberal press that “belching out money” is exactly what good investments are supposed to do!

Mitt paid a lower tax rate than Gingrich and Obama, but still a higher rate than 4 in 5 Americans.  He didn’t break any rules, but he refused to say so, instead quoting a relatively unknown former IRS Commissioner in a weak statement on his website.  Yet another missed opportunity – he released a “preemptive rebuttal” to the State of the Union on the same day the returns were released.  Instead of owning up to the fact that yes, Mitt earned his wealth, he made a weak attempt at distraction.

Mitt’s biggest problem is not Bain Capital, or how he makes his money, or where he keeps it; Mitt’s biggest problem is himself.  With a GOP debate every time we turn around, you’d think Mitt would have stated his case clearly by now.  He should have at least taken a page from Gingrich’s book (re: the ex-wife question at the start of the SC debate) and used the shots fired at him as a chance to turn criticism on its head.  But so far, Mittens has yet to take the gloves off, and time may be running out for his redemption in the eyes of hardline conservatives.

Angela Morabito :: Georgetown University :: Washington, DC :: @_AngelaMorabito