No campaign for President is a straight line upward. Some campaigns are a flat line; some are a straight line down, but no Republican in a contested cycle has ever run the table.
Didn't happen in 2012, either.
There is a theory in politics that the proper time to judge a campaign isn't when everything is going well. The time to judge a campaign is how they recover from a stumble.
Ok. That's not really a widely held theory, but I say it all the time and I think it's true.
Last week Mitt Romney got skunked in South Carolina by Newt Gingrich. Over the course of five days and two debates Gingrich returned a punt, a fumble, and an interception, scored on a safety and pinned Obama deep in his own territory - everything an opposing candidate could have done within the football metaphors of Superbowl week.
Then came Florida. Big. Diverse. Expensive.
Romney and his campaign righted the ship and put the big hurt on Gingrich. Beat him by just under a quarter of a million votes. In fact, Gingrich and Rick Santorum's votes combined didn't equal Romney's total.
That, in spite of Romney not just fending off his GOP opponents, but fending off something on the order of $6 million in negative ads from at least two unions, the Obama campaign and Obama's Super PAC.
Obama does not want to run against Romney. He wants to run against Gingrich, or Santorum, or Paul.
After Gingrich got beaten up in Iowa by an onslaught of negative ads by Romney and his Super PAC his concession speech was all Angry Newt. Gingrich didn't have the money to retaliate and tried to pretend he was going to be the Good Newt and he got hammered. On caucus night, when we all thought Romney had won, Gingrich's anger and frustration overwhelmed him.
Gingrich was not a factor in New Hampshire and, properly, focused on South Carolina. A combination of Gingrich's spectacular debate performances and millions of dollars poured into his Super PAC by a Las Vegas billionaire allowed him to attack Romney and pull off a big win.
The afterglow of that win on Saturday lasted until about Tuesday when Gingrich's blah debate performance the night before, coupled with a well-organized Romney ground operation and millions and millions of dollars in TV advertising caused Gingrich's numbers to plummet in Florida.
In the final Florida debate Gingrich seemed unprepared, tired, and off-balance. He who lives by the debate shall die by the debate. Two deadly debate performances did Gingrich in.