Romney: A Reckoning by McKay Coppins:
As the primary race progressed, the pundits took to calling it “whack-a-mole.” Every time Romney managed to put down one right-wing primary challenger, a new one popped up and overtook him in the polls.
First, it had been Bachmann, then for several months it was Perry. But after a disastrous debate performance in which he forgot which federal agency he wanted to defund, the Texas governor sank and was replaced by Herman Cain, the former CEO of Godfather’s Pizza. Cain was a gregarious political novice whose chief contribution to the campaign season was an oft-mocked proposal to replace the U.S. tax code with a flat tax that he’d enthusiastically branded “the 9-9-9 plan.” Romney was personally fond of Cain, but regarded him as a joke. His campaign had no money and virtually no staff, and his understanding of policy was, Romney noted in his journal, “thin as gossamer.” In one interview, Cain admitted that he didn’t know what neoconservatism was; in another, he said he was unaware that China had nuclear weapons. Party leaders and power brokers privately derided Cain, who was Black, sometimes in barely veiled racial terms. When Romney met with Roger Ailes, the Fox News chief ridiculed Cain’s signature fedora, grumbling that he should ditch “the pimp hat.”
Cain’s reign lasted less than eight weeks before sexual harassment allegations surfaced against him—and by November, Newt Gingrich was surging. Somehow, Gingrich’s rise was even more depressing to Romney than the others’. Yes, he was smarter than Perry and more knowledgeable than Cain or Bachmann, but he was also a ridiculous blowhard who babbled about America building colonies on the moon and referred to himself as “the most serious, systematic revolutionary of modern times.” What’s more, he embodied everything conservative voters—those inscrutable, exotic creatures Romney had spent his adult life studying—were supposed to hate.