For one, readers engaged; Littwin’s New Hampshire columns each elicited from 24 to 78 readers’ comments, although it’s not unusual for comments on his columns to top 100. Littwin brought his gimlet eye, political chops, and, yes, opinions, to the task, such as in his analysis of Romney’s win, under the headline, “An enthusiasm-free victory in New Hampshire:”
All you had to do was look—at Herman Cain’s rise and fall, at The Donald’s strange (even for him) campaign cameo, at the Gingrichian restoration, at the Rick Perry oopsing collapse. The many debates became must-watch events because reality politics had turned into the new reality TV.
It was all so bizarre, but what could be stranger than Romney closing in on the nomination after just two states? This was a test Romney was determined to win by trying to change his image. Instead of PowerPoint presentations, he was reciting patriotic songs. He went from coat-and-tie business guy to a business guy wearing old-guy jeans and an open shirt. I didn’t think he could pass this test even if he had accessorized with a tri-corner hat.
It was the Tea Party wing of the Republican Party, after all, that dominated the brinkmanship debates in Congress, where shutting down the government was always the threat of the day. It’s the Tea Partyers who most objected to Romney, who fails on the purity test. What happened to those guys? I haven’t seen them since they jumped off the Cain train.
Littwin wove into more than one column references to the role of money in the race—on January 10, “A Gingrich super PAC is preparing to attack Romney in South Carolina using a film about Romney and Bain expect to see a lot of it,”—and, on January 8:
In his first anti-Romney ad here, Gingrich called Romney “timid” and a “Massachusetts moderate,” which was pretty tame stuff. Later, he upped the ante to “liberal,” and Santorum threw in “boring” and “bland.” Or course that was before the PAC money started rolling in. And it was before Paul’s campaign announced he had raised $13 million in the last quarter.
And he made an effort to call out campaigns and candidates on their distortions, as when he pointed out that Romney’s rivals took out of context Romney’s “I like being able to fire people who provide services to me” statement, while adding that earlier, Romney’s campaign had used the same tactic on an opponent.
The second is a quote his pals have taken entirely out of context—Romney was actually talking about the ability to get rid of your health insurance company—but of course it was Romney’s campaign that had earlier defended the use of out-of-context quotes.
(Like other journalists, however, Littwin, in the course of explaining this lack of context, also truncated Romney’s quote to the arguably more objectionable-sounding “I like being able to fire people.”)
At times, however, Littwin’s expertise made for insidery, hard-to-follow stretches of column, like this from January 8:
If enough focus was on Romney, the theory went, his numbers could slip. And if Santorum could keep riding the post-Iowa surge, he could get close. And if he got close, then anything could happen.
This was also based on the idea that Gingrich would go all in with Santorum because he cared more about getting back at Romney after Iowa than he did on making a Gingrichian/historic/not-lobbyist second comeback.
Littwin didn’t cover the GOP primary in South Carolina, nor will the Post dispatch him to Florida. “I had money to send him on one trip, and we thought the primary between Iowa and South Carolina would give us most bang for our buck,” Hubbard said.