A Critical Juncture for Mitt Romney

Now that the GOP primary contest appears to be winding down once and for all, the Romney campaign will need to step up its game. And step it up quickly.

Put simply, thanks to a protracted and bruising primary battle against Rick Santorum and Newt Gingrich, Mitt Romney enters the general election campaign at a significant disadvantage to President Obama in terms of personal ratings and in general election trial heats, while his campaign is two months behind on its plan to build political and field operations in key battleground states.

The Obama campaign, for its part, has invested heavily in both media campaigns and ground operations in key battleground states in recent months — an effort to both marginalize Governor Romney and grow the President’s lead as wide as possible before the general election campaign begins.

With his campaign clearly lacking the funds necessary to launch a competitive general election campaign, the only way Romney can get back into the race quickly will be through the expenditure of substantial Super PAC dollars on behalf of Governor Romney.

Specifically, the key actors in this process will be Karl Rove whose Super PAC American Crossroads has raised $200 million well as the pro-Romney Super PAC, Restore Our Future.

The Republicans have too much of a vested interest, too great of a commitment, and frankly too much money to let the race get out of hand this early.

And unless American Crossroads, Restore Our Future and other related Super PACs can resurrect the Romney Campaign in the next couple of months , Governor Romney runs the risk of being marginalized in the way that Bob Dole was in 1996 when he ran against President Bill Clinton.

But make no mistake about it– the 2012 campaign now is not Obama vs. Romney. It is Obama vs. Karl Rove, American Crossroads, and Restore Our Future.

Douglas E. Schoen is a political strategist, Fox News contributor, and author of several books including the recently released “Hopelessly Divided: The New Crisis in American Politics and What It Means for 2012 and Beyond” (Rowman and Littlefield). Available now on Amazon.com!

Follow Doug on Twitter @DouglasESchoen

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