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As Donald Trump began to rise in Republican presidential primary polls last year, he delivered a message to his party’s voters: he would be a winner, unlike the last Republican presidential nominee, Mitt Romney, the former Massachusetts governor.
Again and again, Trump said that Romney had “choked.” At a press conference in Derry, N.H., in August 2015, Trump gave an extended explanation of what he meant by that.
“Mitt Romney let us down,” he said of the 2012 defeat. “He should have won that election. He failed. He choked, no different than a golfer that misses a putt on the 18th hole.
“He disappeared at the end. He just disappeared,” Trump said. “Say what you want about Obama — he was on Jay Leno, he was on [David] Letterman, he was on all the shows.”
“I called up the Romney [campaign],” Trump recalled. “I said, ‘Why aren’t you doing more television? Obama’s on every show! Where are you?’”
“He just disappeared. Something happened. Honestly? Honestly? I think he choked, okay?”
But in the closing days of the 2016 campaign, Trump isn’t doing the late-night shows and is essentially avoiding all television interviews. He is also not showing any signs of a dramatic comeback in the next two weeks.
The question could be asked: is Trump choking?
Since Trump entered the race for president, his campaign has involved a certain amount of entertainment, drama and showmanship. But lately it has been full of unforced errors and a lack of discipline. To use his line on Romney, Trump may have wrongly lined up the critical putt on the 18th hole.
After all, while Trump never really had a significant lead over Clinton in national polls, surveys had showed a tight race until recently. In September, the race was tied, and Trump had the momentum. But that was before the debates began -- and before he was accused multiple times of sexual assault and harassment.
To be fair, Trump would probably disagree with this assessment that he is choking. He might even say that he’s playing to the GOP’s base — something he criticized Romney for not doing in 2012.
In an interview with MSNBC’s “Morning Joe” last November, he said his problem with Romney was that, “had he energized the base, because the base didn’t go out and vote — you understand that. Which is shocking, because they’re not fans of Obama and he, for some reason, they didn’t do it. Had they gone out and voted, the people that sat back and didn’t get up and vote — which is hard to believe — he would have won the election.’’
Choking or not, the polls suggest that Trump will end the race in the same way as Romney did: a loser.Want the latest news on the presidential campaign, every weekday in your inbox? Sign up here for Ground Game. And check out more of the Boston Globe’s newsletters offerings here. James Pindell can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter @jamespindell.