The New York Times:
At this stage of a primary election, campaigns work hard to manage expectations so they can put the best possible face on the actual voting results; Mr. Romney’s aides were no doubt being mindful of that as they spoke in relatively gloomy tones.
But, as Mr. Romney faced attacks from all sides, renewed questions about his own stumbles and whether he is conservative enough for the grass roots of his party, there was a real aura of apprehension coursing through his campaign. With his prospects of wrapping the race up quickly apparently diminished, Mr. Romney and his strategists began preparing his staff, his supporters and his financial bundlers for a longer and rougher march toward the nomination.
“I said from the very beginning, South Carolina is an uphill battle for a guy from Massachusetts,” Mr. Romney told reporters who traveled with him to Gilbert on Friday, a stark shift in tenor from his more buoyant demeanor a few days ago. “I knew that. We’re battling hard. The fact is that right now it looks like it’s neck and neck; that’s a pretty good spot to be in.”
(...) And, shifting into a potentially longer term plan to accumulate the delegates he needs in contests across the country, Mr. Romney’s campaign bought advertising time for the Nevada caucuses on Feb. 4.
Combined with his advertising and sophisticated efforts to encourage early voting by supporters in Florida, whose primary is Jan. 31, it was a display of how Mr. Romney’s political operation remains the class of the field in terms of money and organization.
But his normally disciplined on-the-ground operation has seemed to have difficulty adapting to the rapidly evolving political climate. And on Friday his finance team felt compelled to hold a conference call with nervous fund-raisers and state campaign officials in which his senior adviser, Eric Fehrnstrom, urged calm as some of them vented frustration at how Mr. Romney had handled calls to release tax returns.
(...) In interviews, Mr. Romney’s aides were matter of fact about their new challenges, saying they were surprised they had not faced some of them sooner. While some said they had not foreseen Mr. Gingrich’s sudden rise in polls, they also said their operation was built to make it through a long process if necessary.
A senior adviser, Russ Schriefer, said Mr. Romney would ultimately be just fine. “We don’t like to lose anywhere, but we’re not going to run the table; no one has ever run the table,” he said. “Ronald Reagan didn’t run the table, George H. W. Bush didn’t, George W. didn’t.” All of those Republicans went on to win their party’s nomination.