Editor's note: Donna Brazile, a CNN contributor and a Democratic strategist, is vice chairwoman for voter registration and participation at the Democratic National Committee, a nationally syndicated columnist and an adjunct professor at Georgetown University. She was manager for the Al Gore-Joe Lieberman presidential campaign in 2000 and wrote "Cooking With Grease."
(CNN) -- Running for president is an expensive endeavor, but the cost isn't measured in dollars alone.
Sure, we can count the $4 million in super PAC dollars Mitt Romney's allies just spent to tear down his Iowa opponents with negative ads. Indeed, Romney and his allies spent nearly $150 for every caucus vote he received in his eight-vote victory.
But you can't put a price tag on the principles he sold out to the Tea Party in order to buy its extremists' support.
Romney, who, Newt Gingrich likes to say, once ran to the left of Sen. Ted Kennedy, has scrambled in the past year to get to the right of Rick Perry, Newt Gingrich and Rick Santorum. The same career politician who less than a decade ago told Massachusetts voters "my views are progressive" told South Carolinians last month, "I line up pretty darn well with Tea Partiers." In the same breath Romney called himself "the ideal candidate" of the right wing.
As Romney now takes his dangerous promises and disregard for the middle class to New Hampshire on Tuesday, then South Carolina and beyond along the primary campaign trail -- and, he hopes, into the general election -- he's weighed down by heavy baggage.
He belittled President Obama's $1,000 tax cut for typical middle-class families, deriding it as a "little Band-Aid." But Romney's own plan would give that same family just $54, savings even he admits is "not a huge tax cut."
He doubled down on his misguided idea to "let Detroit go bankrupt," even though the president's rescue of the auto industry saved more than 1.4 million American jobs up and down the supply chain, leading to a renaissance in the American car industry.
Romney has also said he'd let the foreclosure process "hit the bottom." Presumably this is so investors can swing in and make a quick buck. Drawing on his lucrative business experience of firing workers, off-shoring jobs, closing plants and bankrupting companies, Romney has a plan for the speculators, but not the families who stand to lose their homes.
He promised to veto the DREAM Act and deny young illegal immigrants the chance to earn a path to citizenship if they give back to the only country they've ever known by serving in the military or going to college.
He backed the right-wing Republican budget that would eventually end Medicare as we know it, gut Social Security and slash funding for higher education.
He criticized the president for ending the war in Iraq, saying he would rather leave 30,000 troops on the ground with no clear mission or plan for withdrawal.
And the icing on the Tea Party cake? He has repackaged the same policies that caused the financial crisis -- mistakes like making the middle class pay for tax breaks for the wealthy and big corporations and letting Wall Street write its own rules so big bankers can make millions while gambling with everyone else's economic security.
These Tea Party-coddling promises may have won Romney a caucus, but he'll find they come at a cost -- to his own candidacy and, even more distressingly, to us.
To you and me, a Romney presidency would mean four years of out-of-control college and healthcare costs. It would mean less responsibility for everyone to do their fair share, but more families losing their jobs and their homes. But that's the price Romney is willing to pay for the support of the far right.
Once the primary is over, though, Romney will have to move back to the middle. Independent voters aren't going to like the lengths to which Romney has married himself to the Republican Party's extremist elements. The American people can't afford to give him a pass.
Romney said he wants to be the Tea Party's "ideal candidate," but by adopting the principles of a group that doesn't speak for mainstream Republicans -- let alone the majority of the Americans he hopes to lead -- he could be falling in with the wrong crowd at the expense of the middle class.
Follow @CNNOpinion on Twitter
The opinions expressed in this commentary are solely those of Donna Brazile.