Mitt Romney’s Coast to Victory

Almost all of the major non-Romney candidates have had a moment in the sun. First it was Bachmann during the Iowa caucuses, then Perry when he got into the race, then Cain as he gained traction before the sexual misconduct allegations, then Gingrich before the other candidates attacked him and his “baggage,” and the latest is Rick Santorum and his near-victory in the Iowa caucuses. The only candidates who haven’t experienced a similar wave of support are Ron Paul and Jon Huntsman. Paul has a very dedicated base, but his Libertarian views cannot win over a majority of Republicans. The problem with Huntsman is that he’s too similar to Romney—they are both seen as too moderate by the conservative wing of the Republican Party and their Mormonism carries a factor of uncertainty. Republicans want a conservative alternative to Romney, so is Santorum now in the position to claim the anti-Romney title?

The answer to that question is interesting. Romney is the technical winner of Iowa, and on Tuesday it looks like he’s going to sweep New Hampshire, where his more-moderate reputation will help rather than hurt him. That would be historic in itself—no non-incumbent presidential candidate has done so before. Santorum is being hit hard in New Hampshire on his views against gay rights and abortion—the same views which certainly helped him score the virtual tie in Iowa. Romney may have less excitement on his side, but he has the advantage of being a less-polarizing candidate than Santorum.

After New Hampshire is South Carolina, and this is where Santorum would need another strong showing to prove that he can carry the fight against Romney. The latest poll shows Romney and Santorum rising with Gingrich falling, putting Romney in first at 32% and Santorum in second at 21.5%. Momentum is key, and if Gingrich continues to drop from his current 18% and Santorum picks up from Newt’s loss, he can certainly close the gap between Romney. The interesting thing is that, for this being considered such a volatile Republican field up until this point, Romney is in position to win the first three contests. Some may not be terribly excited by him winning the nomination, but it’s becoming understood that he is the best candidate who can win over independents and potentially beat Obama in November.

The latest big-name endorsement for Mitt Romney comes from John McCain, further establishing Romney as the GOP establishment favorite. In the current state of the field, Romney is the only candidate with the organization to win the national campaign for the nomination. The only shot for, say Santorum, to actually prove a threat going forward is if the other candidates start to drop out and support and voters over to Santorum. Voters would need to come together and coalesce around a single anti-Romney candidate, and although Santorum is rising in the polls, the vote is still splintered among all the non-Romneys. Republicans who dislike Romney are almost shooting themselves in the foot by splintering the vote like this, allowing Romney to score victories even with such a small percentage of the vote (Although Romney won Iowa, he actually received six less votes than he did four years ago when he came in second). I think that voters are eventually going to accept that there isn’t a strong non-Romney candidate out there, and accept the inevitable nomination of Mitt Romney.

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