It is with some amazement that I find myself thinking of Mitt Romney as one of the last two Republicans standing — and as the person who might at this point be the favorite to win the nomination. Yes, just last night I said that John McCain probably had a clearer path than anyone else. But I’ve been rethinking that.
First, let me deal with the also-rans, all of whom are pretty much done at this point.
- Mike Huckabee. It ended last night for the good reverend. If he can’t ride the Confederate flag and his bizarre equation of homosexuality and bestiality to victory in South Carolina, he certainly can’t do it anywhere else.
- Fred Thompson. Dead man walking or dead man withdrawing — it’s up to him.
- Rudy Giuliani. Wasn’t he supposed to be running for president? Of the United States, not just Florida?
- Ron Paul. He’ll keep getting whatever he’s getting.
So we’ve basically got a two-man race between McCain and Romney, which was pretty hard to imagine after Romney lost New Hampshire. I didn’t hear any squawking last October when Ryan Lizza wrote in the New Yorker that Romney’s only chance was to win Iowa and New Hampshire, then hope for momentum. He lost both, of course, and has won only one competitive state — Michigan. Yet he’s very much alive.
Consider that McCain has won two hard-fought primaries, New Hampshire and South Carolina, but has yet to win a plurality of Republicans anywhere. As Adam Nagourney observes in the New York Times today, many of the upcoming primaries are for Republicans only.
Consider, too, that conservatives have been split among Romney, Huckabee and Thompson. Not anymore.
Add to this Romney’s personal fortune and his willingness to say absolutely anything to get elected, and he may very well have the edge.
Finally, check out Jeff Jacoby’s column in today’s Globe. Jacoby, a conservative who’s been mocking Romney since 1994, is appalled at Romney’s attempt to don the cloak of Ronald Reagan.