Is Mitt Romney "inevitable," again? For the Republican presidential nomination, that is, as I don't believe he can beat Barack Obama. Or is he merely back in command of the race?
On the strength of a stunning four to one spending advantage, Romney swept three primaries Tuesday night, winning a fairly close race against Rick Santorum in Wisconsin and scoring blow-out wins in Maryland and the District of Columbia. The chattering classes, embarrassed by erroneously calling Romney the nominee a couple of times before, are largely united again on Romney's behalf. Any way you count it, and there is more than one way, he's well ahead in delegates, fundraising, and organization. And yet ...
Santorum, unlike Newt Gingrich (who also blew not one but two opportunities to take and hold command of the race, which is another story entirely), has managed to hold up under withering and massive fire from Romney and his super PAC. And in May, Santorum has a good chance to win a number of key states: Texas, West Virginia, Arkansas, North Carolina, and Kentucky, with a shot in Indiana.
But to get to the greener pastures of May, he first has to surmount nearly three weeks of media chatter, with no primaries, following his triple loss on Tuesday night. Then he has to survive what looks like a mostly bad day on April 24th, when I believe he will lose to Romney in the Northeastern primaries of New York, Connecticut, Rhode Island and Delaware.
The big trick for Santorum, aside from getting through the chatter, on April 24th is making sure that he wins his home state Pennsylvania. Recent polls have shown Romney to be in striking distance there.
Mitt Romney strengthened his frontrunner's perch in the Republican presidential race Tuesday night, winning in Wisconsin, Maryland, and the District of Columbia over Rick Santorum and the other candidates. The ex-Massachusetts governor, out to establish himself as "inevitable" once again, called it "a great victory."
In fact, a brand new poll, from Public Policy Polling, shows Romney moving into a slight lead.
If Santorum gets into May, he can find some fresh traction.
The thing about this race is that victories don't tend to generate much momentum. And presidential nomination contests regularly feature "buyer's remorse."
Another thing is that Romney and his associates are prone to very telling screw-ups, some of which are deliberate.
Think "Corporations are people," the casual $10,000 bet, "I like to fire people," I love NASCAR because I'm pals with some team owners, any criticism of Wall Street is anti-American, etc. Think Etch-A-Sketch. Even Romney's sons get in on the act, with one wandering into birther "jokes" at the end of December and another this week complaining bitterly about "the liberal media" via Mad Men taking a shot at his grandfather. Which as I explained in my latest Mad Men essay here on the Huffington Post is entirely appropriate for a character closely allied to Nelson Rockefeller, who was about to run for president against George Romney.
On the other hand, as problematic as Romney is -- and I am sure that, barring cataclysmic disaster, Barack Obama will defeat him if he is the GOP nominee -- Santorum isn't any better.
Santorum was screwed by the media misreporting the first-in-the-nation contest of Iowa, where he actually won very narrowly but endured two weeks of reports that Romney had won. I warned at the time that there was a good chance Santorum had actually finished first. Had Iowa been properly reported, and most of the media not so eager to spin up Romney's "historic Iowa/New Hampshire sweep" that never actually happened, things may well have gone very differently. But they did not. As a general election candidate, he is far too conservative.
And if Santorum, Gingrich, and Paul -- who never came close to living up to the media hype about his supposed caucus strength, even with very low turn-outs that could have been dominated by his zealous supporters -- aren't very credible presidents, who is?
The Republicans don't have very eager options. It's not at all easy to run for president in a campaign designed to win. Obama is looking better, the economy, while anemic, has improved, and the Obama/Democratic machine is powerful and loaded for bear.
And the Republicans, frankly, don't have very good options.
Mitch Daniels? The governorship of Indiana is not much of a launching pad. Nor is a background as George W. Bush's budget director who assured that the Iraq War would essentially pay for itself.
Chris Christie? We'll see if the first term governor of New Jersey can live up to his media hype.
Jeb Bush? I find him impressive. But he has one big problem. His name. And I'm not referring to his first name.
Mitt Romney, accusing President Barack Obama of playing "hide and seek," claimed in a Wednesday speech before the American Society of Newspaper Editors that Obama is planning a series of policy surprises if he wins a second term. This is an attempt to stir up FUD (fear, uncertainty, and doubt) about a very well-known product.
Meanwhile, a brand new Gallup Poll survey shows Obama strengthening his lead over Mitt Romney among independents in the swing states even as Romney strengthens his lead in the Republican presidential race.
Obama has a big 48-39 edge over Romney among swing state independents, a big shift since last fall. His lead over Rick Santorum is even bigger, 53-32.
The key to Obama's big edge among independents in the key swing states of Colorado, Nevada, New Mexico, Florida, Iowa, Michigan, New Hampshire, North Carolina, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Virginia, and Wisconsin? Independent women.
Obama trailed last year.
Incidentally, if you are wondering why Obama's campaign isn't pitched to your particular interest, it may well be that you are not an independent voter in those states.
You can check things during the day on my site, New West Notes ... www.newwestnotes.com.