Even with rabid conservative opposition to health care reform, and his role in crafting Massachusetts' system of universal health care, Mitt Romney remains the prohibitive favor for the Republican presidential nomination. He has plenty of cash, a strong national organization, and substantial support from the GOP establishment. That said, given the religious composition of the early Republican primaries, I'm not sure if he'll have enough momentum to overcome this serious vulnerability:
Jonathan Chait has a characteristically glib response for liberals who associate "fear of crime" with white racial anxieties:
From the 1960s through the 1990s, crime weighed heavily on the public mood, but liberals tended to dismiss it as mere code words for racism. One measure of the liberal mood is political movies like "The Candidate" and "The American President," where virtuous liberal politicians candidly declare that crime is not a real issue at all.
Insofar that Mississippi Gov. Haley Barbour has a glaring weakness -- aside from his uncanny resemblance to Boss Hogg -- it's his propensity for racial gaffes. In the last six months, Barbour has had to apologize for his praise of the Council of Conservative Citizens (the "uptown" Klan), crass racial "jokes," and overly rose-colored memories of his upbringing in the Jim Crow South.