The Game Belongs to Mitt

Last month, I argued that Mitt Romney was on his way to winning the Republican presidential nomination, despite the large anti-establishment faction within the GOP base. Herman Cain might be surging among Republican voters, but recent polls affirm that view.

At the The Plum Line, Jonathan Bernstein examines a recent poll of GOP insiders and finds that Romney is well positioned to win wide support among Republican elites. Of the party actors in Iowa, New Hampshire, and South Carolina, 36 percent report a “good chance” of endorsing the former Massachusetts governor. “Of the entire group,” notes Bernstein, “while 23% have already endorsed another candidate, only another 10% say they have 'no chance' of supporting him for the nomination.” Or, put another way, two-thirds of Republican elites in those states are willing to endorse Romney for the nomination. And given the extent to which endorsements are a key part of winning the party’s support, this is an excellent sign for Romney.

With that said, it doesn’t take much analysis to see that Romney is on a steady march toward the nomination. Among the Republican presidential hopefuls, only Rick Perry counts as a plausible challenger, and his campaign has been a poster child for what happens when an untested and inexperienced candidate fails to live up to massive expectations. Herman Cain might have leads in two of the three opening contests –- Iowa and South Carolina –- the simple fact is that he lacks the organization to build on those gains, to say nothing of the fact that he is embroiled in a harassment scandal.

None of this should come as a surprise. Romney has been running for president -– in one way or another –- for almost half a decade. He has deep connections within the Republican Party and managed to neutralize most conservative complaints in his 2008 run for the nomination (where, it should be said, he was the conservative alternative to John McCain). He began this campaign with the most money, strongest organization, and greatest support, and while he hasn’t broken past the 25 percent threshold in national polls, his support in individual primary states has grown steadily. The Republican nomination has always been Romney’s to lose, flash-in-the-pan Tea Party candidates notwithstanding.