With the South Carolina primary eight days away, and Rick Perry having morphed into the Incredible Shrinking Candidate, conservative Republicans are down to two options in their quixotic quest for a non-Romney. The only problem: One has already displayed more political personalities than Sybil, and the other specializes in social issues that nobody especially cares about in 2012.
Mitt Romney took another big step toward the Republican nomination on Tuesday night.
Romney was expected to cruise to victory in New Hampshire—but even the former Massachusetts governor probably didn’t anticipate giving a victory speech at 8:25 p.m. With the early returns matching the latest polls, with Romney leading Ron Paul by double digits and more than doubling the vote for Jon Huntsman, there was no Iowa-style drama in his unofficial home state. The call was made early. And Romney, beaming in front of his toothy family while the crowd chanted “Mitt Mitt Mitt Mitt,” was clearly pleased with the orderly nature of things.
New Hampshire voters are justly famous for pitchforking presidential frontrunners—LBJ in 1968, Walter Mondale in 1984, Bob Dole in 1996, George W. Bush in 2000 and Barack Obama in 2008 all had their paths to nomination gummed up by the famous contrarians of Yankeedom. Could it happen to Mitt Romney tonight?
Of all the bizarre aspects of the Republican presidential race—and they have been gloriously plentiful—nothing has been odder than the kid-glove treatment accorded the likeliest nominee. While every other pretender, from Donald Trump to Rick Santorum, has had his record and rhetoric parsed and pilloried, Mitt Romney has sailed through months (heck, years) of campaigning and oodles of debates without so much as a nick or scratch. Until now. Sunday’s New Hampshire debate featured memorable smackdowns by Jon Huntsman and Newt Gingrich.
The non-Romney Republicans had ten hours to stew over their abject failure to lay a glove on the Mittster in Saturday night’s lackluster prime-time debate. Nudged on Sunday morning by moderator David Gregory, who launched the proceedings by asking the aggrieved Newt Gingrich to make an argument against Romney’s electability, they came out with guns blazing at the Meet the Press debate. But it was almost certainly too little, too late, to bring down the frontrunner.