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The Last of the Non-Romneys

If I ever start an “alternative” band (for the senior tour), I will call it the Non-Romneys.

So far, I’ve been more skeptical than BIG THINKER Robert de Neufville that Romney is the inevitable Republican nominee.  That’s because I thought the Republican faithful longed, most of all, for a non-Romney they could believe in.

Now Robert’s thinking that the campaign for the nomination will extend beyond Super Tuesday.  I’m inclined to say the real campaign is already over—and it ended on the battlefield of Michigan.

I suggested, although not as insistently as I should have, that February would be the month of Santorum.  Well, it was.

Santorum was so impressive that he was the non-Romney who came closest to winning.  Michigan was—to make a lame comparison—his Battle of Antietam.  He was aggressively going into the enemy’s territory after some unexpected victories.  He had become the favorite to win and much was expected.  A smashing triumph (which for a few days seemed likely) would have gained his side many new allies and disabled the various quantitative advantages of his opponent. The momentum would have propelled him to another decisive victory on Super Tuesday.  Romney, despite his superior money, manpower, organization, and technology, would have been compelled to surrender.

Like General Lee, Santorum had a few key missteps and some really bad luck (particularly his only bad debating performance occurring the week before the primary).   Lee and Santorum both would have won had the fight occurred earlier and maybe later.  They both underestimated the resolution of their opponent to do what’s required to win.

After the defeat in Michigan, Ohio became Santorum’s Gettysburg (to work the comparison some more).  He has to win big to credibly continue the fight to victory, and, even with that victory, it might already be too late.

Santorum’s campaign depends entirely on momentum.  In Ohio, he can spend only a fraction of what Romney can, and he even seems to have no paid employees at all.  And the mo’ since Michigan has been all in Romney’s direction.  Santorum’s big lead in OH has disappeared, and Romney now has a double-digit lead nationwide.  Santorum still might win OH, but it seems to me Romney will squeak by once more.  Santorum, in any case, needs to do much better than anything close to a tie.

All the experts agree that his guarantee of getting all the delegates in Virginia and Massachusetts insures that Romney will likely get a majority of the delegates chosen on Super Tuesday (or at least a strong plurality).  A few Santorum states—and a Gingrich victory in Georgia—won’t make much difference.  Santorum will be about where Romney was after Super Tuesday in 2008.  Santorum might even have another mini-surge and win in some more states, but it’ll be too little, too late.

The line against Romney is that his talent (displayed in debates, commercials etc.) is to make his opponents look bad without making himself look good.  Now that all the non-Romneys are gone, he is going to have to turn to that indispensable latter task.

I have to add that Romney’s honest, unapologetic, and highly competent slugging his way to victory is causing even his detractors to admire his singular greatness.  In that respect, he’s starting to remind us of the underrated (in the South) General Grant.  Maybe our commander-in-chief should be shaking a little in his boots.

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