Romney, Former Frontrunner?

Let's take a moment to appreciate how wise I was when I wrote back in April:

Romney's best hope of winning the nomination may actually be... to patiently stay the course as he falls from the front-runner's perch, working and waiting for the voters to come back to him....

To voters, front-runners are the steady girlfriend they leave to play the field. They chase one sexy come-on after another, looking for their flawless ideal, only to be ultimately disappointed. In the end, when it comes time to make a commitment, they come back home.

Gingrich, Palin, Cain, Trump, Bachmann, Perry... am I missing someone the GOP electorate has swooned over? Can we count Chris Christie and Paul Ryan too?

Today a couple of polls came out showing Texas Governor Rick Perry, having just entered the race, vaulting to the lead, leading to proclamations that Romney is now, officially, no longer the front-runner. Or presumptive front-runner, or whatever term we were using.

Perry, far more than those who have polled well before, is capable of generating the GOP infrastructure acceptance that would be truly dangerous to Romney. This is why I advised in that same April article:

Whoever wins Iowa... will become the surging non-Romney candidate, knocking out most of the others. That leaves a two-person race in which Romney fights to (maybe) hold onto Northeastern states like New Hampshire, while his opponent chalks up easy wins throughout the South and the heartland.

That's a tough road for Romney.

What he needs instead is an Iowa winner whom the Republican Party will rally to destroy. Romney needs a wingnut....

If someone like Bachmann comes out of Iowa riding high, [the party establishment will] rally around Romney to stop her.

Romney needs to torpedo serious candidates like Pawlenty and Barbour — and you can be sure he will — but he'd also be smart to identify which wingnut candidate is getting a spark of life, and start feeding that flame.

Perry should have been just about as establishment-acceptable as Pawlenty or Barbour -- he's a multi-term big-state governor after all -- and a number of solid establish guys, including Barbour, greatly prefer him to Romney, who they don't trust.
The big question is whether Perry pushed himself over the wingnutty line in the book he wrote when, I believe, he really intended not to run. (I discussed this in my article after the Ames Straw Poll.) If not, I think Perry demolishes Romney; if people like Barbour decide Perry will sink them next November, I think Romney wins the nomination.

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