R.L.G. at Democracy in America wrote this a few days ago on the 2012 nomination fight:
Mr Douthat makes clear that he thinks Mitt Romney has the clearest path to the nomination. No wonder he is banking on a changing mood; it will have to change a very great deal before the man who pioneered Obamacare will be the Republican nominee.
As Ross noted in a later post, Romney is already ahead of Palin among some social conservative activists according to the Values Voters Summit straw poll, and right now he has the most support of any likely 2012 contender. It’s true that Romney is in a virtual tie with Huckabee at the top of this latest poll, but the “obvious” front-runner Palin is in fourth place behind the increasingly ridiculous Gingrich. If I had to pick Romney or Huckabee as the current front-runner, I would have to say it is Romney. Despite all of his considerable baggage and my strong dislike for him, Romney is accepted by movement conservative activists, pundits and leaders to a degree that Huckabee is not and probably never will be. More important, he is acceptable to wealthy Republican donors, and Huckabee is not. Romney is certainly running and has been organizing to that end for some time, and Huckabee may not run and has never had much of a campaign organization even when he was an actively campaigning candidate. That puts Romney far out in front of his closest rival, and it puts him miles ahead of the others.
It seems as if it would make sense that health care legislation Romney championed in Massachusetts should be his undoing because it was the model for the federal health care bill. Then again, it should be bad for the GOP as a whole that the health care bill was in many important respects modeled on the Republican compromise position of the mid-90s that Romney adopted. Romney’s health care record should be a liability with primary voters, but that assumes that they will care more about what he did as governor of Massachusetts than they care about what he says he will do as President. The latest version of Romney is the one who fiercely denounces health care legislation and urges its repeal. A substantial percentage of Republican primary voters in 2008 overlooked his complete lack of credibility on a range of issues on which he pretended to be the true conservative candidate, and without McCain in the race sucking up the support of all the moderate primary voters Romney will probably gain their support as well. The voters who regard Romney as too fake and too unprincipled will probably be split several ways by a large field of candidates, and the new Republican rules for awarding delegates will benefit the candidate who is best able to compete in many different kinds of states and who has the resources and organization to have a campaign presence across the country. All of that leaves Romney with a decent chance at the nomination. His nomination will be a debacle for the GOP of a different sort, but it seems the most likely outcome whether or not the public mood changes.