No doubt now that he is the front runner. But still time for others to get in and make their mark!
Dick Morris has a column out Tuesday in which he states that Romney will pick up a considerable bounce from the decisions not to run for the GOP nomination by former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee and businessman Donald Trump. Morris says that Romney was the second choice of a significant portion of Huckabee and Trump voters and therefore will propel him into a solid lead over the nearest announced competetior which is Newt Gingrich.
Newt has the additional problem of having shot himself in the foot by telling NBC's David Gregory on Meet the Press that Paul Ryan's budget plan was "right wing social engineering." That mistake did not go over well with one Iowa voter who famously confronted the former Speaker very directly in this video.
Morris also points out the well known tendency of GOP voters to give the nod to the guy who came in second last time. In 2008 both Huckabee and Romney were approximately tied as 2nd place finishers to John McCain (who himself got the nomination after coming in 2nd to George Bush in 2000). With Huckabee out of the way, Romney can inherit the votes of those who say "it's his turn."
While voters in the Iowa Caucus may go out on a limb for social conservative candidates (they gave Huckabee his first big win when many of us were still saying "Hucka what?") primary voters tend to vote for more established (some say "establishment") candidates. Romney has a clear advantage in New Hampshire which neighbors Massachusetts, but is still perceived as weak in South Carolina.
Romney will need to nail down early victories to prevent any anti-Romney upstarts from making a serious effort. He seems inclined to do just that by winning the all important early money contest. Just this week he pulled off a fundraising coup by raising $10.3 million in a single day.
Still plenty of time for others
But before we hand the nomination to Romney let's recognize that it is still early. Romney's albatross is RomneyCare, the model for ObamaCare and despite what the candidate says the issue still dogs him. The early polling which gives Romney an early lead is based largely on name recognition and the "it's his turn" factor. There is still plenty of room for other candidates to make their mark. A win by any of the social conservatives (Bachmann or Santorum) in Iowa would give them the money and momentum to compete effectively in South Carolina. Others like Pawlenty and Daniels, who appeal to establishment GOP voters may also emerge. The next debate on June 7th in New Hampshire (debate calendar) will be an opportunity for new faces to get their message out provided they decide to participate.