GOP Heavyweights: Candidates Face Uphill Battle Against Romney

Thursday, 05 Jan 2012 04:30 PM

By Dan Weil

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Now that Republican presidential front-runner Mitt Romney has won the Iowa caucuses, despite his slim victory it will be very difficult for one of the other candidates to derail him, prominent party members tell Politico.

Texas Gov. Rick Perry’s decision to stay in the race actually strengthens former Massachusetts Gov. Romney further, because Perry, former House Speaker Newt Gingrich, and former Pennsylvania Sen. Rick Santorum will continue to divide conservative votes. And Romney has a huge financial advantage.

He’s carrying a double-digit poll lead for the New Hampshire primary, which takes place Tuesday.

“I thought Newt [Gingrich] could’ve been a threat for a while, but [the insurgents] have not been able to unify,” a former Republican National Committee chairman told Politico.

A veteran House Republican, who claims neutrality, told the news service that the race looks to be over.

“South Carolina and Florida are the nails in the coffin, which is why the right is so mad. They see it coming but the dominoes are falling just right for Mitt as they did for [John] McCain,” the House member said.

“The party establishment does not want this intra-warfare much longer, so we can focus on just Obama rather than the oddballs on the stage that can’t even remember the DOE [Department of Energy] or EPA [Environmental Protection Agency].”

The member was referring to Perry’s failure during a debate to remember Energy as one of three departments he wants to eliminate.

But the fact that he is staying in the race takes some of the wind out of Santorum's and Gingrich’s sails, as all three make a concentrated bid for the conservative state of South Carolina, which holds its primary after New Hampshire – Jan. 21.

To be sure, not all Republican heavyweights view Romney’s victory as a fait accompli. Talk radio star Rush Limbaugh played long pieces of Santorum’s passionate Iowa caucus night speech and defended Santorum against charges that he is a “big-government conservative.”

The influential conservative magazine National Review warned Wednesday that the contest isn’t complete.

“Romney has never had a commanding lead in the polls and has not inspired much enthusiasm among Republican voters,” a National Review editorial stated. “His rather complacent speech following the caucuses will not inspire more. He may well believe that he faces no serious challenge for the nomination. But the more he shows that he believes this, the less it will be true.”


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