GOP LATEST – AT 8:44 A.M. ET: We anticipate the GOP debate tomorrow night. I think we can now safely say that this is the GOP field. It is probably now too late for anyone else to start a campaign. Primary voting begins in a few months.
Despite the fact that he is unloved, Mitt Romney continues, like the good foot soldier he is, to make progress toward the nomination. Some have questioned how well he could run outside his home base in New England. The Politico reports:
David Drucker reports that Mitt Romney is the "favorite" to win South Carolina Sen. Jim DeMint's 2012 endorsement, a nod that would help in DeMint's home state, as well as symbolically among conservatives nationwide.
Romney's tenacity in the 2012 primary has gradually brought a number of hesitant 2008 supporters back onto his team. Last week, Romney won back former New Hampshire Sen. Judd Gregg, former House Speaker Dennis Hastert and Mississippi Sen. Thad Cochran, all of whom had been neutral in the race. Earlier, Romney picked up former Minnesota Rep. Vin Weber, a 2008 supporter who worked for Tim Pawlenty's short-lived campaign this time around.
A couple more polls like this one, from Virginia's Christopher Newport University and the Richmond Times-Dispatch, and Mitt Romney's inevitability narrative really will start to take hold:
While former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney can't seem to break 25 percent in any national polls of GOP presidential hopefuls, the CNU poll finds 43.8 percent of likely Republican primary voters in Virginia favor him for the nomination.
In a far distant second is former Godfather's Pizza chief executive Herman Cain at 11.7 percent, followed by Texas Gov. Rick Perry at 10.2 percent.
That's a far cry from a Quinnipiac University poll released last week showing Cain and Romney locked at 21 percent among GOP voters in the state. …
If Romney were the nominee, Obama trails 45.8 percent to 42.3 percent. The president is in a statistical tie with Perry, the poll shows, with Perry at 43 percent and Obama at 42.7 percent.
I still think it's too early to say that the nomination is Romney's to lose. One slip of the tongue for a candidate who arouses little passion can be devastating. And what if Herman Cain shines in tomorrow night's debate? What if Rick Perry suddenly comes alive?
I honestly don't think Perry can cut it. He still comes across as strictly local. His economic/energy plan, released a few days ago, didn't make many waves, although it has solid features. It may be too late for him to make up the ground he's lost. As for Cain, he must now be presidential, without losing his inspiring, infectious style. He's got to prove to the American voter that a man who's never held public office can be president, which means he's got to debate foreign policy as well as his tax plan.
Big stakes tomorrow night.
October 17, 2011