Republicans, the axiom goes, don’t so much fall in love as fall in line. Thus Mitt Romney could run in 2008, finish a respectable second (or third, depending on how you score Mike Huckabee’s performance) and be the inevitable nominee in 2012.
There has always been though a strain of the Republican base that has rejected this line of succession. This is the group that, ironically, backed Mr. Romney in 2008, when John McCain was crowned the inevitable candidate, or Steve Forbes in 1996.
Each time, the rebels have fought valiantly, but failed. This time around, they sound like they are wiling to continue spitting in the face of the party establishment for as long as Rick Santorum stays in the race. To wit, despite the endorsement of Governor Nikki Haley, Mitt Romney lost South Carolina to Newt Gingrich. Despite the endorsement of Tim Pawlenty, he lost to Rick Santorum in South Carolina.
As turnout declines, the rebel faction becomes an ever greater share of the electorate. But with the sting of last night’s losses in the Deep South still smarting, Mr. Romney shows no signs of being anything other than the pick of the party regulars.
This morning, he rolled out an endorsement of Tom Ridge, the Pennsylvania governor, who was an early endorse of Utah Gov. Jon Huntsman, whose calling card was calling out the GOP base for the orthodoxy.
“I’ve met accomplished and strong leaders in my life,” Mr. Ridge said in a statement. “Mitt Romney is one of them. He would bring to the presidency an extraordinary set of skills….his experience turning around failing enterprises makes him precisely what the country needs. I’m proud to endorse Mitt’s candidacy and will work hard to help him recapture the White House this coming November.”
Mr. Romney is in New York City this morning meeting with donors, and, NY1 is reporting, he is slated to pick up the endorsement of former senator Al D’Amato, a permanent fixture of the New York Republican establishment as anyone.
The strategy has worked in so far as it has allowed Mr. Romney to raise millions of dollars and to convince many Republicans to rally to his candidacy in the hopes of strengthening his hand headed into November. If it only didn’t piss off every one else so much, it may actually work.