Saying John McCain was "the clear favorite" in South Carolina, Mitt Romney today added that "it would be an enormous surprise if [McCain is] not able to win here."
I fully understand setting expectations, but please keep it within bounded reality. By what standard would it be an enormous surprise if McCain doesn't win? Even before Romney pulled out a nice Michigan win, McCain led Mike Huckabee by single digits with yesterday's primary sure to have an impact on the eventual results.
It will also be interesting to see what version of Romney we see in South Carolina. So far, he's seemingly chosen his personas like he was participating in local community theater productions in Iowa, New Hampshire and Michigan. Maybe he'll say he has textile mills in his blood.
Robert Farley wonders why Romney hasn't been anointed:
[W]hy isn't Mitt Romney being treated as the overwhelming frontrunner in the Republican race? He's won two of the four contests so far, and placed second twice. Moreover, Michigan differs from the other three contests in that it's inhabited by actual people, twice as many as the other three states combined. He's also the leader in total money and trails only minor also-ran candidate Rudy Giuliani in cash on hand. He hasn't won any Southern states, but then neither has anyone else, and I doubt that the media would have been reticent about declaring John McCain the frontrunner if he'd taken Michigan.
He's not overwhelming, though, because he only won one out of three states for which he was the heavy favorite. Two had a home field advantage, and the "total money" advantage Farley mentions couldn't put lipstick on the pig, as they say. Romney's strategy was based on big early wins to propel his name recognition higher in later primary states. That hasn't happened, and it's hard to see how he generates a groundswell from the tepid response he's so far received.
Romney may well end up being the candidate conservatives rally around, which is amazing considering his past positions were much more liberal than supposed-apostate McCain's ever were. Choosing him may be the best thing for the GOP, because he'll be defeated so badly it likely would force Republicans to aggressively address the sorry state of the Party in a way a relatively close loss, or even narrow win, by McCain would not.