Now it may be former Sen. Rick Santorum's turn to be the GOP's shiny new toy. While Santorum is a bedrock social conservative, he also is strong on foreign policy. Early on, Santorum was the best challenger to Paul's quirky views on Iran. Santorum argues that his ability to win two elections in Pennsylvania shows that he can attract independent voters. Alas, he lost his Senate seat to Democrat Bob Casey in 2006.
Former Utah Gov. Jon Huntsman is the Republican whom Democratic readers cite as credible. Why? Because he insulted the GOP base -- not a smart thing for a candidate to do -- when he tweeted, "I believe in evolution and trust scientists on global warming. Call me crazy."
Thing is, Huntsman isn't even a strong moderate. During an August debate, Huntsman raised his hand to join all the other Republicans in pledging to walk away from a deficit reduction deal that would raise $1 in taxes for every $10 in spending cuts. In a recent head-to-head debate with Gingrich, Huntsman had a chance to take on the former speaker. Instead, Huntsman cozied up to the Newter. The man has no fire.
Romney emerges as the survivor, the Republican who has endured the spotlight under which others withered. In debates, he has been judicious of word. He's lived in the pressure cooker, and still voters do not question his personal character.
He has written a thoughtful book, "No Apology," which lays out the case for American exceptionalism and against European-style government. Without ignoring the sometimes painful costs, Romney makes the case for the free market and makes it well.
Former Ambassador to France Howard Leach was a Romney supporter in 2008, but he waited until recently to endorse Romney for 2012. "I delayed supporting him just to see who the potential candidates were and how they might stack up," Leach told me. After looking around and considering Romney's record as a manager -- he turned around the Utah Olympics -- Leach concluded, "Romney is head and shoulders above the other candidates."
I remain unconvinced that Romney can beat President Obama in November, but at this moment, he looks to be the only Republican in the race with a chance.
Oddly, the movement of Romney's positions could help him in November. Yes, he was pro-abortion rights in 1994 and now opposes abortion rights. Yes, he brought Romneycare to Massachusetts and now he promises to issue Obamacare waivers for all 50 states. On the bright side, Obamaland won't be able to paint Romney as a rigid ideologue.
Most important: I don't think Romney will embarrass me.
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