Texas Gov. Rick Perry may still get into the race, as could former Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin, but both may be too late to mount the kind of well-funded nationwide campaign needed to win the nomination, let alone the election. In this day and age, presidential campaigns take a full four years or more, and that rule still stands the test of time.
Pawlenty's campaign has been seriously undermined by weak fundraising and his own anonymity. Huntsman, a late entry, got off to a poor start this week after several embarrassing blunders by his inexperienced campaign staff, but he is largely unknown by the electorate at large and also faces fundraising challenges.
Romney, on the other hand, who has been running for more than four years, has built a sizable campaign war chest, raising a hefty $10 million in a single day earlier this month. He has made the weak economy and jobs his No. 1 issue, identifying himself as a career venture-capital investor who has helped build some of the most successful business enterprises in the country and knows how to create jobs.
Although he faces several challenges, including the Romneycare plan that he enacted as governor, he is the clear front-runner at this point.
The rapidly deteriorating Obama economy plays to Romney's experience and political strengths and, in the end, will likely trump all other issues the Democrats -- and his rivals for the nomination -- will throw at him.
Meantime, a little more than six months before the 2012 election year begins, the economy looms as Obama's potential Waterloo.
The economic recovery, if there ever was one, is clearly sliding backward. Punishing 9- to 10-percent unemployment rates show no sign of any significant decline this year or next, and one poll finds 80 percent of recent college graduates are unable to find work. The stock market is weakening, and with it, tens of millions of pension plans. Home sales continue to plunge along with home values.
And if all this weren't enough, the CBO says that under Obamacare, "an aging population and rapidly rising health care costs will sharply increase federal spending for health care programs and Social Security," causing "federal debt to grow to unsustainable levels."
If the economy is tanking, jobs are disappearing and America is on a slippery slope into bankruptcy, whom can Obama blame? George W. Bush?