Romney's comeback has to be linked to the viability of the coalition that Reagan assembled in 1980 and Gingrich re-energized in 1994, and to the announcement that he is in the fight to stay. The former Massachusetts governor said as much on Thursday night when he declared it the first inning of a 50 inning game and congratulated Mike Huckabee, but he needs to say so again and again and again: He is going the distance and will insist on giving Reagan conservatives a candidate they can vote for, not the least distressing of the alternatives still standing.
Romney and his supporters also have to talk candidly about what Senator Obama's big win in Iowa means --a completely different campaign than the GOP had expected, a campaign wherein Obama will stress a generation-jump away from the politics of the Vietnam era. It will be difficult for a long-time D.C. insider like Senator McCain to stop Obama. It will be impossible for a candidacy built on the narrow base of evangelical Christians that Huckabee built in Iowa to do so.
Romney has to shift the discussion to not only who can win in November but also why it is so important to win: Four or five Supreme Court vacancies. Expiring tax cuts. Democratic majorities eager to spend and spend and spend. A border which is still far from secured.
And most importantly, a commander-in-chief who understands the threats abroad and who can win the right to succeed the president and extend the determination of George W. Bush to prevail.
Yes, Senator McCain understands the war, but it is very doubtful that he can beat Obama.
Huckabee almost certainly doesn't get the jihadist threat any more than he does the borders of Pakistan, and he can't carry ten states much less the red states Bush put together in '04, which is why Democratic strategist Susan Estrich was declaring her intention to dance at the Inaugural Ball if Huckabee got the GOP nomination.
Wyoming, New Hampshire and Michigan Republicans have to decide if the coalition and what it stands for are worth fighting for. If they do, they will follow the lead of the editors of National Review and get behind a Romney comeback.