Mitt's Big Night and the Road Ahead

Hugh Hewitt

2/29/2012 9:58:00 AM - Hugh Hewitt

The significance of Mitt Romney's big wins in Arizona and Michigan is debated in a symposium over at NationalReview.com. Along with the Weekly Standard's Jay Cost, I think it is hard to see anyone but Mitt Romney as the GOP nominee. More to the point, I am of the view that the race for the GOP nomination is effectively decided. Not over, just decided.

My GOP-BCS rankings --this is the second edition-- put Romney in an overwhelming position at the top of the field because he has won the big blue state primaries of New Hampshire, Florida, and now Michigan. He also won the primary in the key state of Arizona, a must win for the GOP in the fall and likely to be contested by the president. It was a victory for Romney and by a huge margin.

These are what are called "quality wins" by the BCS gurus when college football teams are being ranked as opposed to would-be opponents of the president, but the concept carries. Romney has won where the GOP nominee needs to win in the fall, under the conditions which will prevail in the fall.

Rick Santorum set up his title shot very nicely with wins in the caucus states of Colorado and Minnesota and in the non-binding Missouri beauty contest, but like triumphs over small conference, early season opponents in college football, the GOP-BCS rankings don't count these for much, though they matter more than Newt's sole win in the South Carolina primary, a state that any of the GOP contenders would carry handily in November.

No matter how you slice it, Romney has won where and when he needed to win, and has developed the organization and raised the cash to carry the campaign to the president.

Which is exactly where it needs to go now. That is why Team Romney is making a push for virtual volunteers and small donors at www.MittRomney.com, to begin to build the organization needed to stay abreast of the president through the summer.

Expect GOP fatigue with the intra-party jousting to help Romney along next week to wins in Ohio and elsewhere in the country. The desire to "get on with it" is growing and crowding out patience with the anti-Romney activists. There are indeed die-hard anti-Romneys, and some of them are very good men and women who just don't think the former Massachusetts governor is reliably conservative enough.

They have lost that argument with the party's base, however, even as I, and folks like me, lost that argument in 2008 about John McCain. But having lost it once, we need to help refocus the campaign on the president's abysmal record at home and abroad if Romney in fact carries Ohio next week. Sure, if Rick Santorum can carry off a huge upset there, the GOP-BCS tightens again, but not by much. The Romney strongholds of New York, New Jersey and California loom, and Mitt would need to completely unravel to fumble the nomination.

That's not his style. Mistakes, yes, like Ford Field. But not repeated errors or devastating pratfalls. Romney, former McCain campaign manager Steve Schmidt once said on my radio program, is a learning machine. This is what I noticed when interviewing him in 2006 for my 2007 book on him. Not surprisingly for an extremely successful executive across different platforms --business, sports and government-- Romney profits from mistakes, doesn't shun their autopsies, and addresses the weaknesses they reveal. In this way the last two months have been very good for him, his campaign team, and the GOP's chances in November.

The real opponent, though, needs to come into view, and soon, and it isn't ourselves. "We have met the enemy...and he is us" was the old line from the very old cartoon strip Pogo. Thus it has been for the past eight months, and that would end with a Romney win in Ohio.

When and if it does, the entire GOP has to get back to talking every day about the president's failed policies, broken promises, and the incredibly dangerous prospect of a second Obama term, one in which the already imperious president becomes wholly unrestrained in his exercise of what he thinks to be his powers.

$5 a gallon gas? Think $10 a gallon, and hearing the president call it a prudent policy for the future of the planet.

Iran with nukes? Think a demand from the president on Israel to renounce its nukes as a first step towards stability in the Middle East.

8.3% unemployment? Think of new measures that capture "the new metrics of the new sustainable economy."

The stakes are too high to keep fighting the undercard again and again and again though the Chicago Gang and their allies in the MSM will want us to.

Mitt Romney's big wins last night have written the penultimate chapter in the GOP nomination process, and this week's GOP-BCS ratings are unlikely to change. Let's hope the anti-Romneys will change their view, however, if and when the last page gets written next week.