If Romney wins Iowa, New Hampshire and Michigan before heading to Florida, he could by then be edging up to the status of front-runner, perhaps unstoppable front-runner. Money usually chases wins in the Republican Party. For better or worse, the GOP often nominates the candidate who's winning, and not necessarily the one who is best qualified or most likely to win the general election.
My feeling that Romney would be pummeled in the general election by Democrat Hillary Clinton is a sentiment backed by public opinion surveys.
It could be that such a dire tea-reading for the GOP is a bit premature. I've come to measure the presidential candidates primarily on their intensity and their talent for hanging tough through the merciless marathon of a presidential race. (Incidentally, marginal candidate Ron Paul is certainly the most unique of the Republican field, and often the most dead-on.)
Giuliani clearly still has what it takes. John McCain clearly has deflated to a shadow of his 2000 self. The others have been mostly ignored.
Romney keeps exceeding expectations for both fund-raising and for just plain appearing presidential.
Matched up against Hillary Clinton, his never-at-a-loss-for-words swagger might contrast vividly with President Bush's stumble-and-mumble style of which Americans of both parties have grown weary. (Bush clearly recognizes his weakness for communicating, and often pokes fun at himself, to his credit.) But the Republicans don't stand a chance of staying in the White House if their nominee doesn't speak more forcefully and articulately than does the president.
Romney is not without his weaknesses. Many on the right wing of the Republican Party view him skeptically as not bone-marrow conservative -- a warmed-over, if spit-shined George Bush.
My friend Mark is a true Reagan Republican. And if the presidential primary schedule stays as it is today, even those reluctant GOP diehards may see a chance for new life in Mitt Romney.