Matt Towery
About a year before he made his first run for the presidency, I had a chance to sit down and talk extensively with former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney. I found him more personable than much of the media had portrayed him. He was as sharp as a pinprick on the issues, but maybe a little too polished to win over many "regular" Americans. I wasn't persuaded that he was the bedrock conservative he professed to be. And I sure didn't judge him to be on the fast track to the White House. That was in 2008.

Nowadays, I watch Romney on the campaign trail. I listen to his responses in public debates. I chat up some of his closest political supporters and friends. And I become increasingly convinced that if the Republicans really want to get Barack Obama out of office, they might have to rally around the man who has the most going for him in 2012. That's Mitt Romney.

There are other announced or potential GOP candidates who appear to have deeper and longer-standing conservative values than Romney does.

For me, Newt Gingrich is a prime example. But at least for the moment, his chances look to be greatly reduced by what I suspect was a not-so-coincidental decision by Texas Gov. Rick Perry to "strongly consider" a 2012 run -- that, along with the departure en masse of Gingrich's campaign staff, some of whom are former Perry devotees.

Personally, I think much of what Ron Paul espouses makes a lot of sense. He was warning of mountainous deficits and feverish federal spending long before most Republicans even considered what such practices could lead to. But sadly for Paul, we live in a nation in which libertarian-minded conservatives stand little chance of insinuating themselves into the Republican establishment, which too often "anoints" the GOP presidential nominee. And even if these ultra-conservatives were to break into the Republican inner circle, they would almost surely be routed in the general election.

Emergent stars like Michele Bachman and Tim Pawlenty have marquee potential. But they are just now going through the vetting process that Romney has long ago dealt with.

As for Rick Perry, he has a certain zest and energy about him. He also has powerful enemies who are sowing ugly rumors about him that have media buzzing among themselves. Even if these tales of tawdry misdeeds are untrue, Perry likely would be tarnished by media back-and-forth discussions about these allegations.

Matt Towery

Matt Towery is a pollster, attorney, businessman and former elected official. He served as campaign strategist for Congressional, Senate, and gubernatorial campaigns. His latest book is Newsvesting: Use News and Opinion to Grow Your Personal Wealth. Follow him on Twitter @MattTowery