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Romney Rising

If Mitt Romney had convened a conclave to set about systematically destroying his potential presidential opponents, he could have done no better than this.

Moderate Utah governor Jon Huntsman was dispatched abroad by President Obama, Nevada Sen. John Ensign and South Carolina Governor Mark Sanford's affairs ended any ambitions they may have had -- and now, Sarah Palin's bizarre announcement that she is stepping down as governor of Alaska has -- in my mind, at least -- guaranteed that she cannot realistically win the GOP nomination in 2012 (though she may try).

Had anyone at such a meeting invented this scenario where Romney's opponents would self-destruct, they would have been laughed out of the room.

And while this GOP collapse may, at first blush, appear to be a bad thing for Republicans, it ironically may help Republicans prevent a nasty primary battle on the right, freeing up Romney to focus his energy on President Obama.

Of course, should the economy recover, Obama may well be unbeatable. But should the economy continue to slump, Romney would be uniquely suited to challenge Obama. After all, prior to becoming Massachusetts governor, Mitt Romney ran Bane Capital -- a firm specializing in turning around failing companies.

Moreover, Romney is temperamentally suited to this task, as well. Whereas other Republicans are passionate, Romney (with a few exceptions) relies a bit more on a logical dispassionate approach to politics. In this regard, he is well suited to the times, and more stylistically like Obama than his other potential competitors.

Speaking of which, it seems, at this point, Romney really has to worry about only former Arkansas governor Mike Huckabee and former Speaker Newt Gingrich. Regardless, neither Gingrich nor Huckabee will have the organization or fundraising prowess that Romney can put together. One can imagine Romney arising as the establishment candidate, and having to fend off Huckabee in states like Iowa and South Carolina in much the same way that George H.W. Bush dispatched of rivals such as Pat Robertson in 1988.

Conflicts arise when there is no clear leader, and this may be the opportunity for Romney to become the de facto leader of the GOP, sooner than anyone thought. It's still a long way off, but Mitt Romney couldn't have planned this any better had he tried ...

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