1. There is no major candidate to his left. Huntsman has yet to gain traction, and several conservatives are competing for the tea-party half of the party. Thus, Romney has the non-tea Republicans pretty much to himself.2. He has money.3. Though Mormons constitute only a small percentage of the overall population, they make up a significant share of the GOP primary votes in several Mountain West states. In a close fight, these states could make a difference.
The large Republican presidential field, along with the dramatic surges and collapses of several of its candidates, may ultimately be much ado about nothing. That, at least, is the conclusion of the Republican strategists surveyed in this week's National Journal Political Insiders Poll, who almost unanimously identified Mitt Romney as the most likely candidate to win the nomination. In the five times the GOP Insiders have been asked that question in 2011, Romney has never surrendered the top spot.Democratic Insiders, meanwhile, largely believe Republicans are on the right track, with more than two-thirds of them naming Romney as the strongest candidate the GOP could nominate for the 2012 election.Many GOP Insiders expressed a healthy dose of ambivalence about Romney's success, even as they voiced their certainty that he would prevail.
"Romney's not conservative enough for me," said one, "but [I'm] not sure anyone else is capable or can beat him." Echoed another: "Republicans are beginning to realize that this is a choice between Romney and the unelectable."
"Through none of his own doing, he has become the heir apparent," declared a third.
Romney's winning-by-not-losing position was emphasized by many of the Republican respondents.
"Mitt Romney looks more and more like the last man standing by failing to self-immolate," said one strategist.