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Politics

Romney: The Luckiest White House Contender Ever?

Though many Republicans don't like him, one by one his opponents are self-destructing.

Mitt Romney just might be the luckiest presidential candidate in U.S. history.

The former Massachusetts governor has limped along as the Republican Party’s presumptive front-runner for months now, unable to distance himself from the rest of the field because many GOP voters want someone who is more conservative. But those voters haven’t been able to find a "Not Romney" candidate who holds their interest.

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Every time one of Romney’s opponents gets an edge, he or she says or does something to lose it. If the stakes weren’t so high, this would be the stuff of roll-in-the-aisles comedy, with the Romney alternatives known collectively as the "Not Ready for Prime Time Players."

First was Sarah Palin. But she played hard to get so long that when Rep. Michele Bachmann of Minnesota came along, tea party types found Palin easy to forget. Bachmann was soon nestled in the top tier -- along with Romney -- with everybody else far behind. She even won a straw poll in Iowa, giving tea party supporters hope that Romney would soon fade.

Then Bachmann flunked both history and current events, saying the Founding Fathers halted slavery and confusing actor John Wayne -- an idol of the right -- with serial killer John Wayne Gacy. Her slips, coupled with Texas Gov. Rick Perry’s decision to run, sent her back into single digits, with Perry the new “Not-Romney.”

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Perry didn’t last, either. There were a number of factors, not the least of which was, um, uh, oops, I forget.

So Herman Cain began his improbable rise to the top of the Republican field. Cain has one thing going for him: At a time when voters despise Washington, he is a Washington outsider. But that lack of experience is one of his biggest drawbacks, too, especially when he demonstrates a stunning lack of knowledge about foreign affairs and then defends himself by saying a president doesn’t need knowledge of foreign affairs. You might as well just say: “I won’t have to think. I’ll pay people to think for me.”

The harassment allegations hurt him, too, of course. Even if they all end up not to be true or not provable, the candidate and his staff have done nothing to suggest they know anything about managing a crisis or operating under great stress.

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Watch for Cain’s support to start melting faster than one of his beloved black walnut ice cream cones on a sizzling summer day.

And that brings us to the current flavor of the week among Republican conservatives, former House Speaker Newt Gingrich. He’s already under fire for being paid as much as $1.8 million to advise Freddie Mac -- the same government-sponsored enterprise that many conservatives consider one of the biggest culprits in bringing on the economic meltdown a few years back. In a couple of weeks, his support will start to dissolve, too.

Eventually, the right wing of the GOP will run out of “Not Romneys” to flirt with. And time’s a wasting. The first votes in the 2012 primaries are less than two months away. Sooner or later, Republicans who are serious about dethroning President Obama rather than just sending a message will have no choice but to vote for Romney.

In any other election, a candidate facing such widespread opposition from members of his own party wouldn’t have a prayer. But Romney chose to run in a year when all of the alternative choices saw the air leak from their balloons even before the race started. He won’t win the nomination so much as all the others will lose it. And, largely because of economic conditions over which the former governor has no control, he stands a solid chance of beating Obama next November.

Mitt Romney is indeed a very lucky man.

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