The Romney campaign expects to have the nomination all but wrapped up by the end of January The Washington Post reports, and is using surrogates like John McCain to push the narrative that if Romney wins the first three (or four) states, it’s over.  One of those wins, of course, was Iowa by 8 votes, and the second is in Romney’s virtual home state, New Hampshire.

The key, once again, is not convincing Republicans that Romney is the best nominee, but that he is the most electable, as the Post reports:

“I’m sure the campaign will scold me for setting any kind of expectations, but I do think Governor Romney will do very well,” [S.C. Treasurer and Romney state campaigh Chair Curtis] Loftis said. “People are calling me saying, ‘Curtis, I didn’t get it in August, but I get it now.’ People want to send Barack Obama back to Chicago, and while they like Newt Gingrich and Rick Perry and Rick Santorum, when they get into that ballot box they’ll say, ‘Do I want to finish in first place or last place?’ ”

There is almost no pushback in the conservative media to this narrative.  Bill Kristol has been a notable contrarian, and writes in the upcoming issue of The Weekly Standard (emphasis mine):

Mitt Romney, this year’s iteration of the establishment candidate, is a decent, serious, and in some ways impressive man. But it’s clear a lot of Republicans look at him, his campaign, and his advocates and see the ghosts of establishmentarians past. The question in this cycle has always been whether a viable challenger would emerge. We will now see, in the crucible of an intense campaign, whether Rick Santorum is up to the task of being that challenger. And we will also see whether the establishment will be able to put so heavy a thumb on the scales that voters will think the race is over before it has even really begun….

Santorum—and anyone else in the field, or anyone who may still enter—deserves “an open field and a fair chance” to compete for the “big White House” that Lincoln occupied. All American history is saying, and all we are saying, is . . . give Rick a chance.

The electability narrative is a false narrative, as I have explained many times and will continue to explain in further posts:

Romney will win New Hampshire, but I hope the voters of South Carolina have the fortitude to tell the Romney campaign and its surrogates to get their thumbs off the scale.

Update: While the collective wisdom of the conservative punditry is that Romney is inevitable and most electable, there have been a handful of contrary voices such as Michael Walsh at National Review:

It’s instructive to note that Romney has gained not at all from the successive collapses of the second-tier candidates, and that while it may have just been dumb luck on Santorum’s part to be the last man standing, sometimes it’s better to be lucky than good. Does anyone doubt that had Rick Perry not proven himself to be a tongue-tied imitation of George W. Bush that he would have put Romney away handily? It wasn’t Perry’s position on immigration that did him in, it was his sheer ineloquence.

The Mittbots might want to ask themselves this: if Romney is so great, why did Santorum — a guy who was barely a blip on the radar screen a couple of weeks ago — come out of nowhere to nearly nip him at the wire, while Mitt stayed stuck at . . . 25 percent?

 
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