Over in NRO’s election symposium, I conclude that it’s not over, but it’s effectively over:
For Mitt Romney to be derailed, somebody has to beat him somewhere. He’s already won Iowa (by the hair of his chinny-chin-chin), and he’s won New Hampshire. He currently leads in South Carolina, although that could change in the next two weeks if anti-Romney conservatives unite behind another candidate. Romney leads in Florida by 12 percentage points in the latest poll. After that, it’s the Nevada caucuses, which Romney won by a wide margin in 2008. And after that, it’s the Maine caucuses, which Romney won by a wide margin in 2008. It’s a long stretch before you can find a state where you would conclude, “Yeah, that one’s going to be tough for Romney.” Those states are relatively few and far between.
Should some of the Not Mitts drop out to give one of them a better chance to beat Romney? It’s a lovely idea if you’re determined to see someone other than Romney as the GOP nominee, but good luck persuading any of them to drop out. Presume for a moment that Ron Paul and Jon Huntsman are appealing to demographics of GOP primary voters that are not easily transferable to other candidates.
Newt Gingrich, Rick Santorum, and Rick Perry face a version of the “prisoner’s dilemma.” If two leave quick, the last one benefits from the consolidated anti-Romney vote. But each one is determined to be the last one left.