Is the Circus Finally Leaving Town?

This time tomorrow we could be discussing exactly how and when, not whether, Mitt Romney can wrap up the GOP presidential nomination. For the first time, this discussion would not be one prominently involving proponents of some Iron Law whereby Mitt actually won a year or eighteen months or four years ago (though these proponents will soon be gloating they were right all along), but people counting delegates and ruling out every other reasonable outcome.

This morning Nate Silver usefully explores the plausible Super Tuesday scenarios. For Romney, two of them lead pretty briskly to a Romney nomination; only a third, in which Romney manages to lose six states (including Ohio) and finish third in a couple, would cause him serious problems. Moreover, anyone else having a particularly good night is unlikely. Even if Santorum wins in OH, TN, OK, and say, ND, the road ahead, which features several southern primaries, is difficult unless Newt Gingrich also does poorly and drops out. Short of direct orders from Sheldon Adelson to quit, that doesn’t look to be in the cards so long as Newt wins in GA, which seems virtually certain.

The most interesting question is how quickly conservative opinion-leaders coalesce around Romney if the results fall into that most plausible area between total victory and a genuine setback. There’s a long, passionate piece up at Red State today by Dan McClaughlin retailing the case against Romney that sure sounds like the death rattle of conservative resistance. But we’ve thought we heard it before.

If the circus does begin to fold its tents and prepares to leave town, I’ll certainly miss it as as writer. How about you? Are you tired of watching conservatives push each other constantly to the Right, unintentionally rattling hobgoblins at any swing voter who is paying attention? Is the GOP nomination process the gift that keeps on giving to progressives? Now’s as good a time as any to discuss it, because the calliope music, the barkers’ cries, and the vaguely menacing laughter of clowns may soon fade into memory.

Ed Kilgore

Ed Kilgore, a Monthly contributing editor, is a columnist for the Daily Intelligencer, New York magazine’s politics blog, and the managing editor for the Democratic Strategist.