Now that Chris Christie's flirtation with the Republican presidential race has ended in rejection, polling suggests that Mitt Romney's steady courtship of potential voters may ultimately render him the nomination.
Through the first few months of the nominating contest, uncertainty about the Republican field has been reflected in fluctuating poll numbers and periodic attempts to woo a potential savior -- if it isn't Christie it's Indiana governor Mitch Daniels, or Rep. Paul Ryan (R-WI). But Romney has been a steady presence throughout, projecting an unflappable demeanor (some might say stiff) and hewing to his message of economic leadership.
A series of polls seem to illustrate the success of this approach. Romney sat atop the field in a Quinnipiac University Poll, registering 22 percent of the vote, and a Washington Post-ABC poll had Romney leading the GOP candidates and capturing 25 percent of the vote.
Both polls also have Texas governor Rick Perry's support eroding, suggesting that his meteoric ascent is beginning to reverse course. Perry vaulted into the frontrunner's spot after announcing his campaign, but a stumbling performance at the most recent Republican presidential debate underscored concerns about his ability to sustain a long campaign and win over the Republican establishment.
Godfather's Pizza CEO Herman Cain registered a second place finish in both polls -- he was tied with Perry in the Washington Post-ABC poll -- continuing a streak of strong poll showings that included a surprise victory in a Florida straw poll and a first place finish in a Public Policy Polling survey that encompassed likely voters in North Carolina, Nebraska, and West Virginia.
But Cain's win in the Public Policy Polling was fueled by the support of the candidates who self-identify as very conservative, a capricious set who have shifted from Huckabee to Trump back to Huckabee to Bachmann to Perry and now to Cain in the space of a few months, the poll's authors pointed out. Bachmann's campaign began its precipitous decline shortly after she won the coveted Ames straw poll in Iowa, demonstrating how ephemeral the results of such polls can be.
Too often the brightest stars are comets. But they flame out the fastest because they consume themselves on their own energy, Dallas Mayor Ron Kirk told reporters on Air Force One in reference to Perry's slipping numbers. I think there are some lessons to be learned there in life and in politics. How quickly and how brightly we burn.
Romney has never been the most luminous candidate. Donors have been reluctant to throw their weight behind him, voters have been wary of the inconsistencies in his record and some Tea Party groups have boycotted him. Despite those reservations, he remains well positioned. He may not have been able to replicate the excitement generated by Christie, but he has moved swiftly to capture Christie's donors. After spending months looking for the ideal candidate, Republicans will have to reconcile them themselves to the choices that are already there.
We are so scared that we want a perfect, superhuman candidate to beat Obama and save the country, Alex Castellanos, a Republican strategist who advised Romney in 2008 but hasn't backed a candidate in this contest, told the New York Times. No one can beat those expectations. There is no such thing as Superman.