Insider Advantage's Jan. 15 poll shows Mitt Romney clearly pulling away from the pack in South Carolina with an 11-point lead over closest challenger Newt Gingrich. Taken before Jon Huntsman's withdrawal from the race, the numbers are de facto even higher for Mitt.
A solid win in South Carolina will make him all but unbeatable. We at PHR must admit to more than a bit of sorrow over the imminent termination of the GOP primary race. It has served up pure pleasure as theater of the absurd, with so many hopeful conservative standard bearers attempting to outflank Romney on the right that his small cohort of centrists has managed to hang on to the high ground. The upshot will be a candidate who does not speak to the majority of his party.
That might not be such a bad thing for Romney in the general election, however. A candidate must of course play to the base in the primary, and move to the center in the general. Romney is more than capable of pulling a chamelion act, pretending he is a conservative at the present moment, pretending he is a moderate in the general, and if he wins it all, pretending he is a president for four years.
The continuation of spirited attacks by Newt Gingrich is probably the only way to pull Romney down from his modest hillock. It is doubtful that Gingrich has the guts to stick with his most effective line of attack -- pointing out Romney's excesses and excrescence as Bain Capital head. Gingrich does not wish to be persona non grata in the only political institution perverse enough to claim him -- the Republican Party -- and his finely honed lobbyist's sensibilities disallow him from comfortably filling the role of Prophet in the Wilderness -- a role more than adequately filled by Ron Paul.
In five days, this nomination process will be all but over. R.I.P. GOP.