From National Journal:
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Many GOP Insiders expressed a healthy dose of ambivalence about Romney's success, even as they voiced their certainty that he would prevail.
"Romney's not conservative enough for me," said one, "but [I'm] not sure anyone else is capable or can beat him." Echoed another: "Republicans are beginning to realize that this is a choice between Romney and the unelectable."
"Through none of his own doing, he has become the heir apparent," declared a third.
Romney's winning-by-not-losing position was emphasized by many of the Republican respondents.
"Mitt Romney looks more and more like the last man standing by failing to self-immolate," said one strategist.(RELATED: GOP Fundraiser In St. Louis Conflicts With World Series)
"The inability of Republicans to find any Romney alternative around whom they can coalesce for more than two weeks will leave the field fighting for fractions, with Romney at 25-30% and still the clear plurality winner," explained another.
Despite the surge of business executive Herman Cain in national polling, Republican Insiders still see Texas Gov. Rick Perry as the second-most likely presidential nominee.
"Romney and Perry are the only two viable candidates due to superior resources, organization, and staying power," said one GOP strategist. Another predicted, "It's Romney's [to lose], but expect an unsuccessful surge from a reorganized Perry."(RELATED: The Two Republican Races)
Those most optimistic about Perry's chances pointed to his fund-raising success and his recent introduction of a tax reform proposal that includes an optional flat tax.
"As long as Perry can fund his super PAC, he is viable no matter what the polling says today," said one Republican Insider.
"Perry is finally pulling out of his nosedive," suggested another. "His flat-tax advocacy goes where Mitt cannot."
Though a few GOP Insiders nodded in Cain's direction -- he's "a live possibility, unless scandal tars him," said one -- it was hard to escape their sense of inevitability around Romney.
"Bottom line is, Tim Pawlenty got out too soon," declared one respondent. "There is an opening for an anti-Romney, and neither Cain nor Perry is going to fit the bill at the end of the day. Strong odds are that Mitt Romney will be the nominee."
While Republicans may be feeling ambivalent about Romney as their standard-bearer, most Democratic Insiders believe he's the GOP's strongest choice for the 2012 election.
"Romney keeps holding steady while the rest of the field takes turns getting hot and flaming out," said one Democratic strategist. "Tortoise to all the other hares."
Another suggested Republicans would eventually come around. "While Romney certainly isn't a tea party favorite at the moment, by November they will have fallen in 'like' with him given that the alternative is Obama."
Some Democrats identified Romney's perceived moderation as an asset in the general election. "Everyone else gets our base out in droves," said one. "If Romney can get the Republican base out, he'll win. He'll appeal to independents and some disillusioned Democrats."
"Independent suburban voters are more likely to support Romney," agreed another.
Other Democrats echoed their Republican counterparts who see Romney winning by default. "He can talk and chew gum at the same time," said one, "which puts him way ahead of the other candidates."
The National Journal Political Insiders Poll is a regular survey of political operatives, strategists, campaign consultants and lobbyists in both parties. Below are the names of the Political Insiders who are surveyed:
Democrats: Jill Alper, John Anzalone, Brad Bannon, Dave Beattie, Andy Bechhoefer, Cornell Belcher, Matt Bennett, Mitchell W. Berger, Mike Berman, Stephanie Bosh, Paul Brathwaite, Donna Brazile, Mark Brewer, Ed Bruley, George Bruno, Deb Callahan, Bonnie Campbell, Bill Carrick, Guy Cecil, Martin J. Chavez, Tony Coelho, Larry Cohen, Jerry Crawford, Brendan Daly, Jeff Danielson, Peter Daou, Howard Dean, Scott DeFife, Jim Demers, Tad Devine, David Di Martino, Debbie Dingell, Monica Dixon, Patrick Dorton, Pat Dujakovich, Anita Dunn, Jeff Eller, Steve Elmendorf, Carter Eskew, Vic Fazio, Peter Fenn, Scott Ferson, Jim Fleischmann, Tina Flournoy, Don Foley, Jeffrey Forbes, Vincent Frillici, Gina Glantz, Niles Godes, John Michael Gonzalez, Joe Grandmaison, Anna Greenberg, Stan Greenberg, Pat Griffin, Larry Grisolano, Michael Gronstal, Lisa Grove, Marcia Hale, Jill Hanauer, Dick Harpootlian, Paul Harstad, Laura Hartigan, Doug Hattaway, Mike Henry, Karen Hicks, Leo Hindery Jr., Harold Ickes, Marcus Jadotte, John Jameson, Steve Jarding, Jonathon Jones, Jim Jordan, Gale Kaufman, Lisa Kountoupes, Celinda Lake, David Lang, Penny Lee, Chris Lehane, Jeff Link, Bob Maloney, Jim Manley, Steve Marchand, Jim Margolis, Paul Maslin, Keith Mason, Susan McCue, Gerald McEntee, Tom McMahon, Phil McNamara, David Medina, Michael Meehan, Mark Mellman, John Merrigan, Michael Monroe, Steve Murphy, Janet Napolitano, David Nassar, Marcia Nichols, John Norris, Tom Ochs, Tom O'Donnell, Jeffrey Peck, Debora Pignatelli, Tony Podesta, Jack Quinn, Larry Rasky, Mame Reiley, Ed Rendell, Steve Ricchetti, Will Robinson, Steve Rosenthal, David Rudd, Ryan Rudominer, John Ryan, Michael Sargeant, Stephanie Schriock, Terry Shumaker, Sean Sinclair, Phil Singer, Erik Smith, Doug Sosnik, Greg Speed, Darry Sragow, Ken Strasma, Doug Thornell, Jeffrey Trammell, Ed Turlington, Rick Wiener, James Williams, JoDee Winterhof, Brian Wolff, Jon Youngdahl, and Jim Zogby.
Republicans: Dan Allen, Stan Anderson, Gary Andres, Saulius (Saul) Anuzis, Rich Ashooh, Whit Ayres, Brett Bader, Mitch Bainwol, Brian Baker, Gary Bauer, David Beckwith, Paul Bennecke, Clark Benson, Wayne Berman, Brian Bieron, Charlie Black, Kirk Blalock, Carmine Boal, Jeff Boeyink, Ron Bonjean, Jeff Buley, Luke Byars, Nick Calio, Al Cardenas, Danny Carroll, Alex Castellanos, Ron Christie, Jim Cicconi, Jonathan Collegio, Rob Collins, Cesar Conda, Jake Corman, Scott Cottington, Jay Cranford, Greg Crist, Diane Crookham-Johnson, Fergus Cullen, Tom Davis, Mike Dennehy, Ken Duberstein, Debi Durham, Sara Fagen, Frank Fahrenkopf, John Feehery, Don Fierce, Mindy Finn, Mindy Fletcher, Carl Forti, Alex Gage, Bruce A. Gates, Sam Geduldig, Adam Geller, Benjamin Ginsberg, David Girard-diCarlo, Bill Greener, Jonathan Grella, Lanny Griffith, Janet Mullins Grissom, Doug Gross, Todd Harris, Steve Hart, Christopher Healy, Ralph Hellmann, Chris Henick, Terry Holt, David Iannelli, Ed Ingle, Jim Innocenzi, Clark Judge, David Keating, David Kensinger, Bob Kjellander, Ed Kutler, Chris LaCivita, Jim Lake, Steven Law, George S. LeMieux, Steve Lombardo, Kevin Madden, Joel Maiola, Gary Maloney, David Marin, Mary Matalin, Dan Mattoon, Brian McCormack, Mark McKinnon, Kyle McSlarrow, Ken Mehlman, Jim Merrill, Lisa Camooso Miller, Tim Morrison, Mike Murphy, Phil Musser, Ron Nehring, Terry Nelson, Neil Newhouse, David Norcross, Ziad Ojakli, Jack Oliver, Todd Olsen, Kevin O'Neill, Connie Partoyan, Dana Perino, Billy Piper, Van B. Poole, Tom Rath, Scott Reed, David Rehr, Tom Reynolds, Steve Roberts, Jason Roe, David Roederer, Dan Schnur, Russ Schriefer, Rich Schwarm, Brent Seaborn, Rick Shelby, Andrew Shore, Kevin Shuvalov, Don Sipple, Ken Spain, Fred Steeper, Bob Stevenson, Terry Sullivan, David Tamasi, Eric Tanenblatt, Richard Temple, Heath Thompson, Jay Timmons, Warren Tompkins, Ted Van Der Meid, Dirk van Dongen, Jan van Lohuizen, Stewart Verdery, Dick Wadhams, John Weaver, Lezlee Westine, Dave Winston, Ginny Wolfe, Fred Wszolek, and Matthew Zablud.