To turn down an invite to meet the guy most still expect to be the Republican Party's presidential nominee is a pretty sick burn, but that's what many conservatives did to Mitt Romney at CPAC on Thursday, The New York Times' Michael D. Shear and Erick Eckholm report. Romney met with tea party and evangelical leaders to discuss policy and electoral strategy, the newspaper reports, but several people weren't interested. It's February, eight states have voted, and it's way past deadline to get on the ballot of many others, but conservatives are still fantasizing that a Republican candidate can beat Mitt Romney, even if that means a new one has to get in the race. Can the Death Star be stopped if there's no rebel alliance?
These anti-Romney Republicans are still not quite ready to fantasize on the record, but they're willing to give some hints about their identity. The odds that there will be a contested Republican convention are still low, "but they're probably the best in my lifetime," a "veteran former GOP governor" told The Wall Street Journal's Peggy Noonan. The odds are low that a new candidate will decide to compete, "a longtime party leader" told the Huffington Post's Jon Ward, "but it's the first time in my lifetime where there's a real chance." If neither Rick Santorum nor Newt Gingrich can overtake Romney, this Republican says, maybe a guy like New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie will get in. (For the record, Christie has endorsed Romney.)
Romney's campaign might be secretly flattered by the strength and power implied when Noonan writes that Santorum might not be able to take them on. But they should worry about being compared to the baddest of bad guys, who people tend to root against:
Newt is hated by many and Mitt by some. Mr. Santorum is liked.... He's got little money, little organization — there's no broad assumption he can pull it off. And by the time the Romney campaign is done dismantling him, he may have some people who hate him. But this will only underscore the Romney campaign's reputation for destroying, not creating. And nobody loves a Death Star.
“Santorum doesn’t even need to run negatives against Romney, which is telling,” Alex Castellanos, who advised Romney in 2008, told The Hill's Josh Lederman. The rebel alliance probably didn't have to run ads against Darth Vader, either. And we know what happened to the Death Star.