Why might Mitt Romney wind up the nominee of a Republican Party that is conspicuously immune to his charms? Because the conservative opposition is disorganized and underfunded. That is the challenge faced today by Romney's strongest conservative challenger, Rick Santorum.
Santorum failed to submit a full slate of delegates in either Ohio, where he could miss out on as many as 18 delegates, or Tennessee, both states he might win. (Santorum has led in both places, though polls show the races tightening.) Santorum failed to make the ballot in Virginia, where he could have conceivably beaten Romney. Super Tuesday is the first time the campaigns will compete in multiple states at once. Instead of televised debates, the airwaves are filled with ad wars. This plays to Romney's advantage.
Romney's strategy has always been to outspend and out-hustle Santorum. (Even if Newt Gingrich makes yet another comeback, he has the same structural problems as Santorum.) This strategy seems to be having an impact. That doesn't mean that all is lost. Santorum seems almost certain to win Oklahoma, and could still walk away with some big prizes tonight, denying Romney the aura of inevitability he has been trying to reclaim since going on a recent primary and caucus winning streak.
Can Santorum rally the palpable conservative opposition to Romney and overcome his organizational deficits? Or will he lose the big states and watch even some conservatives who don't want to vote for Romney turn to the former Massachusetts governor as the GOP's only change against the well-funded, well-organized Barack Obama? That's the big question today.
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