Three points made in the title of this piece: Polling, the inevitability of the Romney candidacy as the Republican nominee, and how that candidacy, despite the first point, is actually a good thing.
First, the polling. Of the four candidates remaining in the Republican field, Romney unquestionably does better against Obama than anyone else. Poll aggregators such as Realclearpolitics.com and the Huffington Post’s Pollster.com, take all of the most-recent polls for individual races and come up with an average. According to their data, Romney is down just four or five points to the president. In the most recent poll for Santorum vs. Obama, the weirdly sex-obsesssed former Senator from Pennsylvania is actually up by a point, but I’m willing to dismiss that as an outlier as the polling company in question, Rasmussen, tends to skew rightward. Besides, if this poll were accurate, it would represent a massive turn-around for Santorum. On average, he’s down about nine points to Obama, worse than anyone except Gingrich, who’s behind by double digits. And Ron Paul has remained five to ten points behind the president in about every poll taken since the start of this whole mean-stupid affair. No, Mexican-American presidential candidate Willard M. Romney obviously does the best against Obama, at least as far as the polls are concerned.
And then there’s that inevitability notion, which is a bit more difficult to prove, unless one uses things like common sense. Now that he’s crushed his opponents in Nevada, every other February contest involving actual delegates is a sure-thing for the former governor of Massachusetts. The light at the end of the dark, Romney-filled tunnel doesn’t come until Super Tuesday, March 6, when Gingrich should be able to pick up a few Southern states, and even that’s in doubt if Santorum refuses to bow out of the race and splits the Jesus freak vote. By Super Tuesday, then, Romney should be so far ahead in the delegate count that he’ll start to draw the massively influential “I like to vote for the winner” bloc, which has decided nearly every late-season presidential primary since 1972. After that, it’s all over but the crying or popping of champagne corks, depending whose side you’re on.
But how is all this good for Obama? A Gingrich candidacy would result in an evil slug fest on either side. They’d each burn the other’s house down, both of their negatives would go sky high, but in the end, Obama would probably get the win — Gingrich just has a lot more baggage to pull him down into the mud. Most of Obama’s baggage, after all, is so much Republican mythology. (Look at this guy Obama knows! He’s real bad! Have you heard about that other guy who knew Obama and also went to jail?! Whoa! Oh, and Kenya!) Much of Gingrich’s, on the other hand, is entirely self-inflicted and largely due to personality traits that work against him in what is essentially a popularity contest. (See: Marriages. Plural.) A Santorum candidacy means a vote on the evangelical movement in this country, and for every die-hard Jesus freak, there’s at least two Americans who just want them to shut up already. (Witness the backlash against Bible-loving, miracle-inducing, circumcision-giving Broncos QB Tim Tebow.) Obama would win easily, but it’s not the conversation he wants to have during this race. The same’s true for a contest against Ron Paul. Having a months-long critique of Paul’s brand of libertarianism is not what Obama would like to get out of the race — to put it in gamblers’ terms, there’s no money in it.
But Romney? Now we’re talking. A Romney candidacy invites a frank discussion of income inequality in America, which is exactly what Obama wants to have in this race. Us vs. them. The 99 vs. the 1. Finally fighting back against the greedheads that have sucked this country into a money pit from which it is just now slowly starting to crawl. To quote Obama’s favorite billionaire, Warren Buffett, “There’s class warfare, all right, but it’s my class, the rich class, that’s making war, and we’re winning.” If Romney gets the Republicans’ nomination, he gets painted as an out-of-touch, patrician jackass and all the woes and horrors caused by his fellows in the upper stratosphere will be laid upon his shoulders. That’s not just a winner for Obama, it’s exactly the conversation he wants to have in this race.