Welcome to the Romney Reality.
As the once impossible begins to feel inevitable, conservatives find themselves grappling with the uncomfortable concept of falling in line behind former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney.
Just a few years ago, this was so loathsome it was not even a consideration.
His Romneycare is credited for being the blueprint that gave us the most destructive and far-reaching force of socialism this country has ever seen. His ability to effortlessly pirouette complete turnabouts on issues of the profoundest importance to conservatives — from abortion to taxes — leaves us sputtering in disbelief.
And Mr. Romney's prepackaged and awkward attempts to appeal to voters left people retching, not to mention highly suspicious.
Remember his claim to gun owners that he was a lifelong hunter? "I've always been a rodent and rabbit hunter. Small varmints, if you will," he said of the two hunts of his entire life.
Then there was his unforgettable attempt to appeal to black youth at a Martin Luther King Jr. parade. Paraphrasing from memory will have to suffice since watching the YouTube moment over again is so painful.
At one point, Romney mugs with one youth and says, "Who let the dogs out? Woof! Woof!" Then he observes aloud that another youth is wearing "some bling, bling."
Just imagine Don Draper of "Mad Men" putting down his cigarette and trying to breakdance in his spacious office and you get the idea of how it went over.
But here we are now, three years into the most disastrous presidency of our lifetimes.
The poor, whom President Obama promised to lift up, are more desperate than ever. Even Hollywood is deserting the guy — though desertion for that crowd is no biggie. And the college professor set got their pot dispensaries, so they have just checked out.
Leaving the rest of us to struggle through this nasty recession, fight to get our country back and deal with reality. And that reality, like it or not, appears more and more likely to leave us with "Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney."
As a Republican candidate, he has become immeasurably more comfortable in his own skin. He is far less plastic than he was four years ago, so he doesn't have to strain so much to appeal. It doesn't hurt him that things have gotten so bad so quickly that his brand of practical competence has become exceedingly appealing.
And his performance during the debates has been startlingly good, especially in tearing down Texas Gov. Rick Perry. Of course, it helps Mr. Romney that his current positions on the most important issues have remained unchanged for fours years — setting new records for him.
But the big question remains: Is Mitt Romney tough enough and steel-spined enough to withstand what this town does to a guy once he becomes part of it? Will he remain unapologetically true to his current positions and priorities or will he deal them away in endless compromise?
Until Mr. Romney manages to assure conservative voters that his principles are iron-clad, it is a good thing to have businessman Herman Cain and former Sen. Rick Santorum rallying in the polls and carrying the banner of conservatism.
• Charles Hurt's column appears Wednesday. He can be reached at email@example.com.