- - Tuesday, February 7, 2012

ANALYSIS/OPINION:

As former Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld might say, you have to go into the general election with the candidate you have, not the candidate you might want or wish to have at a later time.

And so it looks increasingly likely that conservative Republicans will have to take Mr. Rumsfeld’s advice as they head into this fall’s battle against President Obama.

Sure, maybe former House Speaker Newt Gingrich can stage another Phoenix rising from the ashes recovery to topple former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney. Of course, it certainly remains mathematically possible that former Sen. Rick Santorum of Pennsylvania can convert a few delegate-less victories into a some kind of miracle very late in the game. And, yes, it is technically possible that we could see a “brokered” convention that vaults forward some “white knight” candidate nobody has thought of.

But more and more, it is looking like Republicans will have to settle on Mitt Romney.

The list of reasons so many Republicans are desperately disappointed with Mr. Romney is long. He is stiff, predictable and prone to making stupid, out-of-touch comments.

But Mr. Romney is not utterly without promise. For example, his campaign this year has improved so much over his campaign from four years ago that it is hard to say he is a man who does not learn from his mistakes.

It is unlikely we will ever hear the investment banker again talk about how much he likes being able to fire people or how much he is not worried about the poor. And it is unlikely we will have to endure another spectacle where the multimillionaire and son of privilege publicly offers a wager for an amount of money that most Americans have never seen in one place at one time.

On the positive side of being predictable, Mr. Romney has also proved himself to be exceedingly disciplined, which should never be underestimated in a long campaign.

Another big asset is that Mr. Romney is vastly wealthy. This has allowed him to build the very best campaigns that money can buy. The only significant problem with the campaign is, well, the candidate himself.

Most heartening of all about his campaign this year is how ruthlessly he has gone after his opponents: first Mr. Gingrich in Iowa in Florida and now Mr. Santorum. Few things are more important than ruthlessness in a presidential campaign. Put simply, Mr. Romney is willing to say absolutely whatever it takes whenever necessary to win.

The very best thing going for Mr. Romney, of course, is Barack Obama himself. Mr. Obama has so bungled everything in such a short period of time and Americans are so desperate for real change that they just might actually go for Mitt Romney.

Charles Hurt can be reached at charleshurt@live.com.