- The Washington Times - Tuesday, January 17, 2012

THE REPUBLICAN ROMINATION

Maybe the assorted Republican vice presidential contenders should just go ahead and stage their own debate, what with multiple reports that now claim Mitt Romney’s appearance in a CNN debate on Thursday night could be his finale. That’s right. The nation would be Mitt-less. There are rumblings that Mr. Romney may be a no-show in the six remaining GOP bouts, now scheduled for Florida, Arizona, Georgia, California and Oregon through mid-March. That would leave his four rivals to snarl and scrap with one another over the tidbits, as long as their campaign funds hold out.

So bring on the vice presidential hopefuls, because this race might end prematurely.

“If current polls are correct, the fat lady is going to sing somewhere in the middle of the first act of the Republican presidential nominating process, making it one of the shortest operas on record,” observes Pajamas Media founder Roger L. Simon. “Part of the reason a Romney consensus may be emerging so quickly is that there were so many debates before the actual voting began. We’re all suffering from debate fatigue and want to get this over with.”

But who could blame Mr. Romney and his cautious handlers for debate ducking? The candidate is in his happy place now, still garnering the most face time on camera, still relatively unscathed from rivals’ attacks, though that could change, judging from Newt Gingrich’s ferocity or Rick Santorum’s newfound aggression. Both could ding the polished Romney veneer with a sharp poke about taxes or abortion.

Even oft-reserved Gallup director Frank Newport declares that the Republican nomination belongs to Mr. Romney, who now enjoys a “commanding 23-point lead over his nearest competitor” with 37 percent of the support of Republicans nationwide. “History suggests that Romney is now the probable favorite to win the Republican nomination,” Mr. Newport says.

SOUTHERN REPUBLICANS

An interesting cast of luminaries awaits the Republicans from 14 Southern states who attend the Southern Republican Leadership Conference, which gets under way Wednesday in Charleston, S.C. Along with CNN and the Tea Party Patriots, the group hosts the final debate in the Palmetto State on Thursday night. They have much planned.

On their roster of speakers: Herman Cain, Sen. Lindsey Graham of South Carolina, Rep. Tim Scott of South Carolina, Gov. Nikki Haley of South Carolina, Fred Thompson, Neal Boortz, Arizona Cardinals placekicker Jay Feely, J.C. Watts, Republican National Committee chairman Reince Priebus and Chuck Cunningham , political director of the National Rifle Association.

Mr. Cain has promised he’ll make an “unconventional” presidential endorsement when he takes the dais — and his coyness has vexed the press, he says.

“When I respond that it will be ‘unconventional,’ they go nuts because they cannot conceive of what that means,” Mr. Cain explains. “You will be endorsing yourself, getting back into the presidential race, they guess. Nope. You will be endorsing someone that’s not in the race, they suggest. Nope. You will be endorsing two of the remaining candidates instead of one. No again.”

His remaining hint?

“I’m still looking for the right candidate to ‘adopt’ the 9-9-9 plan.” Mr. Cain declares.

BUMPER PATROL

“Re-elect Obama and Kiss Your Assets Good-bye.”

(Bumper sticker spotted in Chesapeake Beach, Md.

COLBERT’S THREAT

Horse-race e-polls typically put President Obama and White House hopeful Mitt Romney neck and neck. But along comes a new Public Policy Poll of 700 U.S. voters conducted Jan. 13-16 that finds Mr. Obama leading his GOP rival 49 percent to 44 percent. The pollster credits the president’s rising numbers among independents for the gain.

But the same poll also has bad news for the Obama campaign. An unorthodox third party bid might jeopardize his lead, and it comes from an unlikely source. Comedy Central’s fake newsman Stephen Colbert — who launched his own cheeky presidential campaign then promptly outpolled Jon Huntsman Jr. — could actually woo rogue Democrats away from the Obama camp.

“We find Colbert getting 13 percent in a hypothetical third party run for president, compared to 41 percent for Obama and 38 percent for Romney,” explains Dean Debnam, president of the polling group. “A Colbert bid could be a blessing in disguise for the GOP. His voters go for Obama over Romney 52-38 in a straight head to head, so his presence as a potential candidate works to the Republicans’ advantage.”

“OTTACK2012.Com”

(New Republican NationaCommitteeee website launched Tuesday to parse President Obama’s record)

POLL DU JOUR

• 72 percent of Republican voters think Mitt Romney will win the GOP nomination for president.

• 65 percent of Republicans are “certain” they will vote in the GOP primary in their state.

• 61 percent of Republicans are satisfied with the choice of candidates for the GOP nomination.

• 60 percent say there’s a chance they could change their mind on their preferred candidate and vote for someone else.

• 36 percent say they’ve already made a definite choice on their candidate.

• 35 percent would currently vote for Mr. Romney, 17 percent for Newt Gingrich, 16 percent for Ron Paul, 13 percent for Rick Santorum and 9 percent for Rick Perry.

• 26 percent say Mr. Romney best reflects the values of the Republican Party; 25 percent cite Mr. Gingrich.

Source: A Washington Post/ABC News Poll of 1,000 U.S. adults conducted Jan. 12 to 15.

Unconventional news, murmurs and asides to jharper@washingtontimes.com.