For the next three months, the political press will engage in an extended masquerade, designed to persuade credulous readers and excitable viewers that the Republican presidential nomination is actually up for grabs.
Last week the big story was Herman Cain’s rise to the top of the polls, and then Rick Perry’s combativeness at the Las Vegas debate. Next week, perhaps, it will be Newt Gingrich’s surprising resilience or Ron Paul’s potential strength in the early caucuses or the appeal of Perry’s flat-tax plan. Then there will come a debate in which Mitt Romney looks shabby instead of smooth, a poll that shows one of his rivals surging, a moment when all his many weaknesses are on every pundit’s lips.
Please do not listen to any of them. Ignore the Politico daily briefings, the Rasmussen tracking polls, the angst from conservative activists over Romney’s past deviations and present-day dishonesties. Please ignore me as well, should campaign fever inspire a column about the Santorum surge or the Huntsman scenario. Because barring an unprecedented suspension of the laws of American politics, Mitt Romney has this thing wrapped up.