Will the GOP now rally behind Romney?

Well, let’s score a big win for Mitt Romney, and give second prize to the much maligned conventional wisdom. Romney’s margin in New Hampshire was impressive; he has yet to stumble on either Iowa’s or New Hampshire’s slippery slope. And for a change, the “establishment” view was upheld: Romney is the overwhelming favorite to win the nomination.

The fact that Republicans are acting like Democrats and putting their own candidacies ahead of the party’s interest will benefit Romney in South Carolina. His opposition is split. It will be interesting to see when the party’s leaders, such as Haley Barbour, start to exert pressure to close ranks. My guess is everybody who wants the nomination gets another shot in South Carolina, but if Romney wins there, the pressure gains steam. It will be interesting to see what Ron Paul does. Newt Gingrich, Rick Santorum, Jon Huntsman and Rick Perry all have reasons not to offend the GOP establishment. Some of them may want to go back to lobbying; others may want to run again. But Paul and his voters march to their own beat, and, if not handled properly, could walk right into a third-party candidacy.

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