After checking in with activists around the country, including a few in the March 6 Super Tuesday primary states, Santorum seems weaker than what I had expected. His next few days will be important.  There is an appetite by state and local activists to jettison Santorum and move on. If he stumbles, commits a gaffe, or says anything particularly wacky, he will be declared a spoiler by many of the GOP faithful.  They are not necessarily enthusiastic about Romney, but their fear of Santorum, which had been suppressed, is revealing itself today. 

Romney still has his challenges, but no one thinks he would create a debacle in November.  For the first time, I heard an informed pol say that we would have a better loss with Romney than we would with Santorum. This experienced campaign hand went on to say that we could lose much of the suburbs with Santorum and less so with Romney.That’s not exactly good news for the GOP, but it was interesting to hear. 

Carter’s post does a great job in defining Romney’s biggest problems. You can’t have a meeting at campaign headquarters and decide how to create synthetic authenticity for the candidate to then convey in an authentic fashion. His authenticity problem will be managed, not solved. He needs more discipline and scripting to avoid the damage caused by, as Carter says, “a minor case of political Tourette’s.” He will continue to make his share of mistakes, but discipline and organization can ensure there are fewer blunders rather than more. 

Much of the Republican Party today is not an organized political organization, but a movement. The movement is angry and some rage appeals to them. Romney admitting that he won’t “light his hair on fire” to appeal to some conservatives will serve him well in the general election. But first, he has to get there. So a little smoke coming out of his ears for the next few weeks wouldn’t hurt.