I was at dinner the other night with a bunch of smart political people and I asked them to predict the Republican presidential nominee. Everyone chose Mitt Romney. In fact, they quickly went on to speculate on who would be his running mate.

I don’t completely share their certainty, but I am getting closer. As Ed notes, the race is down to Romney and Newt Gingrich, but I would add Ron Paul, who will play an important role in extending the time frame necessary for Romney or Gingrich to put the nomination in the bag.

It seems to me that Republicans are most motivated by antipathy to President Obama and a desire to win. These two drivers seem to split pretty well between the two front-runners with the most staying power. Gingrich would seem the best anti-Obama, the best vehicle for releasing anger at the president’s various apostasies. Romney would seem to have the best chance of winning because he has none of Gingrich’s personal baggage.

My experience in primaries is that as they proceed, voters’ desire to protest is gradually replaced by their desire to win. Another plus for Romney.