Former Gov. Mitt Romney is still the front-runner, but Tuesday's the deadly double defeat in Dixie means that he will limp to the finish line.
Let's face it, there's just not much enthusiasm for the former Massachusetts moderate in Dixie or even in the states that Romney has won. Voting for Romney is like going to the dentist for Republican voters. They know they should do it but no one really looks forward to the experience.
Romney has been his own worst enemy. The former Bain capitalist's cheesy attempts to just be one of the guys are awkward and embarrassing. Saying "y'all" and talking about eating grits just don't cut it for Republicans at the low end of the income scale. He is a country club Republican and nothing he does or says will ever change that.
Romney's problem with religious conservatives is even worse. The former U.S. senatorial candidate who told Bay State voters that he would be as strong for gay rights as his opponent Ted Kennedy just isn't convincing as a religious conservative. The former liberal overcompensates by saying he's going to get rid of Planned Parenthood, a pitch that doesn't ring true with born again Christians but does horrify independent female voters who are the key to winning in the fall.
The more I look at the exit polls, the more convinced I am that Christian conservatives just aren't comfortable with Romney's religion. Even if it forces former Sen. Rick Santorum to throw up, Romney should give a Kennedy type speech stressing that his Mormonism will not be the driving force in his presidential decisions.
Despite the disasters in Dixie, I still think that Romney will come limping out of the Republican convention as the nominee. But to unify the party behind his candidacy, he might have to cut a deal with the Taliban wing of the GOP that independent secular voters will find distasteful in the fall. Even then, I find it hard to believe that busloads of religious fundamentalists from churches in battleground states like Ohio, Iowa, Virginia, and North Carolina will come out in droves and vote for Romney in November.
Romney's only hope is that Barack Obama will lose his cool and do or say something stupid. But hope is not a strategy and Barack Obama doesn't lose his cool very often, so Romney will have to come up with something better.