But Ron Paul could still keep him from the White House. He could run as third-party candidate, and peel off enough votes to kill Romney in the same way that Ralph Nader killed Al Gore in 2000. And even if he didn’t run, he could sit out the general election, signaling to his eclectic troops that they may as well sit it out, too. Either one is a threat to Romney.
Paul seems like the type who is so enraptured with his own cause that a quirky independent campaign might appeal to him. But an open revolt against the Republican Party would damage the future prospects of his son, Kentucky Sen. Rand Paul.
So the smart money says Paul will press for policy concessions. And that presents its own challenge to Romney. What key parts of Paul’s platform can Romney be expected to embrace? Eliminate the Federal Reserve? Legalize drugs? Let Iran go ahead and build its nukes, while we dismantle military bases all over the world?
Romney’s first challenge, of course, is to nail down the nomination. It looks like the line of attack he’ll face in South Carolina is that he was an evil capitalist investment banker. It is breathtaking that Newt Gingrich has been leading that charge, one you’d expect from Michael Moore, not a guy who calls himself a Reagan conservative.
But if Romney can win in South Carolina, he’ll have the nomination in hand. And then he’ll have to turn his attention to wooing Ron Paul.