Is the next week and a half the most important in the history of the Tea Party?

But can the Tea Party, or Christian conservatives, or any other wing or wings of the party stop diluting their non-Romney votes and put them behind one candidate — be it Newt Gingrich, Rick Santorum, Ron Paul or Rick Perry? (Jon Huntsman is not available for this role.)

We'll soon find out. The fact of the matter is, a day after his victory in New Hampshire, the "Massachusetts Moderate" is looking pretty in the Palmetto State ( polls there show him up by 10 percent).

Can one of those other candidates stop him? South Carolina put the skids on John McCain in 2000 with those rumors that he'd had a black child (and, incidentally, so what if he did?), and is famous for rough play.

Lord knows there are plenty of conservative voices who call Romney a RINO, or worse.

This is Peter Ferrera in the American Spectator:

Since 1896, only Republicans who have campaigned on a pro-growth platform have been elected. Mitt Romney, instead of being the most electable, is firmly in the tradition of Thomas Dewey, Jerry Ford, Bob Dole, and John McCain. His timid, scared proposals do not offer the promise of booming economic growth that Reagan's bold reforms delivered.

Moreover, his weak record on social conservative issues will only discourage voters who are inspired to participate in political action on those grounds. It's not just his dramatic flip flops on the core pro-life issue, with clips on the Internet of him protesting that he is so definitely pro-choice on the issue. As Governor, Romney kowtowed to liberal activist court rulings on gay marriage, issuing gay marriage licenses right out of the Governor's office, when even the liberal Massachusetts legislature was balking at making the legal changes to authorize such licenses as demanded by the court. Contrast that with the bold policies to counter liberal activist judges that have been promoted by Newt Gingrich.

On fiscal issues, Romney was not tough on spending as Governor of Massachusetts. Nor does he have a record on defense and foreign policy issues.

As the Republican candidate, he would be the least electable most of all because he would not inspire the maximum vote from grassroots conservatives, failing just where his friend John McCain did, as Bob Dole did before him. That effect would be felt all the way down the ticket, as Republicans fail to win the Senate and Congressional seats with a disappointing turnout that they could have with a grassroots earthquake, as was inspired by the Reagan Revolution in 1980.

And even if Romney managed to squeak to victory in the fall, he would be the most disappointing, failing to win the dramatic reforms that would be possible after this most promising of all election cycles.

The Seattle Times reports that the "Romney conundrum" will be on the agenda Friday, when about 150 evangelical leaders gather at a Texas ranch.

Also this weekend in Myrtle Beach, approximately 500 attendees at a tea-party convention will hear speakers including Newt Gingrich and Rick Santorum.

Can any of them stop Mittens in South Carolina? Because coming up after that is Florida, where Romney is also coasting with a 12-point lead, 20 days before the Sunshine State's vote.

Still, if the Republicans can't muster up enough cohesive support behind an anti-Romney candidate, that doesn't necessarily mean the Tea Party lacks juice. The movement has affected all Republicans, from Tallahassee to Washington, D.C., and probably will for years to come.

As the GOP brings its traveling circus to the Deep South this week, some prominent Tea Party members think the movement is at a crossroads, and only a victory by somebody not named Mitt Romney can stop it from being derailed as a national force in 2012.

Radio talk show host Gina Loudon, considered one of the pioneers in the movement nationally, told BBC radio on Wednesday that the next 11 days are the most important days for the Tea Party since since its creation nearly three years ago.

Mind you, that's not somebody from MSNBC declaring this — it's a key member of the national movement.

Why the intensity? Well, lest we forget, though Mitt Romney is obviously looking pretty unstoppable on his way to the Republican nomination for president, he has never been the favorite of that group, which has been the driver of GOP politics throughout the country since Barack Obama's election.

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