Romney looks stronger to be the man in Tampa — but weaker in November

So yes, it would be moronic, eight months from the general election, to declare that Romney has little chance. But he's going to have to work hard to overcome the persona he's shown to the American public over the past half year.

In a piece defending Romney in the Wall Street Journal, columnist Gerald Seib says he has a tough job because "any party that is trying to simultaneously win over Wall Street money managers and the tea-party movement, and to win Hispanic votes while championing the tough immigration laws of Arizona and Alabama, has laid out a tough task indeed for those aspiring leaders."

Perhaps. But Romney, in his quest to convince non-believing conservative Republican voters that he isn't a moderate, has stretched himself so far to the right on so many issues that he's made it extremely difficult, if not impossible, to reverse himself toward the mainstream in November.

Take the issue of illegal immigration — please. Nowhere has Romney been more robotic and less humane than on this sensitive issue. Yes, it's true that the 2012 GOP electorate is harsher than ever on this issue, but that's not what cost Rick Perry the nomination. Nor would it cost Jeb Bush if he were participating, though both men are obviously more to "the left" than the base. They're also more real, and have enough conservative bona fides that they don't have to run around with the most far-right members of their party to show their toughness on the issue, because they wouldn't have to. They've got a record, for better or worse.

Romney has palled around with Kansas Secretary of State Kris Korbach, perhaps best known as the lead architect of the divisive new immigration laws in Arizona and Alabama.

Think that and his stances on the issue have hurt Romney with Latinos? Damn right.

A Fox News Latino poll conducted under the direction of Latin Insights and released Monday shows that Obama would crush Romney among Latinos in November if the election were today, 70-14 percent. And that's with Romney by far the most popular Republican in the race, as he leads by over 20 points among Latinos against his three other GOP competitors.

Super Tuesday comes a month later than in 2008, when the Republican race pretty much officially ended with John McCain the big winner. As the candidates continue to spar with each other, or in many cases, put their feet in their respective mouths, their appeal continues to abate.

But don't tell that to RNC Chair Reince Priebus, who along with other Republicans continues to reference the Barack Obama/HIllary Clinton slugfest as an example of how a tough and contested primary can make the party stronger in the fall. "The process on the Democrats' side went on until June and in the end they ended up doing pretty well," he told USA Today on Tuesday. "We are in the second or third inning of a nine-inning game."

Yeah, but to stretch the metaphor, most folks would say that if this is the third inning, the Republicans are definitely trailing. But they can come back, right?

That's what the Journal's William McGurn believes, not citing Bill Clinton's troubles in 1992, but Ronald Reagan's circa 1980. The columnist makes a convincing point that at this stage of the 1980 campaign, a Harris Poll showed Reagan losing to Jimmy Carter by 18 points (and the same survey had former president Gerald Ford, who was being talked about seriously as a last-minute brokered convention pick, leading Carter by 11 points).

McGurn doesn't lose all of his bearings in making the comparison, admitting that Mitt Romney is no Ronald Reagan, before adding, "Still, at this point in his campaign for the GOP nomination, neither was Reagan."

Another problem, you could argue, is that even Ronald Reagan would be unacceptable to the current GOP. As Gerald Seib points out, it's a "hard one to lead."

In his speech Tuesday night, Mitt Romney said, " I’ve listened, and I’ve learned. I hope I’m a better candidate for it.” That remains to be seen as he soon must pivot toward a general election strategy.

In the biggest political night of the season, Mitt Romney and Rick Santorum both won multiple contests on Super Tuesday, but Romney was the big winner, edging out Santorum in the crucial battleground state of Ohio, as well as being declared the winner in Alaska early Wednesday morning. In all, Romney took six states, Santorum three, and Newt Gingrich killed in his native Georgia.

Though the race is far from over, the results indicate again that, though they may not love him, Mitt Romney will be the party's candidate in November. Unfortunately for Republicans, the race isn't over yet, because the longer it persists, the less attractive the former Massachusetts governor is looking in the fall.

One of the most interesting tidbits for political reporters the day before the nationwide primary was a Wall Street Journal/NBC News Poll that showed Mitt Romney's favorable to unfavorable ratings to be upside down, with 28 percent feeling good about the former Massachusetts governor and 38 percent expressing unfavorable attitudes.

Various articles have been written since then to combat the dark scenario for Mitt, with Salon's Steve Kornacki reporting that there is one candidate who had worse ratings at this point of the race and came back to win — Bill Clinton.

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