I've been saying for awhile that Romney would be the Republican nominee. (Not that anyone listens, see the title of this blog.) I came to that conclusion last February after the CPAC conference. In that straw poll, Ron Paul got the most "straws" (as he always does) with about 30%, but Romney came in second with 24%. Second — at CPAC.
This said two things to me. It said that Romney was the first choice of one out of four "movement conservatives", and that he was the second choice overall. This meant he was adequately acceptable to the Social Dominators of the modern "Conservative" movement, and thus could be supported by the Authoritarian Followers that make up the bulk of that cohort.
Second choice means something in this kind of situation. A loose analogy would be this past Fall's election for Mayor of Oakland CA. Oakland, like several California local governments, are experimenting with "ranked choice" voting (aka "instant runoff"). There were five candidates altogether; the front-runner was well-known local pol Don Perata. But Jean Quan, during her campaign, asked of those supporting someone else, "OK, vote for him/her as your first choice, but please put me in as second choice". When Perata failed to get a majority of first choice votes, Quan received enough second choice votes to overtake Perata and eventually get a majority.
A lot of Republical primary- and caucus-voters will, I expect, realize they can't get their first choice, and thus will settle for their second choice.
So if you combine Romney's acceptability — albeit reluctant — to the conservatives (Rush Limbaugh notwithstanding) with the tortoise-and-hare, last-man-standing strategy he seems to be pursuing, along with the fact that it's "his turn" (these are Republicans, after all), he would seem to be a pretty good bet to be, well, the last man standing when the dust clears. And it might get pretty dusty at the convention.
His running mate will be Haley Barbour. Barbour declined to run for President, but that doesn't mean he wouldn't take VP if asked. And his choice counters almost all the hesitations conservatives have about Romney (keeping down a lot of that dust), plus he's not crazy, is liked by the Beltway crowd, was a better Governor of Mississippi than Romney was of Massachusetts (damn those are some long state names) and is a much better campaigner than Bachmann or Santorum or any of those clowns.
They'll still lose, of course.