MITT, THE PAISLEY TIGERBY FRANK BRUNINEW YORK TIMESTo watch [Romney] deliver his gauzy stump speech is to behold a beautifully framed, impeccably coiffed blur: a vague shimmer of presidential-looking light that means everything and nothing. The takeaway from the speech? Romney good. America great. Obama bad. America in trouble. He doesn’t delve into the soporific specifics pouring out of Rick Santorum, who wouldn’t know a sound bite if it ripped off his sweater vest. So you can fill in the blanks as you like. In the primaries, that’s a liability, and Santorum, with his ideological rigidity, could haunt Romney for a while. But if Romney nabs the nomination, his malleability may be an asset, allowing Obama-soured voters to talk themselves into him. After all, a creature without passionate conviction doesn’t cling to extremes. He surveys the scenery and makes sure his outfit doesn’t clash.
WORKERS OF THE WORLD, UNITE!BY DAVID BROOKSNEW YORK TIMESThe Republican Party is the party of the white working class. This group — whites with high school degrees and maybe some college — is still the largest block in the electorate. … I suspect [Rick Santorum] will do better post-Iowa than most people think — before being buried under a wave of money and negative ads. And I do believe that he represents sensibility and a viewpoint that is being suppressed by the political system. Perhaps, in less rigid and ideological form, this working-class experience will someday find a champion. If you took a working-class candidate from the right, like Santorum, and a working-class candidate from the left, like Senator Sherrod Brown of Ohio, and you found a few islands of common ground, you could win this election by a landslide. The country doesn’t want an election that is Harvard Law versus Harvard Law. THE SLUSH FUNDS OF IOWAEDITORIALNEW YORK TIMESTo influence the small fraction of Iowa voters who will participate in Tuesday’s caucuses, the candidates and their supporters will have spent $12.5 million, an unprecedented amount. Only a third of that was spent by the candidates themselves; the rest comes from the “super PACs” that most of the candidates have allowed to be established. … [Mitt Romney’s] campaign has spent more than $1 million on upbeat ads about his work in the private sector, his long marriage and his devotion to his church. … Meanwhile, his PAC, Restore Our Future, has spent $2.85 million largely to attack other candidates, in particular Newt Gingrich. … But they do not bear Mr. Romney’s fingerprints, and thus avoid the taint of voter disapproval that often accompanies negative ads. … As bad as the 2010 midterm elections were for the influence of big money, this year’s presidential campaign — the first since the Supreme Court’s Citizens United decision two years ago — is shaping up to be worse. There are no limits to the dollars involved, and no accountability for the candidates those dollars are buying.SANTORUM WINS NARROWLYBY EUGENE ROBINSONWASHINGTON POSTI don't subscribe to the view that Romney somehow locks up the nomination even if he finishes second to Santorum or Paul. First, there's the obvious fact that you don't win by losing. Second, the primary schedule still offers the opportunity for Anybody-But-Mitt to coalesce behind a single strong challenger. A Romney victory in New Hampshire next week is already taken for granted. But then comes South Carolina, a state where it's easy to imagine Romney being beaten by Santorum, Newt Gingrich or even Rick Perry -- all of whom will still be in the race. Yes, it would be remarkable if this anti-Romney sentiment all came together behind one of those contenders in the space of a week and a half, but stranger things have happened. Remember Herman Cain?RICK SANTORUM'S CURIOUS CLOSING ARGUMENTBY DANA MILBANKWASHINGTON POSTMonths ago, I predicted there would be such a Santorum surge in Iowa. But if and when he receives serious scrutiny, the surge will surely subside. … Santorum is clearly enjoying his surge, boasting that, while other campaigns had an “airplane, bus, cars, etcetera,” he simply had “Chuck’s truck” — a Dodge pickup. Now he has a shiny campaign bus with his name on it. At Santorum’s first stop, in Polk City, the coffee shop’s maximum occupancy was listed as 49, but at least 200 filled the room and 100 more spilled into the street. In the media throng were journalists from Japan, Russia, France, Britain, Italy and Australia. “They weren’t here last week,” a pleased Santorum told the crowd. Enjoy it, Senator. They won’t be here for long.ISOLATIONISM REDUX VIA RON PAULBY RICHARD COHENWASHINGTON POSTJust as troubling [as his newsletters], though, is what was known about [Ron] Paul all along — and that is a foreign policy, if it can be called that, drained of morality. His total indifference to what happens overseas is chilling and reminiscent of the old isolationism… Paul opposed [U.S. intervention in Libya] as he would oppose all military interventions — as he would have opposed the Civil Rights Act, he has said. He cannot for the life of him summon government’s authority or military might to have the right thing done. Still, the man himself is immaterial. His message, though, is a different matter. It has struck a chord, and others, more polished and with better-fitting shirts, will pick it up.MR. GOOD ENOUGHBY KIMBERLEY STRASSELWALL STREET JOURNALSo while Mr. Romney may not excite them, while he may not be ideal, in light of the other candidate's problems, and given the election stakes, voters are buying his argument that he is, well . . . good enough. Which is why, barring a surprise, or a late entrant, Mr. Good Enough—through good fortune, dogged determination, and the skillful elimination of his rivals—may end up grabbing the conservative ring in this all-important election year. Then the harder job starts. Mr. Obama may be hobbled by a poor economy and unpopular policies, but he is a first-order campaigner. He will energize his base, and his Republican opponent will have to do the same. … In a presidential election, good enough might not be enough to win.DIVIDED CONSERVATIVES FALLBY PAUL GIGOTWALL STREET JOURNALThe Romney campaign has been tactically smart in whom to attack and ruthless when it chose to do so. With his competitors attacking each other to emerge as his main challenger, Mr. Romney has remained remarkably unscathed for a front-runner. Mr. Gingrich is trying to rally by stressing economic growth and Rick Santorum is making a late run in Iowa, so it's still possible that someone could unite conservatives and make a serious challenge. But on present trends Mr. Romney could win the nomination despite the doubts of a majority of grass-roots Republicans.