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For Some GOPers, It’s Still Anyone but Mitt Romney

John Gurzinski/AFP/Getty Images
Former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney (center) still appears to be the frontrunner in the Republican presidential primary, but his lack of support from the GOP’s conservative base has many voters searching for an alternative.

For former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney, the GOP presidential campaign is looking like a simple matter of survival.

With a substantial chunk of the Republican Party appearing unenthusiastic about embracing him, Romney now finds himself in the position of having to “hang around” in the GOP race while conservatives flirt with a series of alternatives.

After first getting excited about Minnesota Rep. Michele Bachmann, then Texas Gov. Rick Perry and most recently businessman Herman Cain, conservatives still seem to be looking for someone — anyone — they can embrace as an alternative to Romney.

But so far, none of the alternatives has shown much staying power in the race.

Bachmann looked to be developing as a serious choice, but her numbers crashed when Perry entered the contest. Then Perry looked like the obvious alternative, until he opened his mouth.

Cain’s spike in the polls makes him the latest conservative alternative to Romney, but his tendency to speak first and only then think about what he wants to say isn’t exactly an asset when running for the nation’s top office.

Cain’s ability to be spontaneous is an asset, of course, but he does it too often. It has gotten him into trouble and almost certainly will do so again.

Plenty of Republicans would love to nominate a conservative African-American just to stick it to President Barack Obama and liberals who dismiss the GOP as a bunch of racists (making Cain an executive branch version of Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas), but the former pizza company CEO has a long way to go to demonstrate that he has the skills necessary to run the country.

“Cain needs to have a second act, and it isn’t clear he will have one,” said one veteran GOP observer who believes that Cain’s 9-9-9 proposal, while passionately supported by some talk-radio hosts and activists, won’t have broad appeal in the party.

Oddly, Romney probably benefits from the seemingly endless series of televised debates. That’s usually not the case with someone as well-known as Romney, who began the 2010 Republican race as the frontrunner and has remained in the top tier as the other candidates have bounced around from tier to tier.

The former Massachusetts governor has used the debates to repeat conservative themes, and Perry’s record on immigration has given Romney an issue on which he can paint himself to the right of the governor of Texas — a good place to be for a hopeful viewed by many Republicans as relatively moderate.

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