Former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney (center) still appears to be the frontrunner in the Republican presidential primary, but his lack of support from the GOPs 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 ďhang aroundĒ 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 ó anyone ó 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.
Cainís 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 isnít exactly an asset when running for the nationís top office.
Cainís 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.
ďCain needs to have a second act, and it isnít clear he will have one,Ē said one veteran GOP observer who believes that Cainís 9-9-9 proposal, while passionately supported by some talk-radio hosts and activists, wonít have broad appeal in the party.
Oddly, Romney probably benefits from the seemingly endless series of televised debates. Thatís 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 Perryís record on immigration has given Romney an issue on which he can paint himself to the right of the governor of Texas ó a good place to be for a hopeful viewed by many Republicans as relatively moderate.
Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., carries a musket on stage as he speaks during the American Conservative Union's Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC) at National Harbor, Md., on Thursday March 6, 2014.