We’ve been gone for a little while and boy has a whole lot changed. Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney is considered the front-runner of a race no one seems particularly excited about finishing. In a classic case of Romneying, the well-to-do politician explained to NASCAR afficionados that he, too, enjoys the popular Southern pastime — especially considering that several of his friends own teams! And Restore Our Future,?the super PAC backing Romney, has unleashed a torrent of negative ads attacking his current closest contender, Rick Santorum, who until rather recently was actually leading in a series of nationwide polls.

 

What a world of difference a week and a half can make!

 

Well, the whole narrative may — but most probably won’t — change today when with any luck the winner(s) of yesterday’s two qualifying contests, in Michigan and Arizona, are announced. The results are expected to arrive too late for us to do any substantial analysis today; we’ll save that for tomorrow, and leave the guesswork to the experts.?

 

Experts such as poll analyst Nate Silver, who thinks Michigan — Romney’s home state, though one he’s antagonized by strongly opposing Obama-led auto bailouts that seem to have led to a strengthened local industry and the saving of millions of jobs — could go either way. Most polls, meanwhile, show Arizona leaning strongly in Romney’s favor.

 

Regardless of who wins, though, the campaign environment isn’t likely to undergo a drastic change. Will an unrealistic double-rout by Santorum compel Romney to cede the race to his rival? Not likely.

Nor will the more plausible double Romney win convince Santorum et al that they’ve missed their chance. Ron Paul is still playing the long game, hoping to pick up enough consolation delegates to buy some more establishment support for his libertarian ideas. And then there’s Gingrich: Educated guessing on the future intentions of that guy likely eludes even experts like Silver.

With Super Tuesday a week away, we may yet be on the cusp of some serious political momentum; if, that is, voters agree enough to elevate a single candidate. If not, a brokered convention may be on the horizon — a looming possibility that could, perhaps, be one GOP mystery more unfathomable than even Gingrich himself.

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