It's now all over but for the praying. Mitt Romney will be the Republican opponent for President Barack Obama after his convincing win yesterday in the New Hampshire primary.
Sure, Romney might stumble in the next contest in South Carolina, but even if that happens, it'll just be a speed bump to the nomination. My guess is that he lowers expectations, then does surprisingly well there, at which point it's pretty much over. He'll spend the next several months reassuring evangelicals that he loves Jesus and has never had more than one wife at a time (or at all). Then, look for him to select someone like South Carolina Governor Nikki Haley as his running mate before the convention.
Then what? Well, as Obama's chief strategist David Axelrod has said, the GOP candidate will be "fully known" by the time November rolls around. Mitt has flipped and flopped like a muskie in the bottom of a boat. He was for reproductive rights until he was against them. He was the architect in Massachusetts of what became Obama's national plan for health care reform, but now he's disavowing his best accomplishment. He's a job creator except for all those people he laid off at various companies when he was at Bain.
Say what you want about President Obama, he can be accused of being thoughtful and trimming positions here and there, but not of fundamentally changing his principles to win the next election.
But look, this is not as clear as it seems. I've always felt that politicians who staunchly claim to have never changed a position are professing their stupidity. Everyone should be hungry for and open to new information, and sometimes you need to respond to new data or new events or even a change in public mood with a revised position. And certainly Obama has done that. The best politicians are those who skillfully tack across the water towards the same destination to which they started out.
But what Mitt Romney has done goes way beyond intelligent tinkering in response to new information. His swings have been wild and blatantly politically calculated. Some of those swings, on issues like abortion, have been about things that for most of us go to our core belief system. They raise legitimate questions about whether he has any core beliefs at all.
So, congratulations Mitt. You are now the guy. And now you've got to answer the question, what guy is that?