GOP race one of shooting stars (Bachmann, Perry, Cain), steady constants (Romney, Paul)

Published: Saturday, Nov. 19 2011 10:00 p.m. MST

"It does appear that the stories are certainly hurting him," said Republican pollster Ed Goeas of The Tarrance Group, who helped conduct the bipartisan poll. "As this moves forward, I think it does become more and more a deal-breaker."

At least one shooting star never even actually entered the race. New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie appeared to be another who might enter the race late, and polls showed he would be a hot new face in the race, but he instead decided to stay on the sidelines and endorse Romney.

Romney has been first or second since February. Now, once again, the race is getting tighter as Cain's numbers are still high, Romney has been consistently strong and Politico reports Newt Gingrich jumping to the top of the CNN/Opinion Research Poll and a Public Policy Polling Survey.

New York Times columnist Ross Douthat explained recently both why Gingrich's campaign has been resurrected and why that actually might serve Romney really well.

"Obviously, Romney's ideal primary scenario would be one in which all his rivals somehow self-destruct and he coasts to victory in every primary or caucus," Douthat wrote in a column titled "The Second Coming of Gingrich." "But seeing Newt Gingrich emerge as his most plausible challenger comes a pretty close second."

The reason, Douthat added, is because "Gingrich has so many heterodoxies in his own past, he'll have a hard time attacking the former Massachusetts governor as a flip-flopper," and Gingrich can't attack Romney's Mormon faith the way Mike Huckabee did four years ago.

Indeed, some groups feel Romney's consistency is proof that he has locked up the seat and are preparing against his eventual nomination. Priorities USA Action, a pro-Obama group, released a YouTube video advertisement portraying Romney as a Wall Street sympathizer looking to free up regulations on big corporations.

EMAIL: jbolding@desnews.com

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