I'm sure it's got a lot to do with my sportswriter past, but from my perspective, Mitt Romney is currently the man to beat in the race for the Republican nomination for president.

He came in second in Iowa, second in New Hampshire and first in Wyoming.

John McCain won New Hampshire but was third in Iowa and out of the running in Wyoming.

Mike Huckabee won Iowa but finished third in New Hampshire and didn't get a single vote in Wyoming.

And Rudy Giuliani has barely registered a pulse.

If the Associated Press sportswriters were voting, it wouldn't even be close. Romney would be No. 1.

Too bad he's not a football team.

In political analysis, though, it's: "What have you done lately?" As in the last minute or so. And Romney's lack so far of a clear-cut victory in a state where the media is focusing its attention — Wyoming, where Romney won, had as many delegates up for grabs as New Hampshire, but the media wasn't in Wyoming — has labeled him a loser.

Witness these post-New Hampshire headlines:

• "Romney Campaign Spins Another Defeat" — CBS News

• "Defeat in the air at Romney Camp" — Los Angeles Times

• "Romney takes wounded White House bid to Michigan" — Reuters

You'd think he was having a year as bad as Notre Dame.

The Boston Globe said, "Romney's failure to win either Iowa or New Hampshire puts another dent in his presidential ambitions."

Holly Robichaud, a columnist for the Boston Herald, was even less charitable. "Time for a graceful Romney exit," she blogged.

Kinda makes you wonder what Romney did while he was governor of Massachusetts to become so popular with the Boston media, doesn't it?

But despite the doomsday predictions, the simple fact remains that to this point in the race Romney has way more votes than anyone else

If he left now it would be the ultimate graceful exit.

Even if Romney places second in Michigan, the state where he was born, in next Tuesday's primaries, he could very likely still lead in overall votes.

One political consultant, Craig Ruff of Public Sector Consultants in Lansing, Mich., told USA Today that Romney could survive a second-place finish in Michigan.

"Romney could be bridesmaid in a dozen states and still come out a winner," said Ruff. "It depends on whether or not there is a bride who starts consistently winning. It is possible that the Republicans could go into the convention without a clear nominee."

That convention isn't until September in Minneapolis-St. Paul.

Thus far, it's intriguing how much the race for the Republican nomination has looked like the topsy-turvy 2007-2008 college football season. Every time somebody got to No. 1, they got knocked back. The end result was a national champion with two losses that was, yep, No. 2 going into the final game.

It's the sportswriter in me, but what do political writers know about covering a race? To me it looks like this political contest is just beginning.

Lee Benson's column runs Sunday, Monday, Wednesday and Friday. Please send e-mail to [email protected] and faxes to 801-237-2527.