Mitt Romney's bid for the White House is being seen as all but over after his Super Tuesday losses to Republican front-runner John McCain but he's still on the campaign trail, at least for now.
Romney is scheduled to speak today at the Conservative Political Action Committee convention in Washington, D.C., then address a Republican fundraiser in Maryland, which holds its GOP primary Tuesday.
He was said to be meeting Wednesday with family and advisers about his political future and reportedly considered but dismissed the idea of announcing he was leaving the race at the CPAC convention.
However, after he won fewer states and far fewer delegates than McCain on Super Tuesday, political observers are giving Romney little chance of becoming his party's nominee, especially now that former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee is attracting more of the same conservative voters that Romney has been courting. Huckabee, a Southern Baptist minister, ran strong in Southern states on Tuesday.
Romney told supporters Tuesday night that he wasn't giving up.
"We're going to keep on battling," he said. "We're going to go all the way to the convention. We're going to win this thing, and we're going to get to the White House."
McCain, though, may be unstoppable. After seeing his campaign falter and nearly fail last summer after running out of cash, McCain now has some 60 percent of the delegates he needs to secure the GOP nomination more than twice as many as Romney.
"This is the greatest resurrection since Lazarus. Six months ago, this guy was given up for dead," said Richard Land, president of the Southern Baptist Convention's Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission in Nashville.
"It seems impossible that one of the other candidates would overtake McCain," Land said, even though there are still delegates up for grabs this month in Hawaii, Kansas, Louisiana, Washington, D.C., Virginia and Maryland and later in Texas and other states.
Land, who has not endorsed a presidential candidate, said Romney was hurt more by his shifting political stands than his religion. Romney is a member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, a faith many evangelicals don't consider Christian.
Matthew Wilson, a professor specializing in religion and politics at Southern Methodist University in Dallas, agreed. "The problem Mitt Romney had all along was with authenticity," Wilson said, noting voters saw him as "a little bit too slick and polished."
Wilson said it was Huckabee, not Romney, who emerged from Super Tuesday as the main challenger to McCain. Although he said Huckabee also has no chance to win the GOP nomination, he's shown he can campaign effectively with very little money.
Romney, on the other hand, is worth an estimated $350 million and has outspent his competition by investing his own money in the campaign. By the end of 2007, Romney's contributions to his race totaled $35 million.
If Romney, a former Massachusetts governor, does stay in the race, he'll likely scale back. "I suspect he will ratchet down his personal expenditures," Wilson said. "I don't think he wants to dump more of his own money into now what is a very long-shot bid."
Kirk Jowers, head of the University of Utah's Hinckley Institute of Politics and a longtime Romney supporter, said that despite Romney's resources, he may end up making the same decision that McCain did after running out of money.
"At some point, it becomes painful no matter how wealthy you are," Jowers said. "McCain cut drastically back in the summer of '07 and ran a more bare-bones campaign. Nothing says Romney can't do the same for the next month."
There's some suggestion that Romney wants to stay in the race long enough to outlast Huckabee. Romney's campaign has already accused Huckabee of cutting "a Washington backroom deal" with McCain to hurt Romney's efforts to appeal to conservatives.
"There seems to be a little personal animosity there," said Kelly Patterson, head of Brigham Young University's Center for the Study of Elections and Democracy. But he said Romney would likely bow out before Huckabee.
That's because Huckabee "has been quite successful" attracting conservative voters in the South, Patterson said. "The real question is whether he wasn't successful in those other states because he didn't have the resources."
Before Tuesday, Huckabee had won only Iowa. Now he has wins in West Virginia, Arkansas, Alabama, Georgia and Tennessee. McCain, who'd won New Hampshire, South Carolina and Florida, picked up nine more states Tuesday including California and New York.
Romney finished first in Wyoming, Michigan, Nevada and Maine prior to Tuesday's voting and now also has victories in Utah, Massachusetts, North Dakota, Montana, Colorado, Minnesota and Alaska.
It might be time, some suggested, for Romney to start thinking about the next race.
"I think he's young enough to come back," Land said, noting that both Romney and Huckabee could be tapped to serve in a McCain administration. A vice presidential slot, though, looks more likely for Huckabee than Romney.
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