After another steady debate showing for Mitt Romney in New Hampshire on Tuesday, political experts across the country now view the Republican presidential nomination as Romney's to lose.
"A confluence of factors — a stockpile of cash, strong polls, a disciplined message, an expanding network and decisions by Sarah Palin and (Chris) Christie not to mount their own White House runs — are fueling an aura of inevitability for a man whose party has been slow to embrace him," Associated Press reports. "Christie may end up being the missing link, but conservatives have been reluctantly warming to a Romney candidacy for weeks."
"Certainly, Mitt Romney has to be very pleased," Jennifer Rubin writes for the Washington Post. "He was smooth as silk … and driving home the key message: He is the only candidate ready for prime time. … Unless other candidates change the dynamics of the race, Romney will slowly but surely move to lock up the nomination."
Time's Swampland blog even put a humorous spin on the seemingly inevitable momentum of Romney's candidacy.
"The most telling moment of the debate probably came when Romney was asked whom he would choose to replace Ben Bernanke as chairman of the Federal Reserve. 'Well, I haven't chosen that person. I haven't even chosen a vice president … I'm not sure I'm the nominee yet,' he said to uproarious laughter. The joke, of course, is that Romney, along with anybody watching these recent debates, must feel pretty sure."
The Atlantic and Guardian both noted how much more at ease Romney appeared Tuesday than during his prior presidential bid in the 2008 election cycle.
"The former Massachusetts governor has an assurance, deftness and poise that have eluded him at the beginning of his presidential-candidate career more than four years ago," Molly Ball wrote for The Atlantic. "Maybe it's practice. Maybe it's the delicious feeling of his solidifying front-runner status. Maybe it's the lingering glow, and instructive aggressiveness, of his big endorsement from New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie earlier Tuesday."
The Guardian reported, "In a debate short on policy detail, Romney emerged as the most fluent and most at ease, a much more relaxed campaigner than he was during his failed bid for the Republican nomination in 2008."
Barely a month ago Rick Perry led Romney 31-24 in national Gallup polling. Now Romney holds a 20-15 advantage over Perry, with former pizza magnate Herman Cain surging into second place with 18-percent support. The New York Times observed that Romney neutralized the Texas governor's hopes for a comeback in the polls by displaying a dismissive demeanor toward Perry.
"Mitt Romney … sought to look beyond his Republican presidential rivals at a debate here Tuesday night by presenting himself as the leader who is best prepared to take on President Obama. With a fresh air of confidence in his candidacy, Mr. Romney set out to diminish Gov. Rick Perry of Texas and all but ignored him, a different approach from the last three debates, where he repeatedly tangled with Mr. Perry."