Just from the perspective of blogworthy content, I’m thrilled. A Huck vs. Palin race would be fascinating, but having Mitt in the mix all but guarantees a “centrist elites vs. populist conservatives” storyline for the nomination. Can’t. Wait.

One of the first big moves of 2012 — “Mitt Romney Names Matt Rhoades PAC Executive Director: BOSTON — Mitt Romney’s Free and Strong America PAC announced today that Matt Rhoades, who has held senior positions on major presidential campaigns and at the Republican National Committee, will serve as the PAC’s executive director. … ‘He’s been a friend and an adviser for several years now and I’m pleased that he has agreed to run the day-to-day operations of my Free and Strong America PAC. He shares with me the view that 2010 is going to be a critical election year, with many races and lots of opportunities to elect Republican candidates,’ said Governor Romney.

“Rhoades is currently a Vice President with DCI Group … He replaces Peter Flaherty, who will become a Senior Adviser to the PAC. He previously served as Communications Director for Romney’s 2008 presidential campaign … During the 2006 election cycle, Rhoades was a Deputy Communications Director in charge of research for the Republican National Committee. He also was Research Director for the 2004 Bush/Cheney re-election campaign. Rhoades also has held the position of White House Liaison at the U.S. Office of Personnel Management in the Bush Administration.

According to Ben Smith, who’s reading this as a surefire sign that Mitt’s in, Rhoades also has a pipeline to Drudge. Consider this a follow-up to last night’s Quotes of the Day that showcased the makings of a bold Romney gambit: A path to the nomination that would concede the south to whomever emerges from a Huck/Palin bloodbath and focus instead on winning New Hampshire and Michigan early and then cleaning up in the coastal states. (Don’t laugh: Scott Brown’s win reportedly has Republicans coming out of the woodwork in blue New England.) I find it hard to fathom losing Iowa, South Carolina, and Florida to an opponent and then cleaning up on Super Tuesday, so expect Team Mitt to quietly push behind the scenes for bluer states to move their own primaries up to help their guy build a little early mo.

Here’s Ron Brownstein from this a.m.’s “Morning Joe” handicapping a Romney/Palin white collar/blue collar class warfare clusterfark in the primary. My heart says “stop” but my traffic sensibility cries “proceed.” Exit question: Are Huck and Palin going to come to some sort of understanding before the primaries that only one of them should run? If they both jump in and draw off each other, it leaves Romney alone to skate through by cleaning up with centrists. And Huck, at least, would probably find that prospect intolerable.

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