“Romney, himself, weighed in during an interview with WCCO radio in Minneapolis, saying of Santorum: ‘His policies are, in my view, those of many Republicans in Congress who went along with Democrats to raise the debt ceiling, to allowing earmarks and to growing the size of federal government to a level that is frankly choking off the capacity of our economy to grow at the rate it should.’

“‘I think his approach was not effective and, frankly, I happen to believe if we’re going to change Washington we can’t just keep on sending the same people there in different chairs.'”

***

“(1) It simply is untrue that Romney is not winning conservatives. In fact, a super-majority of Romney voters are in fact conservative and he has won more conservatives than any other candidate. The most conservative voters are not the bulk of his coalition, for sure, but overall his support is coming from the right side of the political spectrum.

“(2) The Romney coalition in 2012 is more moderate than the Romney 2008 coalition was. In most of the early contests – at least outside the South – Romney secured the support of very conservative voters four years ago. That is not the case this time around, not nearly to the same extent. Even so, his coalition in 2012 is a hybrid of the McCain ’08 and Romney ’08 vote.

“(3) This is a virtually unbeatable coalition, if he can maintain it. Romney has basically situated himself exactly in the middle of the GOP electorate: a plurality of his voters are somewhat conservative, with the remaining sampling from the moderates and the very conservatives. To defeat this coalition, an opponent would have to either steal some of his very conservative voters or cobble together a coalition that includes the far left and the far right of the electorate. Either would be a very difficult task to accomplish.”

***

“‘The Tea Party movement is dead. It’s gone,’ says Chris Littleton, the cofounder of the Ohio Liberty Council, a statewide coalition of Tea Party groups in Ohio. ‘I think largely the Tea Party is irrelevant in the primaries. They aren’t passionate about any of the candidates, and if they are passionate, they’re for Ron Paul.’…

“But Meckler and Littleton both rightly make the point that while the Tea Parties may not be dictating who the candidate is this year, they certainly have dictated the issues the candidates are talking about and what they are saying, particularly in the area of fiscal restraint, free-market capitalism, and the virtues of the Tea Party’s favorite historical document, the U.S. Constitution.

“In the ultimate compliment in presidential politics, the GOP field seems to be in a daily contest to impress Tea Party voters. You’re cutting spending? I’ll cut it more. You’re stopping earmarks? I’ve never even voted for one!…

“And what if Romney is elected but does not deliver on his promises, as so many Tea Partiers fear?

“That’s simple to predict, says Littleton. ‘All hell will break loose.'”

***

“‘I think what the tea party people should be asking ourselves [is] … ‘Listen, we have all this energy, all these ideas, we’ve mobilized so many people, and we produce Mitt Romney,” he said. ‘Why couldn’t they produce a leader? Why couldn’t they really change the party? If Romney wins, the head of the Republican Party — the three most important people in Washington — will be Mitch McConnell, John Boehner and Mitt Romney. That’s the Republican main street establishment. The tea party will have a pretty limited effect.'”

***

“We’ve killed off the Rockefeller Republicans. In 2008 we had one candidate who was pro-abortion, one candidate who opposed Clinton’s impeachment, we had one candidate who wanted to shut down Guantanamo, voted against Bush’s tax cuts, called waterboarding torture, oh, and that’s the one we ran.

“We have killed off Rockefeller Republicans. Basically all of them have conservative positions now. I think Romney is appealing. He’s gentlemanly. I think that’s what you need from looking at how Reagan ran in 1980.”