“Believe it or not, Mitt Romney may be the luckiest man in America

“Viewed in a different light … Romney’s political travails are relatively mild for a candidate with his vulnerabilities: a history of flip-flops on social issues, an inability to connect with voters that can be painful to behold and a record on health care that makes conservatives recoil.

“Even against undisciplined and underprepared opponents, Romney’s shortcomings could have been severe enough to end his campaign — at least, without a heavy dose of good fortune.

“But as it turns out, Romney has done more than catch a few lucky breaks. He’s caught practically every one he could have hoped for. While Romney doesn’t lead a charmed life every day, it sure seems like he keeps rolling sevens when it matters most: when Rick Perry was climbing toward 40 percent in the polls, say, or when Rick Santorum was closing in on an Iowa win.”

***

“Three of the four candidates for the Republican presidential nomination — Rick Santorum, Newt Gingrich and Ron Paul — might soon agree with T.S. Eliot: for them, April may indeed be ‘the cruelest month.’

“That’s because their front-running rival, Mitt Romney, appears poised to further pad his lead in delegates in upcoming Republican nomination contests, starting with Illinois next Tuesday and through a northeastern primary day on April 24.

“From now until the end of April, we expect Romney to win not only the majority of nominating contests, but also the majority of delegates awarded in these contests.’…

“After Louisiana on March 24, the GOP race heads North for April — which is what makes it such a cruel month, potentially, for Romney’s rivals.”

***

“Mr. Romney’s pitch to donors Wednesday was similar to the one he made to his finance and political teams in Boston after Super Tuesday. ‘It’s going to be a long tough road, but we’re going to rough it out, and we’re going to be the nominee,’ said John Catsimatidis, a supermarket magnate who organized one of Wednesday’s fund-raisers…

“‘Are you still able to pick up delegates when you don’t win a state?’ asked one worried guest at the breakfast event. Of course, Mr. Romney assured him…

“‘In order to win against Barack Obama, our nominee needs to have the resources to be competitive,’ said Matt Rhoades, Mr. Romney’s campaign manager. ‘Our fund-raising events provide us with the resources to continue our paid media and voter contact efforts in primaries and caucuses across the country.'”

***

“But as I noted Tuesday, this race is more about demographics than geography. The model I shared on Tuesday predicted that Romney would win 31 percent of the three-way vote in Mississippi, 32 percent in Alabama, and 50 percent in Hawaii. In fact, he won 32 percent of the three-way vote in Mississippi, 31 percent in Alabama, and 56 percent in Hawaii…

“Just to re-emphasize this point: By looking at nothing more than the percentage of Mormons, evangelicals, African-Americans, Latinos, and college-educated voters in counties that voted from South Carolina through Super Tuesday, you could forecast Romney’s vote share within five points in 103 of the 146 counties in Alabama and Mississippi that have returned votes so far. You’d be within 10 points in all but nine. It’s not that great of an exaggeration to say that all the advertising, campaigning, gaffes, and everything else are superfluous to these underlying factors right now.

“When I plug numbers into the delegate calculator using my assumptions of how things will play out, it is a very close call as to whether Romney will get to 1,144. If I’m right, this means, literally, that the Republican race could hinge on what the voters in the Republican primaries in Maxine Waters’, Nancy Pelosi’s, and Jose Serrano’s districts do. That can’t be a very comforting thought for the campaigns, or for the parties.”

***

“It’s the most obvious point, and yet the one that requires the most change. For the past two weeks, the Romney campaign’s message frame has been the delegate slog and a lead it insists is insurmountable.

“It’s a more appropriate message for the campaign or surrogates to deliver. But it sounds small coming out of the candidate’s mouth, and makes Romney’s whole argument about math instead of actual voters. It also sounds like the likely GOP nominee for president is acknowledging that he can’t win over people who resist him.

“It’s a poor message to Romney’s own backers in upcoming states, who are basically hearing the candidate say it’s over regardless of what comes next. And the strategy is just cocky enough that it risks inflaming voters who dislike the former Massachusetts governor, prompting them to turn out in greater numbers to vote for someone else.

“‘Rather than talk about math, [he] should talk about earning the nomination,’ said one Romney backer who, like almost everyone interviewed for their advice, asked to remain anonymous.”

***

“‘There’s a scenario where if Romney has eight, nine hundred delegate votes and Santorum has four, five hundred, Romney goes to Rick and says, ‘Look, you go on the ticket with me. You’re younger — I’ve been running for five years. Help me with the first ballot nomination; I’ll make you vice president.’ That’s possible. It’s been done before.’

“If no deal can be reached, however, Shirley said it’s likely another candidate would emerge on the convention floor.

“‘If you get those four guys in Tampa and neither has enough delegates for a first ballot nomination, and they can’t make a deal among themselves, then the nominee will not be one of those four candidates,’ he said.

“‘The only way that Santorum would agree to release his delegates is if the party chooses somebody that is (a) not one of of the other three fellas and (b) is ideologically acceptable to him. And the others are gonna take the same position. That’s what’s fascinating.'”

***

“‘We’re not going to go to a brokered convention,’ Romney said. ‘The states that remain will vote for that person, and that person will get the delegates, become the nominee.’…

“‘Anybody has a shot at becoming the nominee,’ Romney said. ‘A good, spirited contest prepares us for what’s going to happen with President Obama.’ He continued, ‘I’m perfectly pleased with the process we’ve had.'”