Boston Globe: Romney's the only adult left standing among the 2012 hopefuls

But — but what about Huck?

Seriously, though, it is starting to feel that way.

For a while, it looked like Mitt Romney would become more a figure of ridicule than promise. Stiff, square, and allegedly two-faced, the former Massachusetts governor was a triple-punchline target of late-night comics.

But now, with a more statesmanlike bearing and some measured criticisms of the Obama administration, Romney suddenly seems like the only adult left standing among the 2012 Republican presidential hopefuls…

[W]hile Limbaugh and some other CPAC speakers were serving up cable-show vitriol, Romney made clear that he wished President Obama well and hoped for the best for the country. He then offered a more measured – and therefore more believable – critique of the new administration.

“Parts of the stimulus will, in fact, do some good,” he averred. “But too much of the bill was shortsighted and wasteful…

He also broke with many in his party to endorse the bank bailout, but repeated his criticism of both Presidents Bush and Obama for using bailout funds to aid the auto industry.

He won the CPAC straw poll, of course, and as I write this he leads the field on InTrade with 24 percent, followed by Jindal at 19 and Palin at 15, neither of whom I expect will run. He’ll have an advantage in the early primaries in 2012, too: Huck will win Iowa thanks to evangelicals, but Romney should take New Hampshire and Michigan easily now that there’s no McCain-type around to run to his left. The question is what happens in South Carolina, where Huck nearly knocked off McCain thanks to Christian voters. If he beats Romney there, it’s anyone’s race. And while in theory Mitt should have an easy time with him in blue-state primaries like New York, economic circumstances may be such that the rich guy is a hard sell compared to the folksy populist, regardless of which one of them has more financial expertise. Maybe Sanford will get in and end up acting as a stalking horse for Mitt, stealing SC away from Huck and splitting enough social-con votes with him elsewhere to give Romney a clear path. Romney/Sanford 2012? I could live with it, and Sanford would take that deal in a heartbeat. He’ll only be 52 and landing on the ticket would give him the national exposure he’ll need to have any chance against Jindal or Palin in 2016.

Exit question: What about Newt? He’s adult-ish, no? If he jumps in, do he and Romney split the centrists and technocrats, leaving Huck as the last man standing?