Many major former Romney supporters not backing him this year?

Most them aren’t definite no’s, but even if they’re holding out for the time being merely to see who else jumps in, that’s … not encouraging. Some, like Judd Gregg, may end up endorsing him anyway but might want to see if Daniels (or Huntsman?) declares first. Others, like DeMint, who have embraced the tea party full-fold almost certainly aren’t going to endorse him unless the entire “true conservative” bench decides not to run. Either way … not encouraging.

My favorite part? Hot on the heels of a rumor that Mitt might skip Iowa, there’s now a rumor circulating that he’ll skip South Carolina too. That makes superficial sense since both are social-conservative strongholds, but have we learned nothing from the Giuliani catastrophe, my friends?

As much as anything else, it calls into question just how far ahead of the pack he is as the 2012 contenders emerge. Even as Romney tries to project inevitability by signing up top GOP money men in Washington and New York, the defections suggest he’s seen as far from a sure thing even among insiders. After all, if top Republicans were willing to commit to Romney four years ago when he was a lesser known commodity, why won’t they get on board now when he’s a household name in the political circles and clearly among the most formidable candidates for his party’s nomination?…

Romney’s top strategists in [South Carolina] – who also are DeMint advisers – indicated that they hadn’t heard from their 2008 candidate and were unlikely to get behind him this time…

Peter Brown, a top GOP donor in Columbia who also served on Romney’s state finance committee in 2008, explained why he was not committed again.

“The word on the street is that Romney will skip South Carolina,” Brown said. “Most conservatives believe we need a Jim DeMint-type, assuming Jim will not run for president, someone who really wants to push for a limited federal government – not a government that will grow more slowly.”

Another possibility: His former South Carolina team might be convinced that Romney not only can’t win the state, he can’t win in the south more broadly. Whether that’s because he’s suspect on abortion or because he’s from Massachusetts or because of his faith, I don’t know, but PPP’s polling of some southern states suggests he’s having difficulties throughout the region. And by “difficulties,” I don’t mean he’s in second behind Huckabee. I mean he’s in fourth, way, way out of the lead, with a favorable rating among Republicans between 50 and 60 percent. If this is all about RomneyCare, I’m not sure why the objections would be so much sharper regionally. Any theories, southern readers?