Romney's starting to look inevitable

“Nine-nine-nine is a soundbite,” Santorum fumed after the debate. “It’s not an economic plan that will transform this country.”

But Team Romney is just fine with Cain’s rise.

“Mitt has a lot of respect and admiration for Herman Cain,” noted Romney senior adviser Eric Fehrnstrom, calling the businessman “a serious competitor.”

Romney still faces tests in the primary — perhaps most notable the $15 million Perry has available to use on TV ads. It’s one thing for Romney to brush off health care questions at debates but quite another to get hammered on the airwaves given his already-soft poll numbers.

For now, though, he’s enjoying the increasing clarity about his status and the glaring uncertainty about the rest of the field.