Can the GOP still learn to love Romney?

The Republican strategist and Democratic pollster in their bi-weekly faceoff about Election 2012

Hughes: Absolutely. If we’ve learned nothing else during this tumultuous Republican primary season, it’s that many of the most conservative Republican primary voters are exceptionally good at falling in love. They’ve done so again and again, first flirting with Michele Bachmann, then embracing Governor Rick Perry, then throwing themselves at businessman Herman Cain. The darling du jour is Newt Gingrich, now surging in the polls on the strength of his debate performances and the swashbuckling rhetoric that so appeals to the GOP base. The political media, no doubt reinforced by an Obama team that fears Mitt Romney as the candidate most likely to unseat the incumbent President, has been quick to jump on the bandwagon that Mitt isn’t “feeling the love” of his fellow Republicans.

Yet barely noticed on a weekend when Cain’s demise and Gingrich’s rise dominated headlines, 500 volunteers walked door-to-door for Mitt Romney in New Hampshire. He’s steadily won support from unexpected sources — Governor Chris Christie in New Jersey, conservative Senator John Thune of South Dakota, and some of Governor Rick Perry’s long-time and significant financial supporters in Texas. His core support has stayed remarkably steady during a roller coaster primary. Polls show that even when he’s not voters’ first choice, he’s often next on their list.

Penn: The topsy-turvy Republican primary has come down to a stark choice: Romney or suicide, and it increasingly looks like the GOP may choose suicide.

Next to Jon Huntsman, Mitt Romney is the only other candidate who can lay a claim to independent and centrist voters, and that fact may just be what is keeping Romney at 20 or 25% of the voters during a time when Republicans’ strongest partisans have taken a decisive Tea-Party led turn to the right. About 65% of Republican primary voters or more would classify themselves as a conservative, and they have been on a search for the next Ronald Reagan but have been unable to find him in this crowd.

But now after boomlets for virtually every other conservative candidate, they are taking a second look at Newt Gingrich, and he just might pull it off — mostly because his problems have been aired before and so they are not news compared to the issues Cain and others had that were fresh revelations.