Romney is the varsity — a far better candidate than, say, Bob Dole or John McCain. A Republican nominating process that swerved again and again toward silliness — alternately elevating for consideration Donald Trump, Michele Bachmann and Herman Cain — seems ready to settle on a serious, accomplished, credible candidate. Republicans, it turns out, are choleric and fractious — but not suicidal.

The nominating process has also revealed Romney’s limitations. It would be awkward for anyone this stiff to pose as a working-class stiff, and Romney should not try. But if he gains the nomination, Romney’s rival in connecting with average voters will not be Bill Clinton. It will be professor Barack Obama. Again, Romney benefits from the luck of the draw. …

His competitors have attempted to portray Romney’s ideological inconsistency over time as a character failure. It hasn’t worked, mainly because Romney is a man of exemplary character — deeply loyal to his faith, his family and his country. But he clearly places political ideology in a different category of fidelity. Like Dwight Eisenhower, Romney is a man of vague ideology and deep values. In political matters, he is empirical and pragmatic. He studies problems, assesses risks, calculates likely outcomes. Those expecting Romney to be a philosophic leader will be disappointed. He is a management consultant, and a good one.