There are three major factors working to the front-runner’s advantage:

— The community of elected officials and operatives in Washington and party regulars around the country is making it increasingly clear they are ready to unite around someone who is now 2-and-0 in the early states. These influential voices — who include many fund-raisers and other sorts of people who are unwise for politicians to alienate — will greet the kind of scorched-earth tactics necessary to slow Romney’s march with hostility.

— Many conservative activists, while not especially enthusiastic about Romney or his establishment backers, are appalled by the odd turn of campaign rhetoric in the closing days of New Hampshire, with Newt Gingrich and Jon Huntsman taking aim at Romney’s record running the private equity firm Bain Capital. These people, who include radio commentator Rush Limbaugh, are apoplectic that anti-Romney Republicans are making common cause with anti-business Democrats.

— For now, the anti-Romney vote is deeply splintered among rival candidates, none of whom showed strength in both Iowa or New Hampshire, or who has yet amassed the necessary organization and financial resources to compete credibly beyond South Carolina.