Romney, unlike his competition, has been consistently around 25%-30% in the polls. He doesn’t excite anybody, doesn’t color outside the lines and doesn’t put the fear of God into most people imagining his finger near the button. He’s the most presentable of the bunch, the guy you introduce to your parents, the management consultant who can repackage conventional Republicanism (Ronald Reagan! Private enterprise! No illegals! No nukes for Iran! No apologies!) into a sufficiently palatable mush.

This may be enough to help Romney survive against three competitors who are more excitable. But it also sets up one whale of a paradox: After 39 months of consistent public hostility to bailout economics, after the rise of the tea party movement, after town-hall opposition to “Obama care,” after the long-shot Scott Brown win in Massachusetts, after the 2010 limited-government resurgence in the House of Representatives … after all of these unmistakable signs of public — let alone Republican — sentiment, the alleged party of limited government may be on the verge of nominating someone who is running to President Barack Obama’s left on Medicare, who helped pave the way for the Obama policy Republicans hate most and who has no real plan for cutting the biggest growth items in the federal budget.

That’s why you can’t count out the competition just yet.