Though Rick Perry was stung last week during the GOP primary debate for his position on immigration and his Texas vaccination policy, he remains at the top of the Republican heap. But what if the latest “anti-Romney” falters and falls in the polls like Tim Pawlenty and Michele Bachmann before him? Is there another GOP contender who could assume that role?
According to longtime GOP political operative Roger Stone, the answer is no.
“There is no one in this field who can stop [Mitt] Romney — but Perry,” Stone told The Daily Caller in an email. “[Jon] Huntsman has decided for some weird reason to position himself as a moderate so he’s DONE. [Michele] Bachmann lacks the stature to be president. Newt, Cain, Santorum — not credible, no real money.”
“If Romney is nominated, a Right-of-center Tea Party type candidate is assured,” he added as a warning.
Republican political consultant Mary Matalin isn’t quite as categorical, but she still sees the emergence of another anti-Romney from the current field as “unlikely.”
“Theoretically, someone already discounted could reemerge, but unlikely,” she told TheDC. “More likely, if Perry is really faltering (which is a knee-jerk analysis, from only two debates where he was in Piñata position), would be the entrance of another anti-Romney candidate, but to be a realistic and sustainable challenge, s/he would have to have Perry’s assets (political skills/grit, record, money, organization, staff).”
Matalin added that “more likely than a reemergence of one of the current contenders would be a Romney rally and close.” (RELATED: GOP hopefuls doubtful of Obama tax proposal)
David “Mudcat” Saunders, the colorful Democratic political strategist who helped get Mark Warner elected Virginia governor and Jim Webb elected U.S. senator, concurs that the chance of another anti-Romney rising from the current batch of candidates is slim.
“I think Newt’s stale,” he said of the former House speaker. “And I think that the [GOP] is looking for someone they haven’t seen nearly as much.”
Saunders dismissed the notion of Rick Santorum emerging as a frontrunner. “He just rubs people wrong,” Saunders said. “He looks too political. Santorum cannot pick up that [anti-Romney] mantle.”
Other GOP hopefuls are equally unlikely to emerge as the “anti-Romney,” according to Saunders.
“He’s a pretty horse. He really is,” Saunders said of Herman Cain, before noting, “they’re not going to nominate him.”
“Michele Bachman is so done you can stick a fork in her,” he said of the Minnesota congresswoman. (RELATED: Romney, Perry are frontrunners in Daily Caller/ConservativeHome tracking poll)
As for former Utah Gov. Jon Huntsman, Saunders said he is “of no consequence.”
“He’s not going to even get the flavor of the month and all of them get the flavor of the month,” he added.
Summing up, Saunders said the GOP tends to go with the most electable candidate and “without question, Mitt Romney is the most electable.”