It's not that any other candidates are threatening to make a run at Mitt Romney and Newt Gingrich. Rick Perry is still being Rick Perry. Herman Cain is finally thinking about taking a knee under the weight of his alleged past. (You know it's time to go when previous scandal-ridden politicos say "It's time to go.")
As for Michelle Bachmann - voters nationally may be fickle in the flings they have with candidates, but once they knock you from double to single digits, they rarely give you another good look. Ask Ron Paul, who had his moment four years ago.
So that leaves Mitt against Newt to run against the very vulnerable Barack Obama. Obama did get some good news this week - his approval ratings rose slightly in November, putting him better than where Jimmy Carter was in his third November as president, but worse than everyone else.
Romney, who has run a textbook primary campaign, had his first stumble this week, offering testy answers on immigration and health care in an interview with Brett Baier of FOX News. Worse, he complained to Baier about the aggressiveness of the questions (which were, by the way, fair and representative of what FOX's largely conservative viewership would have asked.) Romney will have to do better, because with the GOP field narrowing, the focus will intensify on policy and how his conservatism differs from Gingrich.
Still, some prominent conservatives are wary of Gingrich's politics and demeanor. The Washington Post's Charles Krauthammer speculates that Gingrich might be a moderate who came late to conservatism. And, said Krauthammer:
Gingrich has a self-regard so immense that it rivals Obama’s — but, unlike Obama’s, is untamed by self-discipline.That leads to the biggest question on Gingrich. Yes, he's smart and has legitimate conservative chops (despite his occasional forays across the ideological aisle), but can Republicans trust him not to say something politically lethal next September?
Here's Newt on poor children this week, via FOX News:
“Really poor children, in really poor neighborhoods have no habits of working and have nobody around them who works so they have no habit of showing up on Monday,” Gingrich claimed.
“They have no habit of staying all day, they have no habit of I do this and you give me cash unless it is illegal,” he added.That might fly with the far right of his party in December 2011, but it will hand the White House back to Obama 11 months from now.
Peter St. Onge