Despite two years of Tea Party-fueled Republican internal upheaval, one of the leading establishment GOP voices on Capitol Hill says the man leading the Republican presidential nomination race is the guy who came in second to John McCain last time around.
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Asked on Meet The Press yesterday who's ahead in the nascent GOP nomination fight, Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC) was pretty direct.
"Probably Romney," Graham said, referring to former Massachusetts Gov. and American exceptionalist Mitt Romney.
Like most of the names being bandied about as potential Obama opponents, Romney has yet to officially declare his 2012 intentions. But Romney is widely seen as laying a frontrunner's foundation for a second presidential campaign, building on the name ID (and Democratic fears) he built in the 2008 nomination fight, which he lost to Sen. John McCain (R-AZ).
Two years ago, many said that Romney would have been the stronger nominee to face Obama, what with his central-casting presidential looks and history of winning over blue state voters with moderate stances. But before he can attempt to prove that theory right, Romney has to make it past tea party voters who don't seem too interested in him and social conservatives who seem to have moved on. But Romney's got the infrastructure and, Graham says, the early momentum.