Romney's Achievement

RomneyNH.jpg

Yes, he's a native son, for whatever that's worth. But winning Michigan after two consecutive tough defeats, in the teeth of a press corps that adores John McCain and despises him, and in a state that gave McCain an easy win over George W. Bush in 2000, suggests an impressive resilience - both in the man and in his campaign - that will serve him well in what looks like a long hard slog to the convention.

After each GOP primary so far, the winner has faced an immediate test. For Huckabee after Iowa, it was whether his appeal could translate beyond his evangelical base. Two primaries later, the answer seems to be no. For McCain after New Hampshire, it was whether he could use his momentum and what looked liked a favorable schedule to break through his 30-percent ceiling and become the front-runner. After tonight's result, the answer likewise looks like no. Now it's Romney's turn to be tested: Can his Mormon, flip-flopping, starched-shirt northeastern self do well in Dixie? If it can - if he can compete strongly in South Carolina and Florida, and maybe win one of the two - then he'll be off to the races. But the way this campaign has gone so far, I wouldn't bet on it.

Photo by Flickr user Tim Somero used under a Creative Commons license.

Ross Douthat is a former writer and editor at The Atlantic.

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