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The Washington Examiner's Philip Klein is pretty mad at fellow conservative Hugh Hewitt. On his radio show, Hewitt noted that Mitt Romney won this week's Republican debate and will probably win the nomination and wondered, "Why do so many conservatives hate him?" Hewitt pointed to an example of the shockingly stubborn Romney-haters: "The virulence out there, and Philip Klein is just one example of many ... I am stunned by." That comment managed to turn that anger on Hewitt. Klein implied that Hewitt was a shill for the Republican Party, in contrast to Klein's own loyalty to "my principles and the truth." Romney's health care law "is an affront to small government principles, and as a journalist I feel an obligation to correct his repeated distortions about the legislation," Klein writes, and that must be stated. Repeatedly. The sentiment Klein represents is widespread among Republican voters.

While criticism is fine, all Hewitt wants, he says, is for conservatives to say, "Mitt Romney is okay if he's the nominee." Klein's response? No effing way. That attitude helps explain why even as other candidates falter, Romney's poll numbers don't rise. A recent Public Policy Polling survey shows that more than 70 percent of Republicans are opening to voting for a candidate other than the one they named as their top pick. This helps explain the rise (and fall) of the string of GOP It Girls, the latest being Herman Cain. PPP finds that just 30 percent of his fans say they'll definitely vote for him. New York's Jonathan Chait says this shows the "proportion of Republicans who don't want to vote for Romney seems very large and undeterred by the lack of credible alternatives ... If Republicans aren't flocking to Romney now, it's a sign they want to give every chance for somebody else to emerge."
 
The New Republic's Ed Kilgore writes that conservatives think President Obama is very beatable, he writes, making Romney's argument that he's a more electable candidate is less compelling. "But it's by no means obvious Cain can clear the Palin Line of showing the minimum self-discipline, seriousness, and relevant experience that even movement conservatives respect. Perry, too, for all his own experience and fundraising prowess, has richly earned as much skepticism as Cain about his staying power..."
 
You'd think a couple difficult weeks would make the Perry campaign more serious, but the candidate is still making strange errors. After Tuesday's debate, Perry decided to attend an event at Dartmouth's Beta Alpha Omega fraternity house. That frat is known on campus for being "religious, conservative, Southern fraternity," The Daily Beast's Andy Ross writes -- and for getting kicked off campus in the 1990s for hazing, racist comments, and "abducting and tormenting" a rival frat boy. Why did Perry decide to hang with the Beta guys? Even his spokeswoman doesn't know. She told Ross she was "not aware" of how the decision was made.
 
And Perry's still struggling to explain why he won't disavow the Dallas pastor, Robert Jeffress, for calling Romney's religion a "cult." He told ABC this morning, "Look, I’m not going to say that he can’t say what he wants to say. The issue is, are we going to tell people what they can say and I’m not going to be one of those. This is a country where we truly have freedom of expression." Perry was on TV to promote his new jobs plan -- First Read notes Friday was his first major policy speech despite being in the race for 63 days -- but he had trouble with that, too. He said he would create jobs by allowing more federal land to be used for energy production, "rebuilding" the Environmental Protection Agency, and relaxing regulations -- "Those three major events can get America working again, can create wealth, and open up the treasure trove of resources that we uh stand upon on, on  this United States... property."

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