James Joyner, at Outside the Beltway, gives some nice context for a couple of new polls out on the US Republican nomination.
One of the polls, the Washington Post one, has the following:
Romney received 25% support, followed by Cain with 16%, Perry with 13%, Rep. Ron Paul of Texas with 6% and Rep. Michele Bachmann of Minnesota with 4%. The remaining candidates received lower figures.
Here's a rundown via Gallup (also taken from James):
Romney has a clear ceiling. And he's the beneficiary of no candidate being able to coalesce the base. If you add up the latest numbers for Perry, Cain, Bachmann, and Santorum you get 41%. Those candidates all represent the social conservative, Tea Party-influenced elements of the Republican Party. Those four candidates represent what used to be called "the right wing" of the Republican party. This term is still used by many journalists. But as is clear, they are no longer the wing, they are the center of the party.
Ron Paul really is orthogonal to the rest of the debate with his libertarian side. The Huntsman 2% could be said to go to Romney (or most of it) when push comes to shove. The Gingrich-ites are less clear to me. I would think they would lean more towards the Cain-Perry Tea Party side of things, but not sure.
Romney represents the last quarter or so (20-25%) of the party that would could reasonably be labeled the moderates of the Republican Party. Or at least nowadays I suppose, less conservative. In the old days, they would be called The Rockefeller Republicans. Romney has famously had to spend the last 5 years or so running away from his roots: he used to be pro-choice now he's pro-life, he helped create a health insurance plan basically similar to Obama's now he's running for its repeal, etc.
In fact I would say (tongue firmly in cheek) that Romney represents the 'left-wing' of the Republican Party. 'Left wing' in scare quotes because there's not much 'left' left in the left-wing. Only in comparison to the extreme right (who are now the center of the GOP), like Perry, Cain, Bachmann, etc.
Romeny is the most electable of the Republican candidates in the General Election (since he's closer to the middle), but is weirdly quite vulnerable as a frontrunner for the GOP nomination--as he is really a wing candidate.
While nothing is certain--a point Joyner emphasizes as there is still a healthy number of undecideds--unless Rick Perry gets his 'stuff' together and coalesces the Tea Party/base support, Romney is going to be the Republican Nominee.
Sorry I can't take Herman Cain seriously. What's his path to the nomination? The first primary is in Iowa--let's imagine he somehow pulls that off. Then it's New Hampshire, where Romney will smoke everybody. Then it goes to South Carolina--um, how is a black guy going to win the South Carolina Republican Primary? You can see good ol' boy Rick Perry winnning it, but Herman Cain? Not so much.
Update I: Right on cue, the GOP establish (a Northeastern GOP Gov.) is lining up behind Romney. NJ Gov. Chris Christie (who some in the GOP establishment were pushing to run himself) today endorsed Romney for President.