Ross Douthat assesses the GOP's frontrunner:
The White House might prefer to face Rick Santorum in the general election, but an out-of-touch rich guy running on Medicare cuts and an ill-considered tax plan will make for a pretty inviting target in his own right.
If you are the frontrunner, there are -- insert throat-clearing here -- four little words you never want to see yourself described as by one of your party's leading Establishment voices: "A pretty inviting target." One of the other occasional frontrunners would of course be delighted to see himself described as an inviting target, since being a target means somebody cares enough to hurt you. To really, really hurt you. Alas, Santorum and Gingrich's masochistic days are numbered.
Mitt Romney's even deeper weakness is, however, evidenced in Douthat's previous wording: "The White House might prefer to face Rick Santorum." Think about that. Say, two months ago, would Douthat or any commentator have written anything but that the WH would prefer to face Rick Santorum? Would there have been any equivocation, any question, any doubt whatsoever?
Yet, Douthat's correct. No paid cognition in Chicago or the WH's political office would any longer summarily opt for a run against Santorum, over Romney. And for the latter, there's no fall conceivably greater than that. Again, think about it. The WH would now actually have to stop and meditate: Whom do we prefer to run against? Mitt Romney, or an unemployed, former U.S. senator who was booted from office in electoral disgrace and campaigns against the sainted John Kennedy and routinely offends 51 percent of the population? Yep, that second guy might actually be the stronger candidate. Hmmm.