This is it. Today, Willard Mitt Romney goes where no semi-Mexican Mormon has gone before. When the votes are tallied in Texas, Romney should officially become the Republican nominee for president sometime tonight.
Forgot presumptive. Forget putative. Forget probable. Tonight, when Texas doles out its 155 delegates, that will push Romney over the 1,144 he needs to clinch the title, and transform himself from front-runner to official nominee.
The designation comes a little late. The battle between Romney and President Obama began weeks ago, after it was clear there were no real contenders left to challenge the former Massachusetts governor.
The early threat of Newt Gingrich fizzled into irrelevance following the Florida primary, even if he didn't officially drive a stake through the campaign┐s heart until May. Rick Santorum's holier-than-thou, morally outraged, angry conservative shtick kept the ex-Pennsylvania Senator slugging forward into April despite his growing list of defeats.
In the end, though, both fell victim to the millions of dollars of negative ads Romney and the super PAC supporting him directed against them. It was a fire-hosing aimed at matches. And, it worked.
Tonight, it's official. Even Ron Paul must concede defeat.
Romney's intra-party victory is, as Philip Rucker of the Washington Post put it, a study of contradictions: "a New Englander in a party rooted in the South; a man of moderate temperament in a party fueled by hot rhetoric; a Mormon in a party guided by evangelical Christians; a flip- flopper in a party that demands ideological purity."
But in a race many expect to be the closest since Bush vs. Gore in 2000, picking a candidate who can appeal to the middle cluster of undecided independents could give the Republicans the victory that eluded them as they tacked right in 2008.
The questions about his religion and his ever- changing "Etch a Sketch" stance on issues seem behind him. At least for now. Monday, in advance of his official anointment, the people he got evidence that the GOP base was finally rallying around its designee. More than 5,000 people gathered at a Memorial Day ceremony as he remembered the nation's veterans. It was one of the largest crowds he had drawn in the campaign.
There in San Diego another military man -- and a moderate yanked hard right during his own hard- fought campaign for president four years ago -- joined him, and praised him.
"I am honored to be on the same stage with a great friend, a great man, a great governor, and a man who I believe is fully qualified to be commander- in-chief, Gov. Mitt Romney," McCain said. "We are very grateful that Mitt is here. He believes in American exceptionalism, he believes that the 21st century will also be an American century. And I am confident of his leadership and I know of his support for veterans and their families."
Now, get ready. It's clear this is going to be a historically bitter fight for the presidency, an epic battle between parties trying to define themselves in the face of a fragmented and changing electorate, and dramatically changing demographics.
And it's clear both sides will be fire-hosing each other with negativity, just like Romney did during the primary.
Just last week, in an interview with Time magazine, Romney hammered home his theme that the president is a failure.
"This president has failed the American people with policies that have not put America back to work, and I think the American people recognize not only is he responsible for a tepid recovery, he is responsible for putting America on a track which does not lead to a stronger, more robust economy long-term either," he said.
Obama is fighting back. In a campaign speech in Iowa last week, he called Romney's assertions a "cow pie of distortion," and warned that Americans need to be wary of Romney's love of profits for corporations, but not necessarily for workers.
"The challenge we face right now -- the challenge we've faced for over a decade -- is that harder work hasn't led to higher incomes. Bigger profits haven't led to better jobs," Obama said. "And you can't solve that problem if you can't even see that it's a problem. And he doesn't see it's a problem."
There are five months to go. Who might win is anybody's guess. One thing, though, is already certain -- there's going to be a lot more of what cow pies are made of flying around.
Source: Terra/Carlos Harrison