Romney’s Fading Hope?

With the number of the Republican presidential hopefuls rapidly dwindling, the GOP primary looks to be coming down to a race between Mitt Romney and John McCain – and considering that many on the Right seem to hate McCain, it only stands to reason that Romney sees winning over those who cannot tolerate his main opponent as key to securing the nomination:

Romney advisers said they would try to attract more support from social conservatives and evangelicals who had flocked to Huckabee and Fred Thompson, who dropped out of the race last week.

“Conservatives have got to take a real hard look and realize this is what you have left: You have Mitt Romney and John McCain. And with two left, I think that helps us a lot,” Jay Sekulow, a senior Romney adviser, said last night. [Sekulow is head of the Pat Robertson-founded American Center for Law and Justice.]

For months, Romney has been courting and stacking his campaign with a variety of right-wing activists and seems to have redoubled his efforts in recent weeks, leaving him poised to become the Religious Right’s candidate, if only by default – and Romney’s strategy heading forward seems to be to leave no right-wing activist uncourted:

The Reverend Rob Schenck (pronounced SHANK), president of the National Clergy Council and chairman of the committee on church and society for the Evangelical Church Alliance, will be in Florida today meeting with pastors in several cities to talk about candidates and primary voting.

Mr. Schenck, who does not endorse candidates, will end the day with the Mitt Romney campaign at its invitation.

While the Romney campaign had a problem with Mike Huckabee’s campaign’s attempts to use the issue of faith to polarize the electorate, they apparently have no problem with Schenck’s view that Barack Obama’s Christianity is woefully deficient. Maybe they think they can win him over because he is already mad at McCain for scheduling a campaign event “smack in the middle of Sunday morning church hours.” 

For what it is worth, Ralph Reed has also been making the rounds with Romney recently, apparently having forgiven him for confusing him with Gary Bauer early last year.  

But the Romney campaign seems to recognize that this effort can’t really get going so long as Huckabee remains in the race:

Romney acknowledged that the continued presence of Mike Huckabee in the race is a problem for him and made the point that the former Arkansas governor is no longer a contender.

“I don’t know what kind of support Mike Huckabee will get going forward,” Romney said. “I think conservatives recognize that a vote for Mike Huckabee right now really means a vote for John McCain. So that may have them re-think that.”

Unfortunately for Romney, the Huckabee campaign doesn’t look like it’ll be dropping out between now and Super Tuesday , after which it just might be too late for Romney to fully implement this strategy … which is probably just fine with Huckabee, who clearly prefers McCain, and Huckabee’s supporters, who are busy starting up anti-Romney front groups.