In yesterday's podcast, as listeners will recall, our guests, Ross Douthat of the New York Times and Ramesh Ponnuru of National Review, both confidently insisted that Mitt Romney would capture the GOP nomination. Mitt remains, in short, inevitable.
While we were talking, pollsters were asking Republicans questions. And just look at what the pollsters learned.
The CNN/Time poll that was published late yesterday shows Gingrich ahead of Romney--very substantially ahead--in three of the four first primary states. Those would be Iowa (Gingrich 33, Romney 20), South Carolina (43-20), and Florida (48-25). And in New Hampshire, Gingrich has trimmed Romney's lead to single digits (Gringrich 26, Romney 35).
As for the latest Qunnipiac poll, also published late yesterday, just take a look at the Christian Science Monitor's headline:
A Gingrich-Obama matchup? It's getting tighter, polls show
Newt Gingrich looks increasingly competitive against President Obama in three key battleground states, new polls show. And likely Republican voters in those states prefer him to Mitt Romney.
Ross and Ramesh may yet be proven right, of course--and if Romney does turn the race around, Newt's challenge will almost certainly have made him a better (meaning tougher, and, yes, more conservative) candidate.
But Mitt, inevitable?
That argument is gone.
*With apologies to Bill Kristol, who, seeing all this coming, used "Evitable" as the headline for his editorial in last week's Weekly Standard.