Everyone wants to be anti-Romney, and no one will be

The Republican presidential primary is likely over, but not because Tim Tebow joined the race last week. Instead, ex-Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney has become the pragmatic choice for Republican primary voters who never saw the culmination of an anti-Romney candidate.

Right before the New Hampshire primary, Ezra Klein, a blogger and columnist for the Washington Post, tweeted, “Possible outcomes tonight: 1) Romney wins N.H. (New Hampshire) and goes on to win the nomination. 2) Romney loses N.H. and goes on to win the nomination.” A few hours later, the results were released.

Winning 37 percent of the vote, Romney became the first non-incumbent Republican ever to win both the Iowa caucus and New Hampshire primary. Narrowly edging out Rick Santorum in Iowa, Romney has started a slow march to the Republican National Convention in Tampa Bay, Florida.

If Romney wins South Carolina, where he is currently leading in polls, it will be completely over. But Mitt Romney is not some dream choice. He is the easy choice, because voters could never coalesce around a true anti-Romney candidate.

Romney is the classic next-in-line Republican. Swaying between issues based on popular opinion at the time, he wants to win the presidency, not earn it with bold ideas. He is a moderate who has a good chance against Obama, a good chunk of money, and presidential hair. He could easily become the next president, but hardly the innovative changer that Republicans are looking for to counteract the Obama presidency they despise.

The Republican Party has searched desperately for an anti-Romney, but no one could fit the bill. In the past few months, candidates Michele Bachmann, Herman Cain, Newt Gingrich, Rick Perry and, most recently, Rick Santorum have all surged in an attempt to pick anyone but Romney.

Yes, the Michele Bachmann who, following a Republican debate, told the story of a woman whose daughter developed “mental retardation” after a vaccination. Indeed, the Herman Cain who quoted a song from Pokemon multiple times in speeches. You guessed right, the Newt Gingrich who consulted for Freddie Mac. The Rick Perry who recently said, “I would send troops back to Iraq.” And finally Rick “Please Don’t Google Me” Santorum, who wants to fight Iran as much as Bush wanted to fight Iraq.

Michele Bachmann dropped out after a poor showing in Iowa,  Herman Cain is gone due to a multitude of sex scandals, and Huntsman left after a moderate N.H. third; but the rest are still jockeying to be The Not Romney Republican. They continue to receive just enough of the primary vote to stay in the race. In doing so, they divide the anti-Romney votes, and Romney cruises to victory.

Mitt Romney’s greatest allies have been his opponents.

Still, there is one candidate not looking to be anti-Romney, but rather anti-everything: Ron Paul. Currently devouring the young vote and taking a good chunk of the independents, Paul has seen positive results in both Iowa and New Hampshire.

Despite this, few have converted to the Paul crusade as he has gained momentum, especially in South Carolina and Florida polling data. This signals a candidate who has significant supporters, but not one that can surge up to beat Romney.

As we head towards South Carolina, the same narrative is set to be written again. Gingrich, Santorum, and Perry have all decided to continue on — likely clamoring to be the non-Romney candidate along the way. Mr. Romney himself, however, continues to sit above it all, preparing for a tough general election fight against President Obama. He will be their nominee, but hardly their dream date to the Presidential Prom.