Politico said Tuesday that early expectations that Mitt Romney would slug it out for the Republican nomination with one or more other heavyweight candidates have changed.
Now, “a group of relatively untested, unknown rivals who have yet to prove themselves on the national stage” are poised to take on a strong Romney candidacy, the story says.
That group includes Minnesota’s Tim Pawlenty and Michele Bachmann. Others mentioned in that light are former Utah Gov. Jon Huntsman and Texas Gov. Rick Perry.
Says the story:
Any one of those Republicans could eventually take flight and give Romney a real challenge for the nomination. But Republicans have come to the conclusion that only a drawn-out fight will reverse Romney’s early momentum.
The absence of Govs. Haley Barbour and Mitch Daniels has left the contest without an obvious vessel for anti-Romney sentiment. And the throng of candidates hoping to challenge Romney are placing dramatically different bets on where, exactly, the anti-Romney opening in the race is.
For Bachmann and a handful of other flame-throwing conservatives — businessman Herman Cain, former Pennsylvania Sen. Rick Santorum and former House Speaker Newt Gingrich — any path to the nomination would involve capturing the hearts of tea party voters and other grassroots activists.
On Pawlenty’s possible path:
Pawlenty and Huntsman have a different route in mind, trying to court the hard-core right while anchoring their support among mainstream Republicans primarily concerned with jobs and spending. Huntsman especially is counting on the backing of independent voters who can vote in some states’ GOP primaries.
That path is closer to the one John McCain followed in 2000, when he briefly looked like he might block the second President Bush from claiming the GOP nomination.