Romney did not have a disastrous night. And frankly that's where the bar is set. Yay! Not a disaster!
He won Ohio. And what's more, he did so by 12,000 votes so there will be no mandatory recount. He carried the New England states that he badly needed to carry. He continues to dominate the Mormon West. His delegate count is creeping upwards.
But c'mon, Mittens! Rick Santorum, who is running a campaign so devoid of competency that he was not on the ballot in Virginia nor does he have delegates slated for each congressional district in Ohio, beat Mitt in Tennessee, Oklahoma and North Dakota. You can make the case that - absent a "favorite son" phenomenon - Mitt can only win when he devotes massive amounts of cash and advertising to crushing his opponents, who cannot respond in kind. In fact, that case will be made by most political reporters.
Mitt maintains his "inevitability" but it's the inevitability of old age, arthritis and the smell of lineament. It's the inevitability of death and taxes. It's the inevitability of disappointment.
And because Romney's campaign strength is the strength of the steamroller, crushing his opponents under a metric ton of money, the continuation of the campaign means that his negatives will continue to go up. He will continue to alienate some conservative voters.
The dynamic of "the more you get to know him, the less you like him" means that the other GOP candidates who loath him viscerally will plod onwards. Paul's campaign runs on nothing. He has won no states, nor will he. He seems to live off photosynthesis, turning sunlight and water into sustenance. Gingrich's campaign - which ironically serves only to divide the anti-Romney vote to Romney's benefit - is powered by the nuclear hot self-regard and pretensions of Gingrich.
And the Sweater Vest of the Blessed Virgin continues to hang in there. If he had a competent campaign structure or any real money he would be neck and neck with Romney. Gingrich and Paul remain the biggest obstacles to Santorum stealing the prize from Mitt.
The prize remains Mitt's. Theoretically, if Santorum wins the two Southern Fried primaries next Tuesday in Missibama, Gingrich could pack it in. Although I don't see Newt getting off his book tour this easily.
It is now all about the delegate math. Paul, Gingrich and the Sweater Vest of the Blessed Virgin apparently do not need real campaigns to keep going, and they contempt for Romney will make sure they don't bow out.
Which means that the clown car rolls on to
If you may recall, in 1992, Pat Buchanan got up and gave a barn-burner of a speech that Molly Ivins memorably said "sounded better in the original German". I foresee a similar speech from the Sweater Vest of the Blessed Virgin.
I can hardly wait.