I listened to as many speeches as I could stomach during CPAC this past weekend, perched at my chair in Bloggers' Row. I would say that the CPAC attendees had found their candidate, if my ears were correct.
The straw poll didn't fall in line with that though. I thought Rick Santorum has the highest response from any of the three candidates, with Gingrich and Romney rating equally (though i did have to stifle a guffaw at the "severely conservative" remark.
It seemed fairly obvious to me that Romney copied the Paul playbook to bus in a lot of supporters to vote, but it scares me to think that out of 11,000 attendees, only about 4,000 voted in the straw poll. Hellllloooooooooooo?
I think Santorum did well in marshaling support to go forward and stuffing a war chest as much as possible to compete going forward. He clearly seems to be the momentum candidate now, while I have to wonder if Newt's campaign even has enough resources to make it to Super Tuesday to fully compete in every state. He won't have any debates to wrest the spotlight back onto him, and might have a hard time finding large donors to continue funding SuperPACs on his behalf (as Adelson did for him in Nevada).
Truly, I wonder if we haven't just seen the final consolidation of the field into a real two-man race, and the endorsement of Santorum as the not-Romney option.
For anyone hoping to stop the Romney option in Virginia on Super Tuesday, remember - as much as it might sicken you, you might have to pull the lever for Ron Paul if you don't want to see Romney pick up almost all those delegates. It doesn't get you the perfect candidate - not yet - but it could help.