What I am about to say will probably not be very popular around here, and may end up costing me several good friends, at least on a temporary basis. Nevertheless, I feel compelled to say it anyway: when it is my turn to pull the lever on Super Tuesday, I'll vote for Mitt Romney. And it won't even be an especially difficult choice.
I have said all along that as a Super Tuesday voter, I fully expected my choices to come down to Romney or one other option. I have thus been able to lay back in the weeds to see if a candidate who is preferrable to Romney would survive the early primaries. Now that it is apparent that the only serious alternative to Romney will be Newt, I can confidently say that the answer to that question is "no." Let me explain how I reached this answer so easily.
First, I begin with a strong presumption (which I have explained at greater length here) that governors in general make better Presidential candidates, and better Presidents. Nothing that has happened during the course of this campaign season has convinced me that Newt in particular is exempt from the problems that plague legislator candidates; and in fact, quite a lot has reinforced that belief (most notably his haphazard campaign organization which failed to even get him on the ballot in Virginia or Missouri). In addition, Newt's temperament and poor attention to detail, supposedly improved and mellowed with age, have recently again reared their heads as liabilities for Gingrich, when he was forced to shamefacedly admit that the angry denunciation of John King was premised upon an absolute fabrication.
In addition to the problems presented by Newt's lack of experience, he faces huge electability problems. He consistently gets slaughtered by Obama in head-to-head matchups worse than any of the other candidates, usually including Rick Santorum. For many candidates, you could write off this sort of early result as being the product of low name recognition; however, in Newt's case, the problem is that he is well-known and yet disliked. A non-incumbent nominee with "very unfavorable" numbers north of 30 before the general election even begins faces a very steep uphill climb. Some folks insist, based on no evidence whatsoever, that Gingrich and Romney have equal chances of beating Obama. Everyone is entitled to their own opinion about everything, but the actual evidence thus far suggests that Gingrich's march to the White House is longer and covers much rockier terrain.
Finally, on the merits, I have a hard time believing that Newt is substantially better than Romney from an ideological perspective. As Ben covered earlier today, Newt has been loudly and publicly in favor of individual mandates for the better part of two decades. His election-year conversion to principled crusader against individual mandates is every bit as transparent and cynical as any of Mitt Romney's changes of position. Ditto his flips on global warming, etc. So far as I can tell, the chief difference between the two is that Gingrich will give you an "aw, shucks" smile and admit that he has flip flopped on this issue or that, whereas Romney and his many annoying defenders will try to tell you that he's never flip-flopped on anything other than abortion. After all, who are you going to believe, them or your lying eyes? While I'm grated by this as much as anyone, it's not really a convincing reason to vote for one candidate over the other.
I get not really being enthusiastic about Romney being the Last Man Standing. Certainly on a personal level he rubs me the wrong way a lot of the time - his emotions don't seem authentic or natural, and from an ideological standpoint he's less than ideal (at least as far as I can tell, which is not very far). The question, "What sort of judges should I appoint?" is probably not even interesting to Mitt Romney, whereas it's probably my most important question. But I figure, nominating a liberal justice has never helped a Republican win independents, but it has helped them lose Republicans, and Romney is smart enough to figure that out.
And I will say, contrary to a large number of emotionally worked up people, that I will enthusiastically and without reservation be able to support him over Barack Obama. Even if he is as much of a blank-slate technocrat as the most recalcitrant of us fear, he will still be a huge upgrade over the current resident of the White House. At the very least, he has a proven record of fixing problems in an executive setting, and a pretty good understanding of how wealth is created, so he is light years ahead of the current resident of the White House. And if you're seriously unable to see that, then I'm glad you're one of the people whose life hasn't gotten significantly worse over the last three years, but please leave the rest of us out of your pointless revenge fantasy.
Mitt Romney wasn't my first choice when this election cycle began, but in my mind he is clearly better than both Newt Gingrich and Barack Obama, and so on Super Tuesday, he'll get my vote.