A few days ago I argued that Mitt Romney, in addition to being a much improved candidate since 2008, has also been incredibly lucky. He had a long head start the GOP race as the rest of the field was slow to assemble. He avoided a frontrunner pile-on in the spring and summer, and a couple of supposedly dangerous rivals, Tim Pawlenty and Jon Huntsman, failed to gain traction. Then Rick Perry showed up as the instant front-runner, and everyone attacked him. And now, at a moment when you might expect everyone to finally train their sights on Romney, they’re obsessed with whether Chris Christie will run–a storyline that underscores Republican disappointment with Rick Perry (even if, for most Republicans, Christie makes no sense as an answer to Perry). Note that Romney didn’t seem to mind questions about Christie during an appearance in New Hampshire today. (I suspect Romney would suffer far more from a Christie candidacy–Perry would benefit tremendously from a split in the moderate vote–but also that Romney cheerfully understands it’s not going to happen, probably for that very reason.)
All of which gets Romney one week closer to the New Hampshire primary without having suffered any substantial damage. I predict that will change in a big way at the next Republican debate on October 11, where Romney will arrive with a giant KICK ME sign on his rear. Let’s see how well he handles it.