Mitt Romney's Hostile Takeover Bid Grinds On

WASHINGTON -- Mitt Romney's five-year-long hostile takeover bid for the Republican Party -- and the presidency -- enters its next grinding phase Wednesday with a spin session for reporters in Boston designed to convince them that his nomination is inevitable.

It probably is.

And if it is, Romney's leveraged buyout strategy for the general election will be the same: a scorched-earth assault on an incumbent president the likes of which we haven't seen since television made charisma a prerequisite for winning the White House.

Romney's chances of prevailing against President Barack Obama, a fellow Harvard grad and a rarified creature of a different sort, are better than Democrats realize or are willing to acknowledge.

Religion is a matter of faith; politics is a game of comparison. No one understands this better than Romney, who is that most unusual of politicians: He does not care one whit if he is loved.

All he cares about is acquiring the asset he has targeted. In his earlier days, the objective was profit. Now it is power.

Exit polls from Super Tuesday states show that Romney is not held close to the heart of the modern post-Reagan GOP. And why would he be? He was barely a Republican early in his adult life, and he was a moderate, even liberal, candidate for the Senate in 1994.

In the polls, he is not seen as a conservative or as the candidate most likely to understand voters' lives. Evangelical Christians, key to the Republican Party, don't like him. His votes come primarily from older, more affluent and educated voters in the suburbs.

And that may be enough.

As if reading from spreadsheets, his aides run through talking points about Romney's performance so far: He's outperformed John McCain here, Ronald Reagan there and Jeb Bush in Florida. Voters, aides note, tend to like Mitt's business background and emphasis on the economy.

Most important (and the exit polls in Ohio bear this out), regardless of whom they support and to whom they give their hearts now, GOP voters think Romney has the best chance of beating Obama.

Son of a moderate Republican who failed on the national stage; a sober and fiercely loyal leader in a proud, self-reliant faith community; possessed of vast personal wealth, two Harvard degrees and decades of experience in the rough and cynical world of corporate "restructuring" -- Romney is as tough as they come. His friends swear that, in private, he is a swell, sensitive guy. But as a public candidate, he has the determination of a wolverine, albeit one clothed in J.Crew and befuddled, dorky stagecraft.

The Romney campaign is a self-advertising metaphor for his core message, which is that he will use the clear-eyed, ruthless business practices he wielded at Bain Capital not only to win the nomination and the presidency, but to restore the balance sheet and economic vitality of a country mired in bankruptcy and burdened by crushing, unproductive social costs.

As Romney aides argue, none of his three remaining GOP rivals -- Rick Santorum, Newt Gingrich or Ron Paul -- has a
plausible chance of amassing the 1,114 delegates necessary to ride into the Republican National Committee as the party standard-bearer in August.

And only Romney has the money, machinery and muscle to eventually get there, although, as of Super Tuesday, some members of his inner circle were conceding that he might not have won a majority of delegates when the voting ends in June.

If he doesn't complete the LBO by June, Romney will appeal to what's left of the party establishment to help him. He can cut deals in lots of directions, a process similar to bringing other investors into a difficult transaction that takes more cash than originally envisioned.

Consider the calculations for one rival. It's easier to see Gingrich doing a deal with Romney than with Santorum. What does Santorum have to offer, psychic and philosophical gratification? Mitt can offer Newt stock and a seat on the board.