That would be Rick Perry, of course. Perry cannot accomplish anything for himself in South Carolina. What he can do, and what he will do by staying in the race, is split the conservative vote between Gingrich, Santorum, and himself (Ron Paul is not a factor), and by doing so, he delivers victory in South Carolina–and with it, the inside track to the Republican nomination–to Romney. Rick Perry may not know how to spell Kim Jong Il’s name, but he is plenty smart about politics, and he always manages to be in the right place at the right time. He has to know that by staying in the race he is effectively delivering the GOP nomination to Romney–and, of course, Romney knows it too. Perry’s strong commitment to movement conservatism will undoubtedly cause some cynics to suggest that Perry and Romney cut a deal (as The Hill’s Brent Budowski was the first to do, with tongue partially in cheek). That they have done so would also explain Perry’s sudden conversion on the jogging trail in Iowa to continuing his campaign when it looked for all the world that he was going to drop out. What would such a deal look like? It would involve Perry training his fire in South Carolina on Gingrich and Santorum and leaving Romney alone. What the consideration is for Perry one can only imagine, but I wouldn’t be surprised to see the letters V and P emerge at a later date. Yes, Perry and Romney despise each other, but then so did Kennedy and Johnson. But the biggest news for Romney, as RedState notes this morning, is that he has finally broken through the 25% barrier in the RealClearPolitics polling average, for the first time since November 2010. Conservative parties are royalist by nature, and Romney is first in the line of succession, as McCain was before him.
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