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Mitt Romney measures his ... support from independents (Brian Snyder/Reuters)
Those will be his chances the longer this drags out. (Brian Snyder/Reuters)
 
Josh Marshall:
First, the intensity of the primary fight is forcing Romney to take increasingly hard right positions that are alienating independent voters. As much as it’s a cliche, he can’t effectively tack to the center until he’s got the primaries behind him.

Second, and a bit more intangibly, running around the country in a long twilight struggle with Rick Santorum is just … how to put it? inherently demeaning and diminishing. It’s like struggling to land a one pound fish or searching for the way out of a paper bag. People see you doing that and you just look weak and feckless, even pitiful.

So how long does this play out? If Romney can get Michigan in hand, win convincingly and then do the same on Super Tuesday it’s probably back to being over. He’ll still have his work cut out for him but by mid-March he can get back into general election mode.

But what if he doesn’t? The polls say it will be a challenge. And the deeper this gets into the Spring the closer you get to the point on the calendar where Romney simply won’t have enough time on the clock to undo the damage.

Anyone who thinks ending the GOP nomination battle early helps Team Blue in any way is deluded. Anyone who thinks having Rick Santorum as the nominee hurts us is deluded. A Santorum nomination is the Obama campaign's wildest dream.

The longer this contest drags out, the more damage is done to the GOP's chances in 2012. That's why establishment Republicans who know how to read polls are desperate for this thing to be over yesterday.

And if you're really worried about someone emerging from a brokered convention, realize that any such candidate would emerge with zero organization, zero money (without taking campaign-killing federal funds), and zero momentum—plus, it would generate a great deal of ill will from those who worked for Santorum (or Romney, for that matter).

That's what Operation Hilarity is about—extending this race past Super Tuesday. Once we're into March, we reassess based on conditions on the ground. At that point, perhaps we need to give Romney a boost to keep things dragging out!

One thing is definitely for sure—the longer these guys have the spotlight, the worse it is for them. So let's keep it squarely on them.

Originally posted to kos on Thu Feb 16, 2012 at 08:52 AM PST.

Also republished by Daily Kos.

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