I'll give David Brooks credit for at least being honest about admitting he used to believe this
A few weeks ago it was possible to believe that Mitt Romney would win the New Hampshire primary and cruise easily to the Republican nomination.
A few weeks ago, Mitt Romney was trailing Michele Bachmann. Before that he was neck-and-neck with Donald Trump. So if you believed that Mitt Romney had the nomination locked up a few weeks ago, you're a total moron. But, then again, this is David Brooks, who continues:
It’s harder to see that now.
There have been a slew of polls showing Gov. Rick Perry of Texas surging to double-digit national leads.
Rick Perry's polling numbers have nothing to do with Romney's problems. Romney's been bumping up against a polling ceiling for quite some time. It's not new, a fact that even Brooks seems to recognize when he says:
If the 2008 electorate were going to vote in the 2012 primaries, then Romney could handle Perry. But that electorate no longer exists.
And why doesn't it exist? Brooks blames Obama:
The events of 2009 and 2010 — bailouts, health care reform, the stimulus package — substantially shifted voter attitudes and nothing that has happened in 2011 has altered that shift.
And he says Rick Perry is the perfect candidate to capitalize on that shift:
Perry is benefiting from these shifts. He does best among the most conservative voters. He has a simple and fashionable message: I will bring government under control. His persona is perfectly tuned to offend people along the Acela corridor and to rally those who oppose those people. He does very well with the alternative-reality right — those who don’t believe in global warming, evolution or that Obama was born in the U.S.
Speaking of alternative realities, let's recap what Brooks is saying:
1. A few weeks ago, it was "possible to believe" Mitt Romney would easily win the nomination.
2. That's no longer true because Republican electorate has gone nuts since 2008 thanks to the events of 2009 and 2010.
3. Rick Perry is poised to take advantage of that shift.
The problem here is that the first and second points are fundamentally irreconcilable. If the events of 2009 and 2010 caused the GOP electorate to shift to the right, then the only way that it was "possible to believe" Romney was a lock was if you weren't paying any attention to what was happening to the Republican Party. In other words, if you are one of those "alternative-reality" columnists.