COMMENTARY | After his narrow victory in Iowa, Mitt Romney is edging closer to winning the GOP nomination. The former Massachusetts governor is widely expected to win the New Hampshire primary -- the next stop in the Republican presidential race -- by a sizable margin. The Real Clear Politics' average of polls currently puts Romney at 40 percent in the Granite State, which is 21 percentage points ahead of his closest challenger. As candidates who won both Iowa and New Hampshire had seldom lost their party's nomination, Romney is very much in the driver's seat.
While the Michigan native has been the Republican front-runner since the beginning, his aura of invincibility has been seriously challenged by the likes of Rick Perry, Herman Cain and Newt Gingrich. Many people have questioned whether he can win over social and fiscal conservatives - the two voting blocs one needs to secure the nomination. Some had even predicted he would skip Iowa to focus exclusively on New Hampshire.
Romney's victory in Iowa -- a state with a large evangelical base -- puts a dent in the myth that he can't win a socially conservative state. He managed this feat by drumming up the electability argument. The latest Rasmussen poll shows the former Massachusetts governor leading the president by 6 percentage points in a hypothetical matchup. If Romney could replicate a similar tactic in the south, the Republican nomination will be his to lose.
There is only one scenario where Romney would lose the GOP nod. After Iowa and New Hampshire, a number of candidates are expected to drop out from the race. If a staunchly conservative candidate like Rick Santorum or Rick Perry manages to survive the cut, he will be able to consolidate the conservative vote, making him the ultimate non-Romney candidate.
The consolidation will have to happen very quickly for this scenario to work. Mike Huckabee was slow to unify the conservative vote in 2008, allowing John McCain to narrowly edge him in South Carolina and effectively ending his chances for the nomination. Will history repeat?