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What will the GOP do if Mitt Romney implodes?
Republican insiders are nervously weighing their options as the race's longtime frontrunner loses his veneer of inevitability
 
Mitt Romney narrowly trails Rick Santorum in Michigan, and pundits argue that if Romney loses the state where he was born, party elders may go searching for a new candidate.
Mitt Romney narrowly trails Rick Santorum in Michigan, and pundits argue that if Romney loses the state where he was born, party elders may go searching for a new candidate.
Rick D’Elia/Corbis

"The next seven days will be the most important of Mitt Romney's political career," says the U.K.'s Financial Times in an editorial. He's pushing hard for a win next week in Michigan, the state where he grew up and has led in the polls for years, but is narrowly trailing the surging Rick Santorum. If Romney comes back and wins, he will soothe "his swelling army of doubters in the Republican establishment." If he loses, he'll likely relinquish his grip on the race and unleash panic from insiders who think he's the only candidate in the GOP field who can beat President Obama in November. What will the Republican Party do if Romney's campaign unravels?

Republicans will seek a 'Hail Mary' candidate: Mitt Romney won Michigan in 2008 says Daniel Politi at Slate. He was born there. His dad was the state's governor. If Romney can't win in Michigan, Republicans will go into panic mode, and the calls for a "savior" candidate will get louder than ever. "Who could be the 'Hail Mary candidate?' Former Florida Governor Jeb Bush's name is a favorite. Indiana Gov. Mitch Daniels and New Jersey's Chris Christie might also have a shot and could be persuaded to jump into the race."
"Are Republicans looking for a new candidate?"

The race could go all the way to the convention: The GOP might be headed for its "worst nightmare," a contested convention, says David Frum at CNN. Even if Romney falls just shy of the 1,144 delegates needed to win the nomination, he might be able to woo the delegates he needs by making some concessions, as Gerald Ford did in 1976 by switching running mates. But a "convention-season deal" to win over conservatives could "doom his hopes" in November, when Romney will need to move to the center to win over independent voters.
"GOP's worst nightmare — a contested convention"

Santorum may wind up as the nominee: Romney is slipping for an obvious reason, says Nice Deb. "Santorum has all of the momentum," which is why he's got a shot at upsets in next week's contests in Michigan and Arizona, both of which long seemed like certain cakewalks for Romney. If it weren't for the "Romney attack machine," Santorum would be doing even better. It may be hard to believe, but Republicans nationwide are starting to rally behind Santorum.
"Santorum surging in latest polls"

 

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