Tuesday was a terrible day for Mitt Romney. Conservatives abandoned him in droves for once-insignificant rival Rick Santorum, who won three statewide presidential contests. Still, the former Massachusetts governor remains heavily favored to win the GOP nomination. If (or when) he does, he'll surely be associated throughout the campaign with the one branch of the federal government his party controls, the deeply unpopular House. That may not be good news for Mitt. House Republicans don't seem too keen to moderate their more controversial policy prescriptions in order to help their nominee appeal to a general election audience. Is this Romney's biggest campaign challenge?

The House GOP is "Romney's biggest liability": House Republicans are going out of their way to become "an albatross to Romney's presidential bid," says Jonathan Bernstein at The Washington Post. They're "apparently preparing to dive off a cliff again" by doubling down on Rep. Paul Ryan's unpopular Medicare-voucherizing plan, and fighting a popular tax on the rich that would pay for an extension of the payroll tax holiday. "These are both issues where conservative orthodoxy is on one side, and the bulk of the American people" are on the other. Every time the House GOP brings up its "unpopular conservative positions," Romney is "going to take hits."
"Mitt Romney's biggest liability: The House GOP?"

But at least we'll get a real contest of ideas: "The future of Medicare is on the line," says Cory Adams at Big Think. And thanks to the House GOP's continued focus on Ryan's controversial plan, which Mitt has backed, "a Romney vs. Obama match-up will surely address this contentious issue." In the end, that may hurt Mitt. But we should all be glad that "in an era of record U.S. deficits, the question of individual liberty and the responsibility of the state is coming to the fore in a way that is hasn't for decades."
"Paul Ryan, individual liberty, and the fate of Medicare"

Plus, Romney's real problem is his social squishiness: "Conventional wisdom has long held that the 2012 election would be about fiscal and economic issues" like Medicare and taxes, says Joel B. Pollak at Big Government. But as Santorum's resurgence shows, "social conservatism may be due for a revival." That will be Romney's Achilles' heel: He's a notorious "flip-flopper" on social issues, and "after a year of frustrating compromises in Congress," voters want a man of conviction.
"Will 2012 be about social conservatism after all?"