With the opening of the GOP primary season in Iowa just a few weeks away, the conventional wisdom says the race is down to Mitt Romney vs. Newt Gingrich, with only a tiny chance that someone else in the Republican field could snare the party's presidential nomination. But is there still a chance primary voters could say "none of the above"? Some political analysts say a new candidate could still wind up being the GOP's answer to President Obama in 2012. Isn't it far too late for a Republican dream candidate to come from nowhere to take the nomination?

A newcomer still has a shot: "The prospect of a viable, late-starting candidate [is] quite real," says Rhodes Cook at Sabato's Crystal Ball. In past elections, a front-loaded primary schedule meant that a "quick knockout" was virtually assured before most of the country even had a chance to vote. But in 2012, the calendar is packed with late events. Only 15 percent of the GOP delegates will be awarded in January and February. On Super Tuesday in early March, 12 elections will award 25 percent of the delegates. Nearly three-fifths of GOP delegates won't be in play until even later. And many filing deadlines still haven't passed. The field's not closed quite yet.
"2012 Republican race: The field may not be closed"

Conservatives should pray for a brokered convention: Given "Mitt Romney's failure to seal the deal with conservatives" and the general angst over the alternatives, anything's possible, says Erick Erickson at RedState. If major donors and conservatives leaders manage to "drag things out," they just might be able to push somebody new to victory with late-primary wins — Sen. Jim DeMint, anyone? Or Jeb Bush? And if no candidate wins a strong majority of delegates, we might even see the political horse-trading of a brokered convention. That may be "wishful thinking," but remember, "miracles do still happen."
"Getting to a brokered convention"

This talk makes the GOP look pathetic: The GOP has been itching for a rematch against President Obama for three years, says Steve Benen at Washington Monthly. But here we are, "just 26 days before the Iowa caucuses," and the party still doesn't like its candidates. That's just "humiliating." It's unrealistic, too. The idea that "a white knight can come save the party" at the last minute is a fantasy, plain and simple.
"Republicans still long for other presidential options"