The era of Mitt Romney's reign as the undisputed Republican presidential frontrunner is over, says Doyle McManus in the Los Angeles Times. And while there are several candidates still vying for the 2012 nomination, Texas Gov. Rick Perry is quickly making this "a two-man race" with Romney. Perry is now leading Romney in a growing string of nonpartisan national polls. But those same polls show Romney doing better than Perry in a head-to-head race with President Obama. Which Republican would Obama rather run against?

Obama wisely fears Romney more: "There is a myth that Mitt Romney is somehow a weak candidate," but the Obama campaign doesn't buy it, says David Rothkopf at Foreign Policy. Sure, Romney is "sometimes robotic," but Team Obama rightfully fears his steady, solidly professional campaign. Pair Romney with a right-wing running mate who appeals to the conservative base, and Romney would "make 2012 much more difficult for Obama than all the hyperventilating Perry promoters might suggest."
"The man, the Mitt, and the half-million-dollar albatross"

Actually, Perry is the bigger threat: Members of the GOP elite seem sure that the relatively moderate Romney is a better general-election candidate than the conservative Perry, says David Catron at The American Spectator. But they're wrong. "Not only is Perry the favorite of rank-and-file Republicans, he is far better positioned than Romney to debate the president on the two issues that will inevitably dominate next year's campaign — jobs and health care." Perry can attack; Romney will be stuck defending his own weak record.
"Why Perry can beat Obama and Romney can't"

With the economy floundering, either Republican could win: The more moderate Romney "would probably be a stronger candidate against President Obama," says Lincoln Mitchell at The Huffington Post. That's why some on the Left are hoping for Perry, or even Michele Bachmann, to win the GOP nomination. Liberals tend to see such matchups as advantageous for Obama. But given how bad the economy will be in 2012, any Republican — even a divisive ultra-conservative — has a solid shot at victory.
"A Perry or Bachmann nomination may not be good for Democrats"