And then there were two. Well, sort of. Technically, if you include Newt Gingrich and Ron Paul, there were four.

More still if you include the independents.

But with the abortion-gays-and-Mitt-Romney-hating Rick Santorum now gone from the Presidential race, Barack Hussein Obama and Willard Mitt Romney are the only realistic candidates for the White House next year.

And yes, his real first name is Willard.


In a country where politics is dominated by larger-than-life characters, extreme ranging policy and frequent scandal, the man destined to be the Republican nominee appears somewhat of an exception to the rule. Few question Romney is qualified to run.

His successful career in the private sector led to a successful career in domestic politics. He pushes his economic experience and his debate performances have been sturdy. But, goodness gracious, gee whiz and fiddle-de-dee, that man is mighty dull.

Unfortunately for the Republicans, in this land of constant televisual coverage and grandiose celebrity personalities, their candidate-to-be projects as much spark as a lukewarm bowl of porridge. Do you follow him on Twitter? There's a laugh. One can barely keep up with the sizzling wit and repartee.

But, completely aside from his Mormon faith and teetotal lifestyle, Romney has already won the Presidency of economically conscious banality.

He's a corporate Ned Flanders. Polished, handsome enough, religious and so very wholesome - the kind of guy you wouldn't take to Vegas.

Many will say it's what America needs, that in a time of economic insecurity, policy should triumph over personality. The problem for Romney is, that's not how politics work.

A lot of Americans simply don't like him. Women, African-Americans, Hispanics, even far-right Republicans and Evangelical Christians say they will struggle to support their party's own nominee.

The female vote is of particular concern. An ABC poll this week had Romney 19 points behind Obama among female voters. He has been tarred by the controversial birth control policies of the ultra-right and many female voters say Obama has a better understanding of women's issues.


Romney's African-American support isn't much better. Facing America's first black President he wouldn't realistically have expected a large percentage of the black vote, but he might have tried. There are no high-ranking African-American staff on his campaign, and he has had few endorsements from high-profile black politicians.

Support among Hispanics, who make up 10 per cent of eligible voters, is now almost as grim. By way of a particularly unscientific and completely unrepresentative poll, I popped into a Spanish Harlem laundromat on the day of Santorum's withdrawal, and ended up chatting with the Mexican proprietor.

"Amigo!" he said.

"Amigo!" I said.

"So ... Mitt Romney or Barack Obama? Who do you want to be president?" I asked.

"With Obama, nothing has become better," he said, "but I'll still vote for him."


Among Latin voters, polls have Obama as much as five times more popular than his counterpart-to-be.

It's the "Every Man" problem; Romney's struggle to connect with average Americans. So far, campaigners and commentators have blamed it on his enormous US$250 million ($305 million) personal wealth. His new beach house will apparently feature a special car-elevator. Yet, in watching his campaign, you have to query whether Romney's problem isn't his purse, but his personality.

It's April. The election is in November. The race has far to run. Poll gaps will tighten and Obama should expect a far closer fight than the numbers now reflect. But the Republican Party has a crucial decision in choosing Romney's Vice-Presidential running mate. They need someone who connects with the 99 per cent.

One might remember, they had a similar problem in 2008. Somehow, this time, I don't think Sarah Palin will get the call.