Rick Perlstein summarizes the four-decade old pattern of GOP primary voters flirting wistfully with fringe-y candidates:
The same thing always happens next: The insurgents fall by the wayside. The base comes around. Democrats fall in love; Republicans fall in line.After sowing a few caucus and primary wild oats in Iowa and New Hampshire with the Robertsons, Buchanans, and Huckabees, GOP voters generally end up dutifully electing the candidate whom the Republican Establishment considers to have the next turn, usually a runner-up from a previous campaign cycle: Nixon lost in 1960 (and 1962); Ford was a one-off; Reagan lost in 1976; Bush Sr. lost in 1980; Dole lost who knows how many times; Bush Jr. was a one-off; and McCain lost out in 2000.
Romney's patiently betting that the Tea Party insurgents won't change that. Hard to argue with him.
Right now I'd predict a Romney nomination, followed by a Hail Mary VP pick, followed by a general campaign that leaves the GOP base about as enthusiastic for Romney as they were for McCain in 2008.