Mitt Romney faces long slog

Mitt Romney greets supporters following a Super Tuesday event, Boston, Massachusetts 6 March 2012 Image copyright Getty Images
Image caption Primaries run through June - will Romney's rivals stay on until then?

Mitt Romney may have less momentum than a dead cat bouncing, but few are predicting he's going to lose this race.

His team are apparently saying that it would take an "act of God" and "bend the laws of reality" for him to lose now.

Perhaps Rick Santorum has the call in now to encourage the former, while Newt Gingrich seems quite convinced that his intellect alone is capable of achieving the latter.

Where the Romney aides fall silent is predicting when he is going to win. His opponents are just as quiet detailing how they could beat him.

Will next Tuesday, when Alabama, Mississippi and Hawaii vote, be the defining moment? I doubt it.

How important is Illinois on 20 March? It doesn't feel like a full stop.

So will it go into April with Connecticut, New York, Pennsylvania and Rhode Island voting on the 24th? Surely not?

No ardent support

As time goes by the number of delegates piled up by Mitt Romney should make it increasingly obvious that he will win - at some stage.

That is not the same as his opponents accepting the verdict of the mathematics.

There will doubtless be some unpredictable moment when the race reaches the end of the road. But at this rate it feels as if it could go on until the very last primary in Utah on 26 June.

There's little question in my mind this long slog is doing the Republicans damage.

Some say that wasn't the case for Democrats in 2008, when Hillary Clinton fought Barack Obama in a contest that appeared it wouldn't end.

But that was driven by the fact they both had passionate supporters who would not give up. The impetus for the current contest is more about dissatisfaction with "all of the above".

Grinding towards victory

One of Mitt Romney's detractors on the right, Erick Erickson of Red State, predicts a brutal and messy March, leaving Romney more bruised than before, concluding:

"He will be the nominee having lost the South, Appalachia, evangelicals, conservatives, and blue collar voters.

"He will go into the general election deeply distrusted by his own base while having to woo independent voters. This is not a dazzling position to be in to beat an incumbent president."

Senior Republicans worry "this painful chapter" will damage Romney. In the past, one of his great appeals was sounding like an ideology-free problem solver.

The longer this race goes on, the more he seems like an ideologically driven conservative to those in the middle ground, without actually convincing the Republican base that he is made of the right stuff.

The Washington Post's Ezra Klein makes an interesting argument that Romney will look much stronger in a presidential election.

That may be so. But this grind towards victory is not helping him or his party.