Yesterday, we had our Super Tuesday, and the hour came, but not the man. Or perhaps he did, and we all sort of missed it.
Romney won Ohio by 1%. This particular incarnation of "the next president of the United States" managed to surpass his main rival by 12,000 votes. 12,000, that is, out of a total of some 1,200,000.
Romney lost Tennessee. He lost Oklahoma, and North Dakota, and he lost Georgia as well. But at the same time, he was stuffing a host of other states in his bag: Massachusetts, Vermont, Virginia. And Idaho and Alaska, too, for good measure. And whilst this was going on, he was amassing his delegate count, soundly beating Santorum by a margin of well over 2 to 1.
Over at Romney HQ, it was the latter fact that was widely celebrated. "No-one can beat us now," they chortled, "No-one! Santorum can't catch us, Gingrich can't catch us. We've won!"
And yet, they aren't packing their bags at the Santorum camp, and Gingrich isn't going anywhere either.
So what now?
Nothing, really. We simply plod along, resuming our way to the conclusion that, frankly, seemed inevitable from the very beginning.
Oh, I suppose something extraordinary might happen - a piano might fall on Romney's head, or the angel Moroni might descend from the skies to proclaim him an Antichrist - but barring that, Romney can't lose. The only remotely possible exception to this is the scenario where Santorum, Gingrich and Paul, effectively all bundled together in some sort of Multi-Anti-Mitt package (a Super MAM, I suppose), manage to keep Romney from reaching the magic number of 1,144 delegates before the Tampa convention in August. The problem with that, though, is that it not only relies on a continued determination on the part of the voters not to back Romney, but also on the continued temperance on the part of (establishment) Republicans. The voters may play along, but establishment (or simply established) Republicans won't.
In short, it won't happen. Romney's won.
And yet, when the hour came, we missed our man. Perhaps it was the lighting, but it seemed he was gone. And instead, if you squinted a bit, and tilted your head just so, you saw the silhouette of a ship listing to the right, some once sharp cutter having taken on way too much water.
In his speech yesterday, there was something almost poetic in what Romney said, something rather sad and eerily evocative:
Tomorrow we wake up and we start again. And the next day we will do the same. And so it will go, day by day, step by step (....) to the last syllable of recorded time. Out, out brief candle!
Well, he didn't say the last part, obviously (that was Shakespeare). But somehow it sounded like it.
For all practical purposes, Romney has won the nomination. The very real question is if he'll be able to win anything else.
Things fall apart; the centre cannot hold;
Mere anarchy is loosed upon the world,
The blood-dimmed tide is loosed, and everywhere
The ceremony of innocence is drowned;
The best lack all conviction, while the worst
Are full of passionate intensity.
- W.B. Yeats, The Second Coming