The New York and Pennsylvania presidential primaries will be held in two weeks and a day, and Republican regulars are hoping that Mitt Romney will have wrapped up his quest for the nomination.
But will it matter? Has the GOP done it again? Has the party let hate radio, right-wing kooks and Washington lobbyists in tea party hoodies intimidate its candidate so far to the right that he will be unelectable?
Romney's challenge is a tall order in a negative campaign: to paint President Obama as a prevaricator, a menace to liberty and a divider. Obama volunteered a wide opening for that course last week when he said that his health care law passed with big margins and that it was "unprecedented" for the Supreme Court to overturn it. The fact is Obamacare passed with the narrowest margins.
The White House and Justice Department did back away from the court precedent confrontation, but only by tiny degrees. Impetuousness or opportunism may have prompted Obama to kindle the racial aspects of the Trayvon Martin killing and aftermath.
The fight Obama picked with religious institutions, particularly the Catholic Church -- weakened as never before by its pederasty scandals -- over contraception, sterilization and abortifacients was ingenious.
With hundreds of other organizations given exemptions from mandated health coverage, Obama could have easily avoided a fight with the bishops. But it excited pro-choice organizations and white women, as Obama's Trayvon Martin speech inflamed blacks, and his rugged second polemic against the high court delighted the extreme left.
Obama desperately needed to revive his base, with his most loyal backers yawning over the lagging economy, his disrespect to urban concerns, the mess in Afghanistan and new policies on secrecy,detention, surveillance and drones. And Obama did it, brilliantly, by being a divider.
The result is -- as things look now -- that Romney's sleek expediency in the primary has cost him the presidential election. In one month, from February to March, Romney lost 14 percentage points in women's support in 20 swing states like Ohio and Virginia and North Carolina.
In those states, Romney trails Obama among women independents 37 percent to 51 percent. Since October, the gender gap among independents against Romney has grown to 19 percent in those states.
Overall, Romney is a nine-point loser in those states -- a reversal of where he was last October. Nationally Romney is down four points overall -- a 180 from December.
Romney did it this way to fend off far-right rivals: He urged elimination of Planned Parenthood, embraced draconian immigration laws offending Hispanics and embraced a House budget plan that protected tax cuts for the wealthy while breaking the insurance pool for Medicare.
He has run from his signature Massachusetts universal health care plan, and urged repeal of Obamacare without making plain how he would protect Americans from predatory insurance corporations.
Romney has another handicap, I think. It relates to what I call the Bob Strauss Rule, named for the venerable former National Democratic chairman from Texas. Strauss said in 2000 that Democrat Al Gore suffered by comparison with George W. Bush in that Gore was not likable. Obama, for all his ineptness, is charming. Romney, his decency and stability notwithstanding, is not beguiling.
From here, it looks as though the badly wounded Romney needs to pull off a Roy Hobbs to defeat Obama. Romney needs a miracle not unlike that day, and I say this with respect, in 1848 when the gulls came from nowhere to save the Latter Day Saints' first crops in Utah. But then, Romney was brought up to believe in miracles.