Everyone seems astonished by this, which still confuses the heck out of me. The media have been making him out to be a no-hoper, which is bizarre. They've been making a huge deal about his Mormonism, entirely missing the point that this just emphasizes him as a "person of faith", which nowadays is compelling to much of the country. In general, they've been painting him as a longshot, which never made any sense to me -- I've considered him the likely winner of the primary ever since he threw his hat in the ring.
Mind, I despise the man to the core of my being: I think he's a hypocrite, and a monomaniac even by the standards of politicians. I decided that I disliked him when he destroyed Jane Swift (who I actually thought was a decent governor, brought down by a couple of ordinary rookie-governor mistakes), and I haven't change my mind since. But that doesn't mean I underestimate him.
Mitt Romney is the consummate politician. In particular, he will say and become anything he needs to in order to be elected. He's expert at repainting his image -- as far as I can tell, he isn't anything *but* image. In my eyes, he's the dark shadow of Bill Clinton. I respected Clinton precisely for his ideological flexibility: he listened to the populace, and when they slapped him down he generally changed his stance. But it always felt like he was doing so out of at least a measure of respect for the people. Romney does the same thing, but in a purely self-serving way: he measures what people want out of a candidate, and distorts himself to fit that model.
Honestly, Romney scares the hell out of me. I look at his eyes, and I don't see the slightest genuine compassion or warmth, just calculation of what can be done to advance his own political interests. And when someone like that gets to the top, I don't know what he does next. I'm not sure he knows. Frankly, while I certain that he's smarter than Dubya, I'm not at all sure that he's saner.
So now is the time for image-countering. The correct counter for Romney is "slick Mitt". He has spent decades as nothing but a candidate, using each position carefully calculated as the springboard for the next. In MA, he showed a complete willingness to stab his own constituency in the back if it would advance his personal cause. That needs to be used against him, and that needs to start *now*. Otherwise, if he's allowed to continue controlling his own image through the primaries, I currently give him better than even odds of winding up in the White House...