I spent three days working on this post before discovering Care2 (a web site I had never heard of before) reporter Robin Marty had scooped me. Think that would cause me to scrap an entire blog post? Not hardly. See, Marty's piece focused on newspaper endorsements, but I've noticed that Romney has been racking up a significant number of endorsements from several high-profile figures in the GOP. No, not Dan Quayle, but that's a good one to have too.
Let's start with the site of the first-in-the-nation primary, New Hampshire. While Newt may have the backing of the state's leading newspaper, Romney has the state's newest political star in his corner. Last month he trotted out the endorsement of Kelly Ayotte, the freshman U.S. Senator and former state attorney general who gained national renown in conservative circles after successfully defending her state's restrictions on abortion before the U.S. Supreme Court five years ago. At 43, Ayotte has plenty of time to make a lasting name for herself in Congress, and her support may provide Romney with a liason to TEA Partiers who have so far been cool to him.
In another early primary state, Florida, Romney can now boast the support of three prominent Latino Republican lawmakers: Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (the first Cuban-American elected to Congress), Rep. Mario Diaz-Balart and Mario's brother, former Rep. Lincoln Diaz-Balart. All three hail from Havana and should prove invaluable to Romney as he courts Florida voters. The candidate also has the backing of former Florida Senator, RNC Chairman and H.U.D. Secretary Mel Martinez, who chairs his campaign’s National Advisory Council. Of course, the state's most popular pols–U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio and former Gov. Jeb Bush–have yet to make their choices known this cycle.
Even if endorsements don't sway many votes, they're still immensely helpful for two other purposes: organization and fundraising. Few will dispute that both of these are areas in which Romney has the advantage over the latest frontrunner for the Republican nomination.
Speaking of which, there's no denying Newt's surge in the polls. Two months ago, he was at 9.2% in the RealClearPolitics average of national polls, fourth behind Romney, Rick Perry and Herman Cain. Now he's at 31%, higher than any of his primary rivals at their peak (except Rick Perry, who spiked at 31.8% in the RCP average the second week of September). He also currently leads by double digits in Iowa, South Carolina, Florida and a host of other primary states. Will his leads hold up? I'm willing to take bets, but doing so would violate my parole. Good night, everybody!