Hugh Hewitt offers the most optimistic take in the wake of Romney’s second consecutive loss:
When Romney had to beat a dominant Rudy Giuliani, he had to win one or both of Iowa and New Hampshire. The fall of Rudy leaves a wide open field, and Romney’s two second place showings in Iowa and New Hampshire along with a win in Wyoming means he’s in the thick of the race.
The problem is that Romney faces the prospect of consecutive defeats without a significant victory. Mike ,Huckabee is threatening in Michigan where is evangelical base is huge, and remains dominant in South Carolina. In Florida, even as Rudy slips, Romney is in fourth place with McCain rising. In California, Romney is running behind Huckabee.
The problem with second place is that it doesn’t create converts and it doesn’t drive up enthusiasm. I agree with Hewitt that the race remains wide open and the seeming disappearance of the Giuliani campaign is reason for Romney to stay in. But the message out of Iowa and New Hampshire has to be that Romney, who spent more time and money in both states than anyone else, just can’t persuade enough Republicans to vote for him.