South Carolina offer the non-Mitts their last faint hope, but that hope grows fainter by the hour.
One crucial difficulty for the non-Mitts: so many of the state's leading conservatives committed themselves early to Gov. Rick Perry. They cannot easily reorient those commitments now: Perry may be a dead duck, but he refuses to acknowledge it. His Super-PACs are putting ads on the air, he is campaigning in the state. Those who endorsed him must play that game to the end. Which means that the people who might just possibly help a Gingrich or a Santorum to an in-state victory are removed from the board as effectively as if the had pledged their cards to Romney himself.
Among those recognizing that fact: Sen. Jim DeMint, who waved the white flag on Mark Levin's radio talk show yesterday, acknowledging that Romney will "probably" win in South Carolina. DeMint declined to endorse. Perhaps he hopes goodwill may linger from his work on behalf of Romney in 2008. Or perhaps he is just lying low for now, reserving the work of re-ingratiation after a hypothetical Romney presidency has sputtered the last energies of the Tea Party movement that yearned - but failed - to stop that presidency.