Mitt Romney is still second in many polls, but he looks like he's pretty confident that the Republican presidential nomination is his as Republicans work to make the general election a little more easy for him. Romney was magnanimous at Thursday's primary debate, avoiding saying mean things to Newt Gingrich's face. "Romney thinks Gingrich is already fading," The Washington Post's Aaron Blake writes. He's "back in front-runner mode," Reuters' John Whitesides says. And why shouldn't he be confident? It looks like everyone else thinks he's going to be the nominee. Conservatives are falling in line behind Romney: National Review begged voters not to pick Gingrich Thursday. And wonky Republican dreamboat Paul Ryan got Oregon Democrat Ron Wyden to sign onto a compromise version of his previously unpopular Medicare overhaul plan. It just so happens to be Romney's Medicare plan.
"This is a potentially gigantic move," NBC News' First Read writes. "We know some Democrats think they can STILL run against the Romney-Ryan plan, but the bipartisan stamp of approval in push-backs from someone that isn’t viewed as someone who is simply a centrist Democrat trying to survive in a red state, is a pretty good response." The beauty of the compromise, New York's Jonathan Chait writes, is that Ryan "has found a way to protect Mitt Romney." Ryan's initial plan was unpopular -- which is probably why Gingrich initially called it "right-wing social engineering" to the shock and horror of many conservatives -- but Romney said he supports it last week. That made it easier to attack Gingrich in the primary, Chait writes, but it could hurt Romney in the general election. Chait continues:
"Wyden’s support gives Romney an out. He can now thread the needle between supporting Ryan, who has unassailable prestige within the Party, without endorsing the details of his plan. All he has to do is simply say he supports the plan Ryan and Democrat Ron Wyden came up with. Now the Ryan plan is no longer an albatross around the neck of the Republican presidential candidate."
Romney was pretty obvious in looking ahead to the general election in Thursday's debate, Politico's Mike Allen writes. Check out how he preempted attacks from President Obama on his business record:
"I think the president is going to... go after me and say, 'You know, in businesses that you've invested in, they didn't all succeed. Some failed. Some laid people off. And he'll be absolutely right.' But if you look at all the businesses we invested in, over a hundred different businesses, they added tens of thousands of jobs...
In the real world, some things don't make it, and I believe I've learned from my successes and my failures. The president, I'll look at and say: 'Mr. President, how did you do when you were running General Motors as the president, took it over? Gee, you closed down factories. You closed down dealerships. And he'll say: 'Well, I did that to save the business.' Same thing with us, Mr. President. We did our very best to make those businesses succeed. I'm pleased that they did, and I've learned the lessons of how the economy works. This president doesn't know how the economy works. I believe to create jobs, it helps to have created jobs."