So much for winnowing the field.
Among the many lessons of Tuesday's Michigan primary:
1. Stick around long enough in the Republican race and you too can be a winner. (Slate's John Dickerson: "The GOP primary is starting to look like a Pee Wee soccer tournament: Everyone gets a trophy!" Whose turn is it to bring the orange slices to South Carolina on Saturday?)
2. Democrats, independents, and evangelical Republicans can all find better ways to spend their Tuesdays. (And in the process, they're helping hit restart on a GOP race that's fast turning into a fight for delegates.)
3. Smiling may take fewer muscles than frowning, but it can make you stronger. (On the economy, at least, straight talk loses to happy talk.)
4. Nearly half of those who trudged through snow to vote in the Democratic primary did so to NOT vote for Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton, D-N.Y. (He's got a name fit for a thoroughbred, and surely, with 40 percent of the vote, Uncommitted's lawyers can sue to get included him included in remaining debates.)
5. Speaking of uncommitted, anyone who has figured out what Republican voters are truly looking for has the inside track -- but is probably spinning. (And staying warm in Florida while everyone else dodges snowflakes has never looked smarter.)
Former governor Mitt Romney's victory in Michigan forecloses any real possibility of a swift end to the GOP fight, ensuring a rumble that will continue at least through Feb. 5. If anything, the first three major contests (in addition to crowning three different winners) have contributed to enough chaos to add one to the ranks of major contenders: We welcome back former mayor Rudolph Giuliani, R-N.Y., who's just a win in Florida away from looking every bit as strong as any of his rivals.
This much is clear: Romney, R-Mass., has found a product he's comfortable selling -- optimism. There have been many iterations of his candidacy, but this was probably the best fit from the start: the turnaround artist, the businessman, the overall optimistic leader who (even if he can't quite fill himself with empathy on command) conveys a sense of competence.
"Just as important as Mr. Romney's personal ties was that he found himself, after setbacks in Iowa and New Hampshire, in an economically downtrodden state that has shed millions of jobs," Michael Luo writes in The New York Times. "The economic woes here played neatly into his strengths as a candidate, and his newly retooled message centered around his private sector experience and a promise to bring change to Washington."
Romney can make as good a claim as anyone to front-running status. Asked if Michigan marked a "comeback" for his campaign, he told ABC's Robin Roberts on Wednesday, "sure was."
"The big one was here in Michigan. I now have more delegates than anybody else, a lot more votes for president than anybody else," Romney said on "Good Morning America" (displaying an appropriately short memory of the big dollars he spent in Iowa and New Hampshire).
Perhaps the man meets the moment meets the issue meets the man. Michigan accentuated the importance of economic issues, though it's not the only struggling state. Romney's victory speech blasted "Washington-style pessimism" -- an only slightly oblique tweak aimed at Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., the victim of his own straight talk about how some jobs just aren't coming back to Michigan.