(Update 12/12/06 5:30 p.m.) Check out American Thinker on  their take of a possible Romney/Rice ticket to counter a Clinton/Obama ticket–interesting times. Well, that is if you believe the Boston Globe. Thus far the Boston Globe’s reporting on Mitt Romney leaves just a bit to be desired–see here and here. But, I suppose that if the Boston Globe concedes that Governor Romney is a serious contender for the Republican Presidential Nomination there may just be something to the story.

Until very recently, Governor Mitt Romney has been a long shot preparing for a race — the Republican presidential primaries — that almost always goes to the favorite. But through shrewd moves and good luck, Romney has steadily risen through the ranks of GOP prospects. Now, almost everyone in Republican politics ranks Romney as the second-likeliest nominee, behind Senator John McCain of Arizona.

Apparently Senator McCain is also a believer since he showed up at the recent convention of the Republican Governors, of which Romney was the chair:

Last week, Romney was the runner-up to McCain in an exhaustive National Journal poll of Washington insiders. And McCain himself has validated the early soundings by crashing the annual convention of the Republican Governors Association, which Romney chaired. McCain knew that Romney’s ties to Republican governors could give him thousands of foot soldiers in the primaries. It was a testament to the extent of Romney’s support that McCain felt a need to intervene so early and so directly.

Romney has also helped himself with “conservatives” by going after the “liberal” establishment of his own state–which was easier to do since he wasn’t running for re-election:

But Romney’s own actions have played a role in his rise. Moves that were dismissed as craven in Massachusetts — denying protection to former president Mohammad Khatami of Iran or having State Police round up illegal immigrants — have played big in Washington.

Now, Romney is widely accepted as a true conservative, to the right of the quirky McCain, by the large GOP punditocracy. It helped that Romney made frequent trips to Washington to give speeches at conservative think tanks and to curry favor with GOP insiders.

Being regarded as a true conservative is crucial to Romney’s chances, since the Republican field is overloaded with moderates and mavericks. As a governor of ultra liberal Massachusetts who ran as a moderate for the Senate in 1994 and for governor in 2002, Romney might reasonably have been held in suspicion by conservatives.

But since deciding not to run for re election, he’s taken on the Massachusetts liberal establishment in such a showy way — especially on gay marriage — that national Republicans can’t help but cheer at the fox in the liberal hen house.

The conventional wisdom is that McCain is going to have a tough time in the primaries because he isn’t a “true conservative.” Then there is Iraq. McCain, unbelievably has actually called for more troops to be sent over to compound the mess that already exists:

That would leave McCain and a number of long shots, some of whom, such as Kansas’s socially conservative Senator Sam Brownback, could emerge as a true contender. McCain will be 72 in 2008, and has been an active supporter of the Iraq war.

Republicans like graybeards, having nominated a past-his-prime Bob Dole as recently as 1996, so McCain’s age won’t be a huge liability; but his support for the Iraq war — and especially his call for more troops — might be.

Romney has expressed some support for Bush’s past Iraq performance; but, with the new Baker/Hamilton Iraq Report he could use that to temper and distance himself from Bush’s failed Iraq policy. Given the political realities of the 2006 elections and current polls, Romney would be wise to heed the will of the American public on Iraq and begin to build a sensible policy on the most critical issue facing any presidential candidate. And, having a reputation as an excellent manager Romney would be a welcome change from Bush’s managment style:

Romney is free of any responsibility for the war, and his reputation as a competent manager might seem especially appealing after President Bush’s managerial failings.

Of course any Boston Globe article on Mitt Romney running for president would not be complete without some reference to his religious beliefs:

But Romney is otherwise untested, unvetted, with a trove of business deals behind him. And he’s a member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, which some conservative Christians hold in disrepute.

Funny how the Globe doesn’t see fit to mention word one about McCain’s religious preference, or that of Rudy Giuliani or anyone else for that matter. It’s only appropriate to point out Governor Romney’s religious affiliation. Why is that? Doesn’t anyone else go to church–or doesn’t it matter? Which is it Globe?

Finally, the Globe admits Romney is much better positioned today in the 2008 presidential race than anyone ever thought he would or could be:

Nonetheless, the country is starting to pay attention to the next presidential campaign, and Romney is near the center of the stage. Not a bad place to be, and far better than he had any reason to hope for six months ago.

It’s still early. Howard Dean was all the rage in 2004 and he self-destructed. I don’t see Romney as the self-destruct type; but, with all the hype about his religion and the media’s constant obsession with it, I am wary. I think the one thing that should not be an issue, is in fact the large unknown in how the future campaign will play out.