The Wall Street Journal’s John Fund has Mitt Romney riding high in today’s column here. Fund concedes John McCain is currently the GOP’s front runner; however, the question that remains is who will be McCain’s challenger from the right? Fund then makes the argument that Mitt Romney is the likely candidate to fit that bill.

Romney’s reception by the Family Research Council:

But another potential candidate benefited greatly from showing up. Surprisingly, it was Massachusetts’ Gov. Mitt Romney, a Mormon with a Harvard M.B.A who governs the nation’s most liberal state. The 1,800 delegates applauded him frequently during his Friday speech and gave him a standing ovation afterward. Mr. Romney detailed his efforts to block court-imposed same-sex marriage in the Bay State and noted that the liberal Legislature has failed to place a citizen-initiated referendum on the ballot.

Solution to the Mormon thing:

The tall barrier many see as blocking his acceptance by evangelical voters–the fact that many Americans view Mormonism with suspicion or worse–may prove to be a mirage. “Everyone I talked to said they didn’t have a problem with it,” one attendee told me. “If enough people say that to each other, Romney creates a virtuous circle in which evangelical activists decide he’s acceptable.” Ralph Reed, the former head of the Christian Coalition, notes that something similar has happened in recent years as devout Catholic and evangelical Protestants have increasingly focused on areas of agreement. “Romney won’t be the ideal choice for evangelicals, but against a McCain in the primary or a Hillary Clinton in the general election there’s no doubt where most would go,” he says.

Romney advantages:

But Mr. Romney also has many advantages. He is perhaps the only candidate who can plausibly claim a base in several states. He has a contributor base in Massachusetts; a large reservoir of political goodwill in Michigan, where he was born and his father served as governor in the 1960s; and the loyalty of many Mormons in Utah and neighboring states. He has a built-in corps of volunteers and contributors in any state where Mormons, the fastest-growing religion in America, have a real presence.

And then there is the charisma and poise that Mr. Romney seems to exude naturally. “Many people say he certainly looks like a president–sort of a cross between Ronald Reagan and John F. Kennedy,” says Genevieve Wood, who founded the conservative Center for a Just Society. Anyone who draws comparisons to those political genes merits further watching.

Many hurdles still remain in Romney’s Presidential path. One that increasingly is troubling for me is his support of some of George Bush’s Iraq policies, including his apparent recent support for Bush’s rewriting of the Geneva Conventions in support of questionable interrogation tactics. I think this will spell trouble for Romney in the long run. Americans are tiring of George Bush’s indefensible positions, which include Iraq, and now the idea that it is in America’s interest to be on the wrong side the “torture debate.”

I think it is a good thing for Romney to distance himself from George Bush. Many conservatives do not consider George Bush a true conservative anyway, at least in the mold of Barry Goldwater and Ronald Reagan–founding fathers of the modern conservative movement. I think if Romney continues to embrace George Bush’s questionable policies like Iraq and questionable interrogatation techniques, he will lose some of his appeal.

Update: Over at M*, Clark has a related post on others’ perceptions of Romney, touched upon by Hand in his article. See also a blog post over at Red State on the same issues. Article VI Blog also has a fascinating post on separate but releated McCain tie in to Romney.