A lot of attention has been put on the "Not Romney" vote. Partly because it is a real thing in elections for an alternative candidate to develop and partly because there is a sizable Republican opposition to Mitt Romney. But one dimension never seems to come up: the three Republican subgroups.
The Not Romney vote is not monolithic, and it is hard to imagine anyone but Romney winning, but there is a very real, very important battle going on through this primary. Which Republican subgroup is in charge. Is it The Intellectual Right? Or The Moral Minutes? Or The Conservative Libertarians? Or The Neocons? Oh, who am I kidding! They won't nominate a neocon. But, the strangely unexamined "Tea Party Vote" is made up of the strange bedfellows of conservative libertarians obsessed with reducing the influence of government to the pebble each individual carries around in his pocket as a souvenir of his own liberation and the social conservatives who are eager to ramrod government into every issue of sexuality while forcing "tough love" on the poor. Pundits seem to be utterly oblivious to the obviously conflicting political systems.
Romney occupies the space of The Intellectual Right. They've already ordained him to be their guy. The problem is that The Moral Minutes hate him and the Conservative Libertarians hate him. And, as Iowa and now New Hampshire are showing, the "Not Romney" vote can't rally to one opponent yet. The CLs won't go to Rick Santorum, since he is more Washington and more "big government" than Romney. He is also far too socially conservative for the free-wheelin' libertarian set. And for as much as many MMs might like what Ron Paul has to say about government, he doesn't care about their core issues: sex, sex, and sex.
With a decent showing in NH, Jon Huntsman might make a play on the "I'm white bread like Romney, but I don't taste like confliction" image and could find himself positioned as the close-enough-to-be-but-good-thing-he's-not Romney vote.
But the early results show another strong showing for Ron Paul. Which begs the much better question than who is the Not Romney candidate: Would the GOP really go full-on libertarian? Movement conservatives have been hard driving the economic policies in that direction for the last decade. So is this the time? And what would happen to the Moral Minutes? What happens to the GOP if it is no longer the broad conservative party, but the narrow conservative libertarian party? And why doesn't the media seem to think this is even possible? Have they slept through the last three years? If there ever was a time for the conservative base to reject the Intellectual Right's pick, it is now.