a) I’m trying to figure out how Romney beats an uncrippled Perry straight up. So far, I’ve got nothing.
b) I’m not so worried about Congress actually passing cuts that are too harsh (I would oppose such cuts, I just don’t seem them as likely.) Even if Perry wins, the Republican retain the House and the Republicans win the Senate, the Republicans still would not have a filibuster proof majority in the Senate. That means that any program of fiscal consolidation would require either:
i) A lot of buy-in from Senate Democrats who are not committed social democrats (The Warner fellow from Virginia, the Manchin fellow from West Virginia and a bunch of others.)
ii) driving a stake through the heart of the filibuster to pass the fiscal consolidation on a party line vote. This would require buy-in from the Senate moderate Republicans and the old bulls. I doubt you would get them to sacrifice the filibuster in order to commit to politically suicidal cuts.
Getting a center-right program of fiscal consolidation though Congress would require some serious legislative maneuvering and any proposal that passed both houses will have been substantially moderated. It is much more likely that the Republicans - having nominally undivided control of the elected branches - fail to pass anything substantial than that they pass something that goes too far. That is one reason why I’m seriously for a “wonky” type President who would be able to deal with those Democrats who might be willing to deal and - if there is no deal - would be able to talk to the persuadable voters and keep the concerns of those voters in mind. The Republican Party has those politicians, but none are running for President.
c.) If Perry were to drop out, I think Romney would beat Bachmann straight up - though I’m not very very, confident of that judgment. If Perry and Bachmann were to be run over by a bread truck tomorrow, I think Romney beats any of the remaining contenders (maybe Santorum has a shot but . . . ) So would someone else jump in? Who?