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Could Romney 'train' be derailed by Gingrich? Perry? Someone new?

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Jessica Rinaldi/Reuters

(Read caption) Mitt Romney smiles from his car window as he departs from a rally held at Geno's Chowder & Sandwich Shop in Portsmouth, New Hampshire, Tuesday. Will anyone derail the Romney 'train?'

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The scenario looks increasingly plausible: Republican voters will ultimately hand their party's presidential nomination to Mitt Romney, even though many of them aren't excited about doing so.

But if the word "inevitable" is getting used a fair amount by political analysts these days, the nomination is hardly a sure thing for the former governor of Massachusetts.

His big assets are that his campaign is well organized, he has had no major missteps, and his rivals have foibles or flaws in the eyes of Republican voters. So it's entirely possible that the train called "Mitt for president in 2012," which essentially left the station after his 2008 candidacy ended, will roll steadily to the nomination.

“The dynamics couldn’t be better for us,” a senior Romney strategist told New York Magazine. “I don’t see any scenario where we’re not the nominee.”

But in a campaign that has been volatile for several months, calling the race over before voting begins may be premature. 

Another scenario, for example, includes a protracted "Newt versus Mitt" battle that pits Mr. Romney against former House Speaker Newt Gingrich, who is now Romney's main rival in polls. 

Another is that one or more candidates who are now further behind catch some momentum in Iowa or New Hampshire, and voters take a second look. That's what Rick Perry, Rick Santorum, and Michele Bachmann are hoping. If things get really complicated, the result could be a "brokered convention" in which no candidates has amassed the needed support before GOP delegates arrive to formally select the nominee.

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