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David Usborne: Republicans can choose between scary, nuts, or Romney

What's changed is that he is doing even worse among Republican grassroots voters than four years ago

No doubt about it, the Republicans are in a mess. It had more or less sunk in after his wins in Florida and Nevada that Mitt Romney was going to have to be their nominee this November because everyone else just wasn't viable. Or, less politely, the non-Mitts – Rick, Ron and Newt – were scary, nuts or both.

But there is a problem here and it came into focus on Tuesday night. What if the grassroots of the party just can't stomach Mitt whatever the media and the party elders tell them? What will the party do then?

This could be the conundrum now. Romney was a retread candidate even before the nomination race got under way in Iowa last month. Wasn't he on the menu last time around? He fell flat in 2008 and eventually had to cede the game to John McCain because he was wooden, élitist, too rich and unable to connect. And conservatives were suspicious of his past positions on social issues. So what's changed?

What's changed, remarkably, is that he is doing even worse among Republican grassroots voters than four years ago. Or, at least, he did here on Tuesday. Fighting Mr McCain, who became the nominee, Mr Romney got 60 per cent of the vote in the Colorado caucuses in 2008. This time, against foes that would seem far less formidable, he achieved 35 per cent in this state. This is surely not a good sign.

It rather makes nonsense of the assertion that Romney is a much-improved candidate this time around. Did you watch his speech here on Tuesday night? I was on a balcony above his left shoulder. Put simply, he stank.

We hate to break it to the Republicans but this Mitt is the same lousy candidate he was four years ago and don't kid yourselves that he isn't.

Get out of this muddle if you can.