Romney's Edge

Nervous Republicans may prefer a squeaky-clean Mormon to a pro-choice New Yorker on his third marriage

Illustration for TIME by Stephen Kroninger; Romney: Charlie Neibergall / AP; Giuliani: Joshua Lott / Reuters; Thompson: Freddie Lee / FOX / Getty

By the time that Libertarian congressman Ron Paul told a cheering crowd at the Iowa Republican straw poll that the 9/11 terrorist attacks might have been prevented if the passengers on the planes had been packing heat, I was beginning to wonder if the event—a goofy affair under the best of circumstances—had gone fatally exotic. Paul had one of the largest groups of supporters. So did Kansas Senator Sam Brownback, who provided a massive air-conditioned tent that looked something like the Denver airport and featured nonstop evangelical preachers and a Christian rock band that strip-mined Stevie Wonder for songs like

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