The candidate is expected to seal the deal by securing the 1,144 delegates needed in Tampa.
For so long, he was the putative front-runner, the nominal front-runner, the weak front-runner. Then he became the presumptive nominee. And by Tuesday night, he'll be able to ditch the modifiers once and for all.
Willard Mitt Romney is about to do what his father never did and no one in his church ever has. With Tuesday's Texas primary, he is poised to secure the 1,144 delegates required to clinch the Republican presidential nomination.
The long slog of primaries effectively ended on April 3 with Romney's victory in Wisconsin.
But it becomes official on Tuesday, when Texas voters are expected to push Romney over the finish line in the delegate race. And with that, the Republican Party of 2012 will have selected an unlikely standard-bearer: a New Englander in a party rooted in the South; a man of moderate temperament in a party fueled by hot rhetoric; a Mormon in a party guided by evangelical Christians; a flip-flopper in a party that demands ideological purity.
So it was that nobody anointed Romney. There was the humbling tumult of South Carolina, where a resurgent Gingrich threw him off balance, where he stammered on the debate stage trying to explain his taxes, where one rally crowd was so meager, about 80 people in a cavernous convention hall, that he reached for excuses -- "Gosh, this is a workday, right?"
On the day when South Carolinians voted, Romney, in his mind already defeated, found order in a simple chore: he fed quarters into the washer and dryer in the Columbia Marriott's guest laundry room.
Romney came back the next week in Florida, going on a warpath to eviscerate Gingrich, only to step on his own momentum the morning after his victory by saying, "I'm not concerned about the very poor."
After a year of criticism that he didn't have the strength or shrewdness to take on President Obama, Romney has emerged from the bruising primary as a formidable adversary. With the race firmly in general election mode, Romney is a more disciplined campaigner than he was a few months ago, and has pulled even with Obama in many national and swing state polls.
However reluctantly they may have settled on him, most Republicans are now rallying behind him. On Monday, about 5,000 people turned out to see him pay tribute to veterans in San Diego, one of the largest crowds of his campaign.
Romney is making history as the first Mormon to become a major party's presidential nominee. At 65, he has finally achieved what his hero in life, his father, did not. George Romney was head of American Motors and governor of Michigan. But, when he ran for president in 1968, the GOP nomination eluded him.