Mitt Romney's sweep of Republican primaries on Tuesday, particularly the win in Wisconsin, has effectively produced the fat lady's song. He will be the Republican candidate for president of the United States. Despite the presence of Rick Santorum, Newt Gingrich and Ron Paul, this year's presidential campaign has entered a new phase -- it's Romney versus Democratic President Barack Obama in November.
To become the Republican frontrunner, Romney had to outpace a collection of candidates who were either inexperienced, too much on the political fringe, had unappealing personal baggage, or were simply too conservative to appeal to moderates. In President Obama, Romney encounters an opponent who has appealed to liberals and moderates. The battle, as it always is in presidential races, decides which candidate will get the most votes of the 20 percent of potential voters whose votes can be swayed.
Here's a list of a few issues where voters will see a clear distinction between the candidates:
* Immigration: The president has failed to launch a serious effort to achieve comprehensive immigration reform, and he has launched raids, similar to last week, that quickly deport thousands of illegals. However, Romney's opposition to the DREAM Act, which allows illegal children in the U.S. a path to citizenship, has made him unpopular among Hispanics.
* Entitlement reform: Romney supports Wisconsin GOP Rep. Paul Ryan's budget plan to reform Medicare and Medicaid and trim the $15 trillion deficit over time. President Obama, and Democrats in Congress have offered no serious budget reform, preferring to attack the Ryan plan. In a speech this week, the president called it "social Darwinism" and implied that states, if provided more autonomy, would cut off funding for Down Syndrome children. How the voters respond to both candidates' budget messages will impact the final vote.
* Health care: How the U.S. Supreme Court rules on the Affordable Care Act, and its individual mandate, will certainly inflame political passions among many. Will an endorsement of ObamaCare boost the president, or will it drive angry voters to the polls to vote for Romney? Conversely, will a rejection of the president's signature achievement anger progressives and motivate more to the polls?
With Romney soon to be the first Mormon nominated by a major party, this is already a historic election year. The contrasts between the two major candidates will also provide an entertaining political season.