The media and the GOP establishment were 100% in agreement of who was and who should be the Republican nominee. That alone ought to tell you something.
Looking back, if we can do so at this time, Rick Santurom came this close from grabbing the brass ring. From out of nowhere, an ignominiously defeated former Senator won the Iowa primary, somehow survived his non-meaningfulness in NH, SC, FL and NV, and then - shazam! - won a bunch of caucus states, eclipsed Newt as the conservative alternative to Mitt Romney, and faced him mano a mano in Michigan. Perhaps Mitt could have carried forth if he had won AZ and lost MI by only a few votes. But, definitely, Santurom would have been poised to win OH. Mitt pulled out all the stops in Michigan, and just edged Santurom. Having won Michigan, it was essentially downhill. Ohio was the next possible rough spot, but not as crucial. After that, Romney winning the nomination became increasingly inevitable.