Call it incredible luck, call it determination, call it political skill or call it a sign of the poor state of the modern Republican party. Whatever the cause or set of causes, Mitt Romney has managed to end up basically the last legitimate Republican nominee standing.

By legitimate nominee, I’m referring to the type of individual that almost always ends up as a major party’s nominee: governors, senators or sitting vice presidents. It’s an individual that has proven he/she can run without major gaffes and can manage the large national campaign structure necessary to win big elections.

At the very beginning of this cycle it appeared the Republican party had many legitimate possibilities, but for one reason or another, everyone of them fell except Mitt Romney. South Dakota Sen. John Thune choose not to seek the nomination. Indiana Gov. Mitch Daniel salso chose not to run. Former Speaker Newt Gingrich’s campaign managed to implode early in the race. Minnesota Gov. Tim Pawlenty lost the Iowa caucus, so he dropped out of the race. Utah Gov. Jon Huntsman’s campaign never got off the ground ; he’s still polling in the low single digits. New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie flirted with a run until almost the last moment but decided instead to endorse Romney.

The only semi-legitimate candidate that Romney should still be worried about is Texas Gov. Rick Perry.  But since the initial burst of support for Perry right after he announced, every day the news seems to get worse for Perry. Perry has been hurt badly by foolishly grabbing the third rail of politics, attacking Social Security. In the past few weeks Perry’s poll numbers have collapsed, and his debate performances have been extremely poor or not helpful.

All of that recently allowed Herman Cain to shoot up to the second place spot behind Romney. But Cain lacks the significant campaign structure that is normally necessary to win an election, and he’s yet to receive the media scrutiny of a top tier candidate.

While it is still early it looks like Romney is on the path to winning the Republican party’s nomination, not thanks to personal charisma, policy positions or grassroots enthusiasm, but due to attrition.