Based on a report filed earlier today and time-stamped 8:16 p.m. as of when this post was prepared, it would appear that the last thing Associated Press writers Charles Babington and Kasie Hunt want is a competitive Republican primary season, and that they'll twist reality and the numbers to fit their meme. Oh, and in case you haven't gotten the establishment press memo, Rick Perry is still Mitt Romney's only real competitor.
Funny, I don't remember the AP or anyone else in the establishment press calling Hillary Clinton's nomination "inevitable" in October 2007, when, according to Real Clear Politics (RCP), Ms. Clinton was outpolling Barack Obama by an average of 24 points in 18 polls (and by probably more over John Edwards, though that info wasn't available at RCP).
Though it's not definitive because of the passage of time and the disappearance or archiving of reports, a Google News Archive search from September 1 - December 31, 2007 on [Hillary inevitable "Assocated Press"] (typed exactly as indicated between brackets) returned no story posing the possibility of Mrs. Clinton's inevitability. But in 2011 on the Republican side, Babington and Hunt have gone full-bore for a Romney wrap-up (bolds and numbered tags are mine):
Romney inevitable? Perry weighs TV ads to slow him
Mitt Romney seems firmly in command  in a Republican presidential field that hasn't figured out how to stop him.
Twelve weeks before the first party voting, the GOP establishment is coalescing around the former Massachusetts governor. He has more campaign experience, money and organization than anyone else. He showed again this week that he's the best debater in the bunch.  And President Barack Obama's campaign is treating him almost as the presumptive nominee  - even though Romney still faces challenges in some early voting states.
The biggest question in Republican circles is when and how Texas Gov. Rick Perry will use his own substantial campaign funds to buy TV ads hitting Romney's record on health care, abortion, gay rights and job creation.
Perry's campaign, which seems best-positioned to challenge Romney, dropped broad hints Wednesday that the moment is near.
... The tone is different up the coast in New Hampshire. Among rank-and-file Republicans there, even those who favor other candidates have a sense that Romney has gained an air of inevitability.
... Although Republican and Democratic insiders see Romney as the front-runner, several signs give Perry and the other rivals hope. Most Republican polls show Romney falling well short of a majority of support,  as restless voters consider one alternative after another.
Rep. Michele Bachmann of Minnesota surged in mid-summer, then fell as Perry briefly soared. In recent polls, former pizza company executive Herman Cain has ranked as Romney's top rival,  although few campaign strategists believe he will be the nominee. 
An NBC-Marist College poll in Iowa found that tea party supporters prefer Cain. In national polls, combined support for Cain, Perry and Bachmann exceeds Romney's support. 
Seriously, you almost have to wonder what planet Babington and Hunt are on, because so many items they claim to be facts are simply either vast understatements, erroneous, delusional, or some combination:
-  -- Romney's "firm command," as carried currently at RCP, is all of 2.7 points over Herman Cain. More on that shortly.
-  -- Does anyone recall consensus conclusions that Romney has clearly "won" many or most of the debates so clearly that the AP's "best debater" tag is justified? Neither do I. Search through top-tier conservative blogs and you won't find evidence obviously supporting Babington's and Hunt's fantastic notion.
-  -- Romney supporters won't like reading this, but there is plenty of reason to believe that the Obama campaign wants Romney to be the GOP's nominee because they believe they can defeat him. So of course they're going to play along with the AP's and the rest of the establishment press's "inevitability" game.
-  -- "Well short of a majority of support"? How about "not even averaging one-fourth support"? Romney's recent polling average at RCP is 22.0%; he hasn't polled above 25% in any poll carried at RCP since mid-July.
-  -- How nice of the AP to wait until Paragraph 11 to mention the name of the current GOP runner-up at RCP. Just this evening, an NBC/Wall Street Journal poll came out showing Cain leading Romney by 27%-23%, with all other rivals, including Perry, to whom the AP report devoted seven paragraphs, trailing by over 10%.
-  -- See Item . If polling is supposed to ultimately reflect voting, why do "few campaign strategists believe he (Cain) will be the nominee"? Maybe the better question is why anyone bothers polling if they're going to completely ignore the results.
-  -- The combined RCP figures for Cain, Perry, and Bachmann don't merely "exceed" Romney's support. At a combined 38.4% vs. Romney's 22%, they're within striking distance of doubling it, and even closer thanks to the new poll mentioned in Item .
Nothing is "inevitable" about this race, and if Charles Babington, Kasie Hunt, and the Associated Press haven't figured that out yet, they should spare us all the pain of reading and listening to their syndicated reports and just quit the news business. If they know better and are falsely and deliberately reporting "inevitability" which clearly doesn't exist, they need to tell us why.
Cross-posted at BizzyBlog.com.