Despite Republican presidential candidate Herman Cain's recent surge in popularity, the White House has identified Mitt Romney as the man to beat, according to CBS News Chief White House correspondent Norah O'Donnell.
O'Donnell, appearing on CBS' "Face the Nation" Sunday, said there was a "growing sense" from the White House and elsewhere that Romney will be the eventual Republican presidential nominee, particularly in light of a handful of significant - but short-lived - surges that Texas Gov. Rick Perry and Minn. Rep. Michele Bachmann both enjoyed before Cain.
"I think there was a growing sense this week that Mitt Romney is likely going to be the Republican nominee, from the attacks from the Obama campaign in Chicago, also from the White House," O'Donnell told CBS' Bob Schieffer.
According to David Plouffe, a senior White House adviser, the Obama administration will attempt to tap into public anger toward the financial sector and "paint Mitt Romney as Wall Street's best friend" as a key campaign tactic.
"I heard from David Plouffe, the president's senior adviser, that there is, of course, growing anger at Wall Street amongst independents, Republicans and, of course, Democrats," O'Donnell said. "They're going to paint Mitt Romney as a Wall Street sympathizer, someone who wants to roll back Wall Street reforms... So that's going to be what's moving forward."
Julianna Goldman of Bloomberg News, also appearing on the show, noted that Romney essentially conceded at the last Republican presidential debate - for which Goldman was a moderator - that he would back another bank bailout if necessary.
"One of the interesting back-and-forths during the debate was when we pushed Mitt Romney on whether or not, if there's some sort of financial meltdown, would he do what Bush and Paulson did? Would he back another sort of Wall Street bailout or TARP?" Goldman said. "After a lot of back and forth, he essentially said, yes. And that's something that could really come back to hurt him in the primary with conservatives."
CBS News political analyst John Dickerson noted that while Romney has consistently enjoyed strong support from voters, he has so far been unable to drum up much enthusiasm for his campaign - and was likely trying to ride out all the "flavors of the week."
"I mean, he has stayed at a consistent level in the polls. He's gotten so much better as a candidate compared to the last time he ran," said Dickerson, of Romney's campaign. "He has got to hope he can just weather out all of those flavors of the week until he's the last man standing."