It's been a few weeks since I've done one of these. A lot has happened since then.Let's get started and, again, we'll go in alphabetical order.Just note that I'm putting Sarah Palin and Rick Perry outside the list, since they are just speculation right now and I want to deal with them first, above the fold.
I still think Sarah Palin is not running. Given the leaks and buzz about Fox News pressuring Gingrich, Santorum, and Huckabee to make up their minds and that we are not hearing this about Sarah Palin suggests to me that they know she is not running. UPDATE at 4:27 p.m.: That might have just changed.All that said, as this bus tour rolls along, I think she is seeing if she can affect an uptick in favorability ratings. If she can, I think she might change her mind. Should Palin get in, she will be a game changer. A Michele Bachmann candidacy loses its allure. Pawlenty has trouble continuing his stead build up. Cain disappears off the headlines. It's all Palin all the time.And I'd note that the issue with Bachmann is not because they are the two women. The issue is that they are the two fighters. If the men were fighting like the women, there wouldn't be a sustained and steady call for Bachmann and Palin to get into the race. They say what must be said.
I believe Rick Perry needs to get into the Presidential race. He needs to get in now. The clear economic difference between Texas and the rest of the nation presents a compelling picture for a Perry run.Should Perry get in, expect two funny things to happen. (1) The Bushies will throw every bit of dirt they possibly have at Perry because the Bushies do not like Rick Perry. (2) The Democrats will tar and feather Rick Perry as the second coming of George W. Bush. The media will gravitate toward the second and largely feed off of the first. That makes Perry's hill much tougher to climb, but it is totally doable and a Perry candidacy, coupled with the message from his book Fed Up, is a winner within the primary during a year like 2012. His support would come from across the board, taking from almost any candidate in the race, including Romney. Likewise, his candidacy would undermine Newt Gingrich's bid as Newt is running with Perry's team. I can't imagine them staying with Newt should Perry get in.
One more wild card to dispense with before we go below the fold. A CNN poll shows that were Giuliani to get in, he'd be in the lead. I think he'd hurt Romney and I think his campaign strategy would hurt Huntsman. But I don't see how Giuliani would be able to solidify support among major donors after his disastrous run in 2008. Likewise, I fail to see the rational for a Giuliani candidacy this time around. When national security and leadership issues were the big issues in 2008, it made sense. But with the economy being the big issue now, Giuliani is too far removed from his successful career as mayor of New York to make a strong pitch on this front.
Michele Bachmann's campaign continues to build steam. Her Chief of Staff is leaving her congressional office to help with the campaign. If Palin gets in, I don't see that Bachmann has staying power. Without Palin and with Bachmann's zeal to fight the left, I think she makes it to Iowa. I just don't see how Bachmann can capitalize on the first three states: Iowa, New Hampshire, and South Carolina. Iowa will come down to evangelicals and Bachmann is seen as more tea party than evangelical. New Hampshire will want someone perceived as more moderate. South Carolina is going to have a bias for a bigger name. It's just the way it is. And without making significant traction in the first three, I don't think she can survive primary season.I'm going to be curious to see how Bachmann segments herself in the market. If she comes up with a compelling rationale, it could potentially keep out Palin and hurt Cain.
Cain continues to surprise. He is fifth in the latest CNN poll, ahead of bigger names. He is 2nd in Iowa according to PPP. I maintain that Cain will be this year's Mike Hucakbee, even though Rove and Krauthammer disagree. If he gets second in Iowa — and that is a big if given who else might get in and the time until Iowa — Cain will put himself into a secure position to be considered a VP. He's going to have to hit everything right, though, to get the nomination.
It was smart of Gingrich to go under the radar these last few weeks. The press attention and conservative activists have not been good for him. If Perry gets in, Gingrich's campaign is going to see major shakeups. That might actually help him, but I get the sense that will ultimately be his undoing.He continues to vie for the same crowd as Romney. If Giuliani gets in, it helps Gingrich if only because evangelical women in Iowa will have someone else to heap scorn on. But, women primary voters continue to be a sore point for Gingrich.
I think Huntsman still can do well in New Hampshire, but I don't yet see him getting support outside the press. If anything, so much favorable press attention has made it tougher for him. He's not going to play well in Iowa. He'll have to fight Romney and maybe Giuliani for New Hampshire. He'll be a bust in South Carolina. That leaves what? Nevada where he'll do okay and Florida where he won't? Pffffft.
I'm leaving the same thing I wrote two weeks ago, except I'll add this: Ron Paul goes further than Gary Johnson.He and Ron Paul will go nowhere except at each others' throats competing for the slim pickings of college students not too stoned to stay home and libertarian voters too ashamed to vote libertarian. It will amount to a lot of hot air and the aggravation equivalent of termites and lice, but in the end, actual primary election days will function like turpentine to the scalp of the Republican Primary.
See Gary Johnson above.
Slow and steady, Pawlenty keeps making gutsy moves that are getting him noticed by donors and folks in Washington. If Perry or Palin gets in, it hurts Pawlenty tremendously. But I think he continues playing his hand better than any of the others with fewer unforced errors. I still expect, at this point, that he's the odds on favorite for the nomination. That's not an endorsement, or a bias in his favor, just an observation based on who else exists currently in the field and how those campaigns are doing in relation to Pawlenty's.
The front runner, Romney keeps making errors, though I think he shrewdly played off Pawlenty's ethanol rejection to get in good with people in Iowa. That might help him and hurt Pawlenty, but I also think it leaves a bad taste in people's mouths as too opportunistic. Between that and an embrace of Romneycare, I think Mitt may be the front runner, but will have too much baggage to cross the finish line — particularly if Perry and/or Giuliani get in the race.
I am keeping what I said about Santorum from two weeks ago.I still don't see him making it to Iowa, but he is pulling in voters who were with Huckabee largely on the strength of his social conservative credentials. Left-wing media attacks on his prior statements are only helping him.But he is still going to have to overcome the stigma of losing his Senate seat in a swing state in a year Obama was not on the ballot. Likewise, coming from the Senate continues to be a drain on Republicans. I continue to have a hard time trying to figure out exactly why Santorum is in the race.If Palin gets in, I think Santorum's run ends sooner rather than later. Without her, he's got some basic staying power, but I don't think he'll have the funds to compete effectively.