In my last post, I placed Perry as the presumptive GOP nominee, saying he was as sure to win the GOP nomination in 2012 as Clinton was to win the Democratic nomination in 2008. Gov. Rick Perry may still win and remains a very strong contender, but Mitt Romney is now in the lead. The Ranking is:
1. Gov. Mitt Romney -- Can anyone say "Primary Schedule?" Former Gov. Mitt Romney has spent the last several years focusing his campaign to compete and do well in early states. He has a Clinton-level firewall in NH. Even if he loses Iowa, Romney should win NH. He has another firewall state in NV. Romney faces a huge advantage in that he appears to have cornered his niche (Northeastern elite Republicans), giving him a strong support base from which to opperate. As a comparisson, Perry still needs to deal with Cain, Bachman, and Santorum if he wishes to consolidate support from conservatives.
Romney has campaigned much better this year than in prior years. His economic plan, and attacks on Perry for a lack of plan are working. Romney also greatly benefits from his new, less-loud, campaign. He has benefitted from his non-frontrunner status, and is in a strong possition.
That said, Romney is a weak front-runner. He still faces a significant problem in that he has significant trouble interacting, relating to, and getting the support of the majority of GOP voters. He has had the same level of support for the last 4 years, and the support level for him does not appear to raise much above 25% or so. No poll shows him with over 50% support. He continues to have significant problems relating to conservative voters, and the problems are largely based on Romney's record, which is hard to change.
Romneycare is not helping Romney. Romney's record as governor is not helping Romney. Romney's history of changing what he says is not helping Romney. Frankly, Romney appears to be propelled purely because no other candidate has more than Romney's 1/4th of the vote. It is hard to see how he will get over 50%, and he cannot win with 25%.
2. Gov. Perry - Governor Perry had a great fundraising quarter pulling in over $17 million. He remains the candidate with the best resume. The only sitting governor, and a multi-term governor of Texas at that. He has military experience, farming experience, and says what he thinks and thinks what he says. If someone were to design a candidate who lacked Gov. Romney's flaws, Gov. Perry would be that candidate. He is the opposite of Romney in so many ways; good and bad. One of those differences is that Gov. Perry does not change what he says every week and does not say what is popular when he doesn't agree with it. That is a good quality for a person; not always a helpful one as a candidate. Unlike Romney who flip-flops to what is popular, Perry --- not only is holding a few views that do not help him, Perry appears to show no hesitation in sharing those views.
Perry's recent comments on providing in-state tuition for people who's parents came into the country without following our laws may be what he believes, and Perry does have a more conservative record on these issues than did Bush or McCain -- However, these views are highly unpopular. His expression of them as saying that people with different views lack a heart does not help his campaign. In fact, it has hurt his campaign greatly. Perry may have essentially the same views as Bush and Reagan on Social security, but Perry words his views in a way that does not always help his campaign. The same is true of the Fed.
Perry also faces a much, much more difficult primary calendar than does Romney. Iowa is Bachman's home state. It is where Santorum, Cain, and Bachman must win or will lose. These politicians are all going for conservative voters, splitting the possible Perry vote. NH is a bastion for Mitt Romney, as is Nevada. This means that Perry faces some very hard states early. It also puts pressure on Perry to do well in Floridia and makes South Carolina a must-win state for Perry.
Perry does have some good news. First, he has already been attacked more than all the other candidates combined, so he has developed some think skin. Second, now that his dirty laundry has aired, and that he is no longer the front-runner, he may obtain a sort of advantage in the fact that he took his hits, stayed alive and could come-back later. I would not count him out, and rank him a close 2nd.
3. Gov. Huntsman - The primary calendar is set-up to really benefit a more liberal candidate. This is why I have Romney place above Perry. The only alternative to Romney is Hunstman. Gov. Huntsman, should Romney lose badly in Iowa and Huntsman make a solid 3rd or 4th place showing, and if the plants align in just the right order, has a 1 in a million shot of winning NH. If he does win NH, Romney is out and Hunstman replaces him, his supporters and his votes. Gov. Huntsman performs very well in the debates, and frankly has out performed my expectations.
What is Gov. Huntsman's main challenge in this? He is like 25% or so behind Romney in NH. What is his second challenge? I do not see how he can get more than 25 - 30% of the vote. He will face the same Romney limit that all the more liberal Republicans would face. His odds are not good, but he is Romney's only competition for the liberal votes.
4. Sen. Santorum - Where Huntsman's highly-unlikely chance is to take out Romney, Santorum's odds are even longer because he needs to take out Romney, Perry, Cain, Bachman, Gingrich, and Paul and win Iowa. Senator Santorum could, if he wins Iowa, make this a 3-person race. His challenge is that even a win in Iowa, will lead to him facing a hard fight in NH and NV -- both Romney super-firewall states. He likewise would face major challenges in FL and SC. Frankly, a win in Iowa may only place him 3rd in the rankings. And, of course, that win would be highly unlikely. Santorum continues to remain lacking in the ability to inspire. He can lead, think, and get agreements. He lacks the insparational skills of Cain or Perry. If he is to win Iowa, he needs to project a persona, to inspire people, and to suddenly become the person people say was amazing in the debate. At the same time, he needs to focus on why he would lead well, what his plan is, and move away from the Perry attacks. Oh, and he needs money.
Sen. Santorum remains a long-shot, but is the best possitioned of the long-shots to take over the Perry/Cain voter who is conservative. If Santorum claims those voters in full, he wins.
5. Gingrich - If Newt could somehow find a way to stop being so stupid in his personal life. If he could find a way to grow up. If he could find a way to run a 1/2 decent campaign....if....if....if. Newt is one of the most gifted, smartest men around in so many ways. Yet so stupid. Newt would be the nominee if he were not Newt. Yet it is exactly because he is Newt that he has a chance. One moment he blows away everyone in a debate. The next moment he appears as though he would rather star on reality show.
Gingrich really only has to get and keep things together for a couple months to have a shot at winning Iowa. If he can shape up, focus, and run a good campaign, he could be in this -- despite how horrible he has campaigned so far. If he kept things togther he could win. That said, I highly doubt he can keep things together for more than a few days.
In some ways, the ideal candidate is willing to stand up and fight for what he believes as hard as Santorum, is able to organize as well as Romney, has the resume and record of Perry, and the wit of Gingrich.
6. Paul -- Not going to happen. Why? Ron Paul is a trail blazzer. He has dramatically changed the GOP and the country. His is rightly called the father of the tea party movement. That said, he will not be the GOP nominee because reformers, trailblazzers, and people who change the country do not get nominated or elected president. conformists do. And, more importaintly because he doesn't have Gov. or Sen. before his name.
7. Bachman -- Not going to happen. Bachman still lacks Gov. or Sen. before her name. She is not ready to be president, and should not have run.
8. Cain -- Cain got BLOWN OUT when he tried to run in a primary for the Senate. If he cannot win a primary for the Senate, why does he think he can become president. Not going to happen. 0 chance. In my opinion Gingrich, Paul, and Bachman are not serious candidates; but in comparison to Cain, they are. Cain has no chance what-so-ever. He has never held elected office. Not elected dog catcher. Cain has no business running, and with all due respect, I seriousily question if the people who claim they support him would actually vote for someone who is so clearly completely unprepaired and unable to do the actual job he is running for. Cain needs to show he can win an election before I even consider him a a non-joke candidate.
Every GOP nominee in the last 50 years has been a sitting President, VP, Governor, or Senator. Now, using that formula our nominee will be Perry (the only person to meet that list). If we expand possible candidates to include former governors and former senators, we can include Romney, Huntsman and Santorum. If we include representatives, we can add Bachman and Paul. If we include former representatives, we can include Gingrich. If we include people with no experience, we can add Cain... along with maybe 100 million other people who are equally qualified as Cain is. In fact, they are more qualified in that they are smart enought to realize they are not qualified enough to run. Running the Office of the President of the United States is no where comparable to running a pizza shop. Cain would give Obama the opening of saying Cain lacks experience, and when Cain screws up (like he has before), it will show.