Well, depending on when the dates of the caucuses and primaries end up, as they are still in flux, we could be looking at less than 100 days until the first vote to select our next Presidential nominee.
That can seem like a blink of an eye.
The field now appears to be set...finally. Gov. Chris Christie, Gov. Sarah Palin, and other stragglers now have finally officially bowed out for 2012.
So where do we stand, after months of traversing the country, blabbering in somewhat useless debates, and after many foibles and flaws came to light?
1. Romney still leads.
This will bother almost every conservative out there, including myself...but facts are facts. While one candidate or another has shot to the forefront, Romney has been steady at his 20-25% of the Republican electorate. He has fascinated nor excited no one. He simply goes about his business, for good or ill.
The 25% ceiling, if it is real, is worrisome for many reasons. Maybe most concerning to the Romney camp is that number is similar to his ceiling during the 2008 election cycle as well. This could be coincidence, or a worrying indicator.
The problems for Romney will never go away. But in a cycle where economic and political strife plague the country, Romney's steadfastness and ability to be above the fray may pay off. He is steady, if not boring. He is moderate, which secures money donors. And he does not scare away independents. Unless a true conservative shoots the forefront, and is able to maintain their support, it is difficult to see anyone supplanting him from the pole position.
2. The Social Conservative Shoot Themselves In The Foot.
First there was Trump (who wasn't really a conservative, IMHO), who basically behaved like himself and self-destructed. Then Michelle Bachmann, who behaved like herself, which was great until she blundered into the HPV/retardation fiasco, which basically took her out of contention.
Now it appears Rick Perry is taking his turn. Before flaming out, Ms. Bachmann laid some significant blows on Perry with his HPV vaccination mandate, which was a foolish bit of executive privilege if there ever was one. Then to compound matters, Perry virtually insulted every other conservative by calling them 'heartless' for opposing in state tuition for children of illegal immigrants.
Perry now confronts a N-word controversy that likely is more media bashing than anything else. When Democrats who don't even like his politics are defending him, you know how ridiculous a story it is. We can whine about how unfair the media is, but in an environment where Herman Cain (?!?!) is being questioned on his racist comments, we should expect nothing different. What is really disturbing is Perry's complete and utter inability to react to any of these controversies.
Successful Presidential campaigns historically respond successfully to adversity. Perry has not responded well so far. Does he have the backbone and will power to sustain through the hardships?
Possibly an even bigger problem for Perry is that he may quickly lose the interest of undecided conservatives. I consider myself in this group. I really want to like Perry, but have been far from sold. In some ways, this reminds me of four years ago, when I really wanted to like Mitt Romney, because I did not want John McCain to be our nominee. Romney could never make the sale then; can Perry make it now?
Still, Perry has an opening if he can quickly right the ship. He does have a lot going for him: a great narrative with the state of Texas, the aura of leadership, and a lot of money (he raised $17 million in a month and a half, which is impressive under any circumstances). However, he has little time to solve the previously described deficiencies, otherwise he will quickly join Bachmann and Trump in the list of also-rans.
3. Is Cain Able?
You have got to love Herman Cain. He is a true conservative through and through. Yes, he supported TARP. Yes, he attacked Perry on the recent racist claim a little too fast. But overall, here is a man that eloquently defends conservative positions. That has gained him a fair amount of right wing support, much of it taken from Gov. Perry. And maybe more of note: it has drawn the ire of the mainstream media and liberal left, which means they are starting to fear him.
The problem with Cain is obvious: he is a dark horse (and no, liberals, that is NOT a racist comment; duh). He has no prior elective government experience, which is a good and bad thing. But in an era where we criticize Obama's naivete on a daily basis, how do we defend Cain's inexperience? Cain was a civilian employee for the Navy, was on the Board of Directors of the Federal Reserve Bank of Kansas City, and he was subsequently elected their chairman. His civilian experience at Coca-Cola, Burger King, and as C.E.O. of Godfather's Pizza is extensive as well. Are those credentials enough to convince America he is ready to sit in the Oval Office? For me, it is enough; I am not sure about the rest of the electorate.
Additionally, Cain has not truly been running a campaign for the nomination. His campaign staff is bare-bones, to say the least. He has virtually no ground game in either Iowa and New Hampshire, and is spending the next few weeks...on a book tour. No joke. You cannot win in the early states without an infrastructure, and Cain apparently never believed he would need one. More importantly, if he were to win the nomination, would he be able to 'scale up' his staff for a truly national campaign against Barack Obama?
I agree with many of the man's ideas, and adore his eloquence on conservative issues...but I just don't see how he brings it to fruition. I hope I am wrong...I would love to see Cain make a serious bid well into the nomination process next year.
4. Waiting For Christie
Governor Chris Christie was the establishment candidate that made the inner circle drool. I like Christie. He is eloquent, tough, clear spoken, and gets things done. Yes, he has serious deficiencies in his political stances, especially on the 2nd amendment and on immigration.
But now that he is out of the race, it is good for the entire field. Christie's 2 week dance froze the field, for all purposes. Donors wanted to be sure he wasn't jumping in. Voters that were already disenchanted of course held back any decision. The media paid no attention to the other candidates at all.
There doesn't appear to be any more saviors on the horizon. The Palinistas have dreamed of her jumping in, but that ship has sailed. Rudy Giuliani and Mike Huckabee are making a little noise, but both are really nonstarters at this point.
These are our candidates. Love'em or leave'em.
5. The Also-Rans
How long can Gingrich, Santorum, and the other stragglers hold on? Gingrich and Santorum are good debaters, and that alone has kept them afloat. Gingrich hovers in the high single digits in polls, while Santorum is around 5%. Without a huge influx of dollars, neither is going to last long. There is much to like about some of these candidates, but we all know they are not going to win the nomination.
Then there is Ron Paul. Lets be honest...anyone who supports the Wall St. protesters and opposes the killing of Al Qaeda terrorists is not going to win the GOP nomination. Enough said.
6. Obama is still Obama
No matter what, keep up your optimism. Most of these candidates can run a decent general election campaign, which is what we need to defeat our current President. Obama seems unable or unwilling to simply move to the center, and attempt to take a political high ground. He is simply not the political wizard people imagined him to be in 2008, and his inexperience and political incompetence is showing.
However, optimism is different than arrogance. I have started to see many conservatives simply assume that Obama will be defeated next November. We better get out of that mindset right now. Obama will have close to a $1 billion to attack and destroy whomever wins the Republican nomination. Along with a willing media, that is a huge impediment for us to get our message out.
So no matter who ultimately wins the nomination, we have a lot of hard work ahead of us. But right now, approximately a year from the election, things are looking good.
This was cross posted on Neoavatara.