Tim Pawlenty is out of the race. Rick Perry is in the race. Not only is Perry in, he is surging to first place in the Rasmussen polling. But it is still Mitt Romney's race to lose right now.
The race is beginning to find some momentum of its own. Rick Perry's entry was not a Fred Thompson entry as some expected. He is dominating the conversation and forcing both Democrats and Republicans to respond to him. Whether he can keep it up and whether it blows back on him will be interesting to see moving forward.
Today, we have to spend time weeding out candidates, which will make some of you mad. Also, we'll deal with Paul Ryan and Chris Christie.
Below the fold, the horse race gallops ahead.
Michele Bachmann now has two historic factors working against her.
First, no member of the United States House of Representatives has made it from Congress to the White House since the 1800's.
Second, the winner of the Ames Iowa Straw Poll more often than not does not win the Iowa Caucus and it is even rarer for the straw poll winner to actually win the party nomination. Why? Well, because of the vast amount of resources that must be consumed to be competitive in Ames for starters. Ames is rapidly discrediting itself, though it serves as a useful venue to weed out some candidates and, thankful, reduce the number of participants in debates.
All that said, let me make one thing clear: Michele Bachmann has surpassed all expectations that anyone has ever had for her. If anyone can defy history it will be Michele Bachmann.
There is one troubling issue that her campaign rapidly needs to get a handle on: the prima donna rap against her. Yes, you can call it sexist. But don't dismiss it. It is starting to develop in the media and will be a real problem for her moving forward as it sinks into the conscience of caucus goers and others.
The basic attack is that Bachmann is aloof, refuses to mingle, and has let it go to her head.
I know there are times Bachmann seems as if she is above it all. And I know a lot of her staff has lashed out at her on background — not just former staff, but current staff believe it or not. This will be a real problem for her if she cannot tamp it down as people will suspect it is all for show.
The Michele Bachmann i know is not just a solid conservative, but one hell of a retail politician. She's going to need to get back to that quickly because the press is starting to play up every perceived snub, sleight, and arrogance.
At the same time, Bachmann is going to have to figure out a way to cut down Rick Perry's momentum. Polls suggest he is cutting into her base of support quickly and rapidly consolidating a lead.
Herman Cain is done.
In all honesty, I think if I did not like Herman as much as I do and did not feel some measure of gratitude for him allowing me to take his radio show, I would have objectively cut him off this list before now.
A few weeks ago, Herman said he needed to be in the top 3 in Ames, IA's straw poll. But he came in fifth. His spin now is that he spent no money and was able to beat out others. The problem is he came in fifth far from the top. He also did spend money on a bus to go around Iowa. And something else.
In all polling of both Iowa and nationally, Herman Cain has led Rick Santorum. But Rick Santorum, whose financial position is worse than Herman Cain's, got more votes at Ames. That suggests one of two things — either Herman's support is fading or it was always shallow to begin with.
Either way, Herman Cain's ride in our horse race comes to an end now, whether he stays in or not. He may get a second wind, but given his finances, lack of stellar debate performances of late, and his otherwise overall failure to gain traction, I think it is time for Herman to come home to Georgia and start preparing for the Senate in 2014 against Saxby Chambliss.
Jonathan Alter of Newsweek may have sources telling him Christie is "focus grouping" a run for the White House, but I have never known Chris Christie to focus group anything. Likewise, both Christie and his staff are denying he has any intention of running and I believe them. That's not to say he could not change his mind, but I think it is unlikely.
Jon Huntsman, at present, appears to have no path to victory. He cannot, however, be counted out because of his ability to fund himself for a while.
People close to his campaign whisper that Huntsman has no intention of putting money in. And if he does not, he is done. But he can still have an impact in the race by forcing Mitt Romney to work harder in places like New Hampshire and Florida.
All that said though, it appears unlikely Huntsman will even have that impact. His performance in the Iowa debate was charlatanesque. He has no broad based appeal within the grassroots and remains useful in the race only for liberals who wish to sneer at the other candidates and wish they were more like Huntsman.
He reportedly made up his mind months ago to not run and is rumored to be getting pressured to rethink things.
If Paul Ryan gets in, he would have the same hurdle of Michele Bachmann in that a person has not gone from the House to the White House since the 1800's.
Ryan would also have no natural, national fundraising base. The tea party movement dislikes that his plan to balance the budget takes an eon and raising the debt limit to $23 trillion. Those who do like him are tied up with other candidates.
And during the debt ceiling debate, Ryan was no where to be found while the White House and Democrats pounded the stew out of him until moving on to pound the crap out of Eric Cantor and others. If Ryan gets in, I don't see how he gets on a path to victory and suspect he will, again, decide not to get in.
I guess when I originally posted, I pasted over Sarah Palin with Paul Ryan. Sorry.
In any event, everyone still seems divided on whether Palin will get in the race. I am inclined to say she will not. Here's why.
Whether you or I like her, the fact is she has 95% name ID and only 12% support according to recent Gallup polling. Given the high name ID and low support and some polls showing other candidates ahead of her already, I just don't know that she is going to run.
If she does, I suspect those numbers will shift in her favor. A lot of people who would support her right now think she is not running. Her entry would change that. She'd also be able to quickly raise money. But I do not think enough support shifting or money raised would put her into strong contention to battle Romney. And her entry would cause such a stir and all consultant class guns trained in her direction, at this late entry, it could help Bachmann and Perry for her to get in.
Ron Paul will not be the nominee.
Here is Rick Perry's problem.
Carole Strayhorn ran against Perry in the GOP primary in 2006. She and her consultants had their butts handed to them by Perry and his team.
Karl Rove was a key player, despite his occasional denials, in Kay Bailey Hutchison's defeat at Rick Perry's hands last year in the Republican primary for Texas Governor.
Even Obama's campaign guy, David Axelrod, has been crushed by Rick Perry.
So you have these guys, the Romney camp, and all their related friends on the left and the right trying to settle every score they can with Perry and his consultant, Dave Carney.
This, by the way, is why the attacks are coming fast and furious right now. This is why Republicans are leaking to reporters that Perry is too out of control or has, as Alex Castellanos put it on CNN last night, "Mad Cowboy Disease."
Because so much of the consultant class will be shut out of the White House should Rick Perry win, their livelihoods depend on Rick Perry losing either now or in November. And frankly, for a few in the GOP consultant class, they'll gladly see Perry lose in November just to ensure they are not shut out of a Republican White House.
For all the talk of Perry being an establishment guy, the establishment hates his guts as much as the left does. That's one reason the base finds him so endearing. See, for example, this more expansive column by Matt Lattimer on the Rove v. Perry history, which tracks with my own thinking on this.
The Perry campaign will have to withstand a lot to keep standing. This, more than any other reason, is why Perry cannot be considered the front runner just yet. It's going to take weeks of this to see if he can hold up and hold up his polling. Keep in mind that the Republicans and Democrats are both playing at cross purposes with Perry right now. The GOP wants to convince Republican primary voters that Perry is too radioactive to be able to take on Obama. The Democrats want to play off that and scare the mess out of swing voters.
We're going to be hearing a lot about Barry Goldwater for the next few months. They'll ignore the Reagan comparison, which the Democrats used to play off Reagan to no avail in 1980.
Oh, and on top of all of that, he has both Sarah Palin fans and Ron Paul fans lined up against him to prove how un-conservative he is. I do not envy Rick Perry right now.
Do not underestimate Mitt Romney. Some of you Perry fans are already all on board with him being the front runner.
You are irrationally exuberant.
Mitt Romney has piles of cash Rick Perry can only dream of. Mitt Romney also has the backing of the very same consultant class within the GOP intent on destroying Rick Perry. Mitt Romney has also been on the national stage before at this level and Rick Perry hasn't.
Romney has been focused like a laser flying around the country raising stockpiles of cash to compete with Barack Obama and he will deploy a lot of it to defeat Rick Perry if he has to, though I suspect his campaign intends to keep its hands clean and let the GOP consultant class do the work for them.
Yes, Mitt Romney was in the Mittness Protection Program. Yes, he just came out and stumbled. But that was leg stretching, nothing more. Mitt Romney is the front runner and it will take a few weeks of consistent polling to see if anything changes. A candidate being in the race for 5 days does not a front runner make.
There is one note of caution on Mitt Romney — he is using the playbook for a normal election year. I do not think this is a normal election year. He is positioning himself to seem more reasonable than Perry on issues like global warming, etc. He refuses to walk back Romneycare. He is looking very Presidential and above a lot of the melee that happens in primaries.
In 1988 or 1996 or 2000 or 2008, that would be the strategy. But I get the strong sense that this election cycle will be much more like 1980 when the establishment put up George H. W. Bush to run against Ronald Reagan. The consultant class and the establishment rallied early, they worked to paint Reagan as fringe and the second coming of Barry Goldwater, and the boys from California crushed them all on the road to the White House.
Let me assure you, the boys from California are pikers compared to the boys from Texas.
Listing of Presidential candidates
I consider "former" candidates
(in order of being dropped)