The GOP presidential race has now reached its 2012 critical mass. With the caucuses and their flock of power brokers gaming to determine the next challenger to President Obama, everything is now at stake for the real contenders that remain viable in the race.
Going forward, who gives the GOP the best chance to defeat the current head of state -- with a financial war chest closely approaching $1 billion dollars? Conventional wisdom will tell the electorate that Romney has the slight edge; he can attract moderate voters. If the past few weeks are any indication, there may be truth to this because Gingrich is imploding among many moderate and Independent voters who feel he has too much baggage and is a loose cannon. Can Ron Paul sustain his momentum?
The famed Iowa caucuses are this week, and it’s time for some predictions, along with some clear messages to a few candidates that it’s perhaps time to pack it up and head on home.
But first, expect Mitt Romney to win this Tuesday. The overall GOP frontrunner has surprised pundits both in and out of the Hawkeye state with his deft campaigning and his behind-the-scenes courting of all the right power players. Even if Tea Party favorite Ron Paul edges out a victory over Romney, it’s still an important finish for the former Massachusetts governor.
An Iowa win or second place finish would position Romney nicely for New Hampshire and then South Carolina, Florida, etc. Yes, he finished second to Huckabee four years ago, but this time it’s different. And he knows it.
It also sends a clear message to the GOP establishment about who their “guy” needs to be. No more hand-wringing and waiting next to the water cooler for the next best thing. Been there, done that with oh, four or five others (remember: Trump, Perry, Christie, Cain, the list goes on). The party lieutenants need to step up and begin to get behind their frontrunner. We’re not there yet, but folks in the institutions need to begin to come to grips with Romney and become more focused on beating Obama.
Now, on to the losers. Even though former Pennsylvania Senator Rick Santorum is slated to do well in Iowa, the sensation is more like a roman candle firework – pretty to watch and loud, but short-lived and anti-climactic. Santorum knows this as well. He can do whatever he likes moving on to New Hampshire, but I fear this will be the high water mark of his presidential run.
Jon Huntsman and Minnesota Congresswoman Michele Bachmann should both exit stage right following Iowa. You can bet Bachmann will not. After all, she did win earlier this year. But neither has the staying power, and Huntsman just hasn’t caught fire with any constituency.
More importantly, perhaps, a Romney win would send a message to Governor Perry and maybe even Newt Gingrich that their days are numbered. The allure of Perry started dissipating the day after he announced. What a flop. And while he still has a lot of money in the bank, he’s been able to do absolutely nothing with it, appealing to no one. He will need to take a long hard look at his campaign moving forward, and make some bold moves if he’s to do any better as the primaries move south.
This week may say more about the losers than it will the winner in Iowa. That’s typically how the first test of presidential muster follows. I personally will be watching for how Romney will treat his win and what he decides to do with it. There are plenty in the GOP establishment still sour on the smooth campaigner, and he needs to shore up that element pretty darn quickly. Obama is waiting in the wings ready to pounce.