It's crunch time in Michigan and Arizona, as voters in those two critical states head to the polls tomorrow. This year's Republican primary race has felt unusually volatile, a sense that National Journal says is rooted in empirical fact:
Since the start 2011, seven different candidates or potential contenders could claim to be the Republican race's front-runner, according to polling from Gallup. The list includes Mike Huckabee, Donald Trump, Mitt Romney, Rick Perry, Herman Cain, Newt Gingrich and Rick Santorum. In at least one Gallup poll, each claimed at least a share of the lead in the GOP race. (Huckabee and Trump are the only two who never officially declared themselves a candidate.)I wrote in October, when Cain's campaign was at its peak and before Gingrich's and Santorum's rise, how the contest had already seen the most upheaval since 1964. That year, four different people - Nelson Rockefeller, Richard Nixon, Henry Cabot Lodge and Barry Goldwater -- were leading the race in at least one poll. A fifth man, William Scranton, surged to within a point of the lead two weeks before the party's convention. But now, after the volatility of the last four months, even the '64 race seems tame in comparison. The fact of seven front-runners doesn't quite capture all of the movement in the polls: It doesn't include Michele Bachmann's temporary status as the Iowa front-runner or that Gingrich and Santorum both fluctuated between contender and also-ran twice. Or that Romney has oscillated between front-runner and underdog nearly every month for the last six months.
Whetherwins or loses the Michigan and Arizona primaries on Tuesday, his advisers are warning donors and other supporters to prepare for a longer, more bruising and more expensive fight for the Republican presidential nomination that may not be settled until at least May. That is prompting a new round of intensified fund-raising by his financial team, which had hoped by this point to be collecting money for a general election match with . The campaign is increasingly trying to quell anxiety among Republican leaders, while intently focusing on the mechanics of accumulating delegates needed to secure the nomination.
Guy Benson is Townhall.com's Political Editor. Follow him on Twitter @guypbenson. He is co-authors with Mary Katharine Ham for their new book End of Discussion: How the Left's Outrage Industry Shuts Down Debate, Manipulates Voters, and Makes America Less Free (and Fun).
Author Photo credit: Jensen Sutta Photography