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It's Going to Be a Wild Ride

The opinions expressed by columnists are their own and do not necessarily represent the views of Townhall.com.

I'm a little bit disappointed that Gov. Chris Christie of New Jersey is not running for the Republican nomination for president. He was sure to inject another round of excitement into the campaign.

After many in the media concluding slightly more than a month ago that the race was more than likely going to go to either former Governor of Massachusetts Mitt Romney or current Governor of Texas Rick Perry, this past week's poll (showing businessman Herman Cain surging and Perry falling) has reminded observers that in politics anything can and often does happen. The one thing that we can be sure of is that everything will change, and then change again.

It's been a race full of epiphanies from the press that have proven not to be true.

The long, hot, pressing summer included stories of how former Speaker of the House Newt Gingrich (my father) would soon quit the race after several consultants left his campaign. Well, he's still in the race (as are a few of the consultants, who are now working in Perry's camp).

When the stories of Gingrich's predicted rapid demise and imminent departure from the race were traveling the circuit, I kept thinking, "Don't these people remember that he was the one who shut the government down four times to balance the federal budget?" A man who can stare down a sitting president of the United States to balance a budget is not going to quit because a few people went somewhere else.

Rep. Michele Bachmann's campaign had a great head of steam going into late summer, and she won the straw poll at Ames, Iowa. A formidable opponent, charismatic and lively, she looked to be set in the top tier for the race.

Her win at Ames was overshadowed when Perry entered the race, announcing from South Carolina and missing a debate in Ames (the second debate; the first was held in Manchester, N.H.). Perry quickly surged to the front of the pack. Gallup released its poll on Aug. 24, soon after his announcement, noting, "Texas Gov. Rick Perry has emerged as rank-and-file Republicans' current favorite for their party's 2012 presidential nomination. Twenty-nine percent of Republicans and Republican-leaning independents nationwide say they are most likely to support Perry, with Mitt Romney next, at 17 percent."

Perry's top ranking has fallen in the past two weeks, according to a CBS News poll released Tuesday, from 23 percent to 12 percent. At the same time, Cain has moved to the top with Romney, both at 17 percent, with Gingrich in fourth at 8 percent. Cain was at 5 percent two weeks ago, and Romney was at 16 percent.

My, how fast polls can change.

This Tuesday, Public Policy Polling released its take on the recent move in polls: "Is the new Republican frontrunner Herman Cain? Maybe for this week, anyway. PPP polled Republican primary voters in three pretty different states over the weekend -- North Carolina, Nebraska and West Virginia -- and found Cain leading the way in each of them, as Gingrich surged, Romney stayed steady and Perry saw a collapse in his support. ...

"This most conservative group of Republican voters has been shopping for a candidate all year. They've gone from (former Arkansas Gov. Mike) Huckabee to (real estate mogul Donald) Trump back to Huckabee to Bachmann to Perry and now to Cain. I would expect their support for Cain to be pretty temporary. One thing that's been very clear through all these twists and turns, though -- they're not going to support Romney. ...

"Even more surprising than Cain's leading all three of these polls might be Gingrich's finishing second in each of them ... and where his support is coming from. In both Nebraska (21-15 over Cain) and North Carolina (27-18 over Romney), he leads with moderates. Those voters have previously tended to give Romney first place status -- it really says something about the state of the Republican field when Newt Gingrich becomes the choice for centrists."

With Christie no longer throwing his hat into the ring, one might initially believe that the race will become more rote and less exciting. As a lifelong observer of politics, it's my bet that there will be many more surges and collapses before the nomination is secured -- very possibly leading all the way to the Republican Convention in Orlando, Fla., in late August of next year.

Hang on, it's going to be a wild ride.

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