It is hard to believe that in only seven months the campaign season will be in full swing. But, even before February 6, 2012, and the Iowa Caucuses, there are plenty of major straw polls and events.
I do this weekly at RedState and thought that this week, with seven months to go before Iowa, it would be a good time to share my assessment here. I take the candidates in alphabetical order. No endorsements are intended or implied.
Michele Bachmann’s campaign continues to build steam. Her Chief of Staff is leaving her congressional office to help with the campaign. If Palin gets in, I don’t see that Bachmann has staying power. Without Palin and with Bachmann’s zeal to fight the left, I think she makes it to Iowa. I just don’t see how Bachmann can capitalize on the first three states: Iowa, New Hampshire, and South Carolina. Iowa will come down to evangelicals and Bachmann is seen as more tea party than evangelical. New Hampshire will want someone perceived as more moderate. South Carolina is going to have a bias for a bigger name. It’s just the way it is. And without making significant traction in the first three, I don’t think she can survive primary season.
Cain continues to surprise. He is fifth in the latest CNN poll, ahead of bigger names. He is 2nd in Iowa according to PPP. I maintain that Cain will be this year’s Mike Hucakbee, even though Rove and Krauthammer disagree. If he gets second in Iowa — and that is a big if given who else might get in and the time until Iowa — Cain will put himself into a secure position to be considered a VP. He’s going to have to hit everything right, though, to get the nomination.
It was smart of Gingrich to go under the radar these last few weeks. The press attention and conservative activists have not been good for him. If Perry gets in, Gingrich’s campaign is going to see major shakeups. That might actually help him, but I get the sense that will ultimately be his undoing.
A CNN poll shows that were Giuliani to get in, he’d be in the lead. I think he’d hurt Romney and I think his campaign strategy would hurt Huntsman. But I don’t see how Giuliani would be able to solidify support among major donors after his disastrous run in 2008.
I think Huntsman still can do well in New Hampshire, but I don’t yet see him getting support outside the press. If anything, so much favorable press attention has made it tougher for him. He’s not going to play well in Iowa. He’ll have to fight Romney and maybe Giuliani for New Hampshire. He’ll be a bust in South Carolina. That leaves what? Nevada where he’ll do okay and Florida where he won’t?
Gary Johnson / Ron Paul
Gary Johnson and Ron Paul will go nowhere except at each others’ throats competing for the slim pickings of college students not too stoned to stay home and libertarian voters too ashamed to vote libertarian. It will amount to a lot of hot air and the aggravation equivalent of termites and lice, but in the end, actual primary election days will function like turpentine to the scalp of the Republican Primary.
I still think Sarah Palin is not running. Given the leaks and buzz about Fox News pressuring Gingrich, Santorum, and Huckabee to make up their minds and that we are not hearing this about Sarah Palin suggests to me that they know she is not running. On Wednesday, she met with Fox News Executives, but the meeting seems to have been routine and there is nothing leaking from Fox suggesting otherwise. All that said, as this bus tour rolls along, I think she is seeing if she can affect an uptick in favorability ratings. If she can, I think she might change her mind.
Slow and steady, Pawlenty keeps making gutsy moves that are getting him noticed by donors and folks in Washington. If Perry or Palin gets in, it hurts Pawlenty tremendously. But I think he continues playing his hand better than any of the others with fewer unforced errors.
Should Perry get in, expect two funny things to happen. (1) The Bushies will throw every bit of dirt they possibly have at Perry because the Bushies do not like Rick Perry. (2) The Democrats will tar and feather Rick Perry as the second coming of George W. Bush. The media will gravitate toward the second and largely feed off of the first.
That makes Perry’s hill much tougher to climb, but it is totally doable. His support would come from across the board, taking from almost any candidate in the race, including Romney. Likewise, his candidacy would undermine Newt Gingrich’s bid as Newt is running with Perry’s team. I can’t imagine them staying with Newt should Perry get in.
The front runner, Romney keeps making errors, though I think he shrewdly played off Pawlenty’s ethanol rejection to get in good with people in Iowa. That might help him and hurt Pawlenty, but I also think it leaves a bad taste in people’s mouths as too opportunistic. Between that and an embrace of Romneycare, I think Mitt may be the front runner, but will have too much baggage to cross the finish line — particularly if Perry and/or Giuliani get in the race.
I still don’t see him making it to Iowa, but he is pulling in voters who were with Huckabee largely on the strength of his social conservative credentials. Left-wing media attacks on his prior statements are only helping him. If Palin gets in, I think Santorum’s run ends sooner rather than later. Without her, he’s got some basic staying power, but I don’t think he’ll have the funds to compete effectively.