Saturday, August 27, 2011

Race for the White House 2012

It has been a week of significant developments in Libya, months after the Administration claimed they would occur, one that saw a rare earthquake hit the east coast, and currently a weekend of great hype and fear as Hurricane Irene prepares to bear down on that same east coast, putting Washington D.C. and New York City in the path of the storm. The situation appears serious enough that Barack Obama even cut his Martha Vineyard's vacation short by one day.

In the final pre-Labor Day weekend of 2011, the Republican Presidential contest appears to many to be vastly different than it looked when the month began. This past week, saw speculation about Paul Ryan end, when he once again confirmed he will not be a candidate for the White House this cycle. Months ago, former New York Governor George Pataki had said the same thing, but in the space of one week, Pataki was reported to have decided to run, with an imminent announcement, only for him to once again pull out. The absence of the moderate Republican in the race has to cause the fledgling campaign of Jon Huntsman to breathe a sigh of relief, as their small pool of supporters will not have another option. Speaking of Huntsman, some on the right are starting to grumble that he may be preparing to launch a third party general election race. I think it would be more likely that Huntsman might instead endorse his former boss Obama, and speak at next year's Charlotte convention. That might have a lot to do though with whom the GOP eventually nominates.

As September is almost here, we appear to be very close to hearing a final answer from Sarah Palin. She has taken umbrage this past week over Karl Rove speculating over whether or not she will run, which is curious, considering if she did not want speculation to take place, she could very simply put an end to it by saying she will not run. If she does, her name recognition and political star power could make her a serious contender in the field, at least at first. Many others are convinced that when she makes her announcement, it will instead be an endorsement of her friend, Rick Perry, the man who many in the media and in the party are now looking at as the new 2012 frontrunner.

Perry seems to have a very good couple of weeks as his entrance into the race and large amount of media attention and buzz among conservatives have him starting off with a double digit lead in national Republican primary polls, as well as in South Carolina, along with at least a modest lead in Iowa. It is worth keeing in mind that late announcing candidates, in past cycles, such as Democrat Wesley Clark in 2003 and Republican Fred Thompson in 2007, benefited from a "surge" in polls upon announcing their candidacies before falling back down to Earth.

I actually think Perry will remain a serious contender for the nomination, probably until the nomination is actually decided. There has been much talk from the media and among conservatives online as to how Perry's early showing spells doom for both the conservative insurgent campaign of Michele Bachmann and the establishment "next guy in line" meme surrounding Mitt Romney. I think it is too early to declare that, and I think Perry is going to not necessarily look in a couple months as he does now.

Perry, who besides leading the somewhat irrelevant national primary polls at this date, also, according to the Gallup poll at least, runs about as competitive against Obama as Romney. That is leaving many to surmise that there is no electability gap between the two Republican Governors, and many are thinking that since Perry is perceived as more conservative, he would be a better bet. I have my doubts as to if Perry will continue to look as formidable against Obama as more people are exposed to him as a national candidate. Most eventual Republican primary voters, while strongly wanting to make Obama a one-term President, are not yet focusing intently on the race and have the potential to swing back and forth between Perry, Romney, and undecided. If the time comes where Perry looks significantly weaker than Romney, and voters realize that ideologically, they are not at all far apart anyway, much of that polling support might disappear for the Texan.

Currently, I would say that national support for Romney and Perry alike is not necessarily deep. People have impressions, both favorably and negatively about both, that might eventually lessen during the course of a campaign. On the flip-side, I think that despite her recent polling downslide, it is too early to count Bachmann out of maybe winning Iowa. Her cadre of supporters are more true ideological believers and thus less concerned about the pragmatism of electability.

Nonetheless, it would be a major upset if anybody other than Romney or Perry emerges as the nominee next year. There will be a real competition, going into the first four voting contests, and like with all primaries, the danger exists for intra-party warfare to hurt the chances of the eventual winner. Others believe strong competition is a good thing and produces more battle-tested candidates for a general election and would point to the ultimate result of the 2008 race after an epic Obama vs. Hillary Clinton contest that lasted until May.

While anything is possible, I think the Republican nomination will probably be decided well before that this cycle. If things did drag on, a longer contest might benefit Romney, who might have the financial and organizational edge to compete in some of the very large states that will vote later in the calender.

The final Republican delegate selection schedule has yet to be finalized, but at the moment, it appears that four states, one in each geographic will go first. Those states are Iowa, New Hampshire, Nevada, and South Carolina. Much like NFL playoff possibilities that can be somewhat complicated, I have devised what I think is a formula to determine who will eventually win the nod.

If either Perry or Romney take first in both Iowa and then New Hampshire the next week, which would be unprecedented for an open Republican race, that person is almost assured of clinching the nomination for all intents and purposes then and there. If that does not happen though, I would look to Nevada and South Carolina and say that if one candidate finishes above the other in three out of the first four states (and it does not even have to be a first place finish), then the candidate on the short end of the stick has failed in the race, and the other person probably is close to wrapping up the nomination.

Right now, conventional wisdom would seem to suggest that in the first four states, they will split 2-2, with Perry winning Iowa and South Carolina, and Romney winning New Hampshire and Nevada. If that happens, it will then really be a two person race, moving on to states that might vote next, like Florida, Michigan, and beyond for however long it takes until a nominee emerges.