Prediction #1: Mitt Romney will win the Republican nomination.
I’m probably not exactly shattering any paradigms with this one. As I write this, he’s polling second in most major polls to Herman Cain, but the last months have seen a constant cycling of candidates in the top spot with Romney holding strong to a consistent #2. I base my prediction primarily on my own evaluation of the weak GOP field and Romney’s ability to both raise funds and appeal to moderate voters. He may not be the Great Right Hope, but he’s got a lot of power and momentum going into the actual primaries.
-Herman Cain: The Nov 9 2011 front runner. The current story-of-the-week is the sexual harassment allegations against him. These stories will probably pass and without corroboration will not substantially hurt him in the polls – Bill Clinton ran succesfully with a lot more evidence against him than is currently public against Cain. If more evidence comes out it could sink him, particularly given his hard-to-walk-back denials, but I discount his chances even outside the fresh allegations. His foreign policy credentials might hurt him when it comes down to the wire – his “China is developing nuclear weapons” blunder is tailor-made for a jab at a debate. More relevantly for the GOP primary, the 9-9-9 is innovative but is going to turn off too many people – Cain seems to me a lot like Forbes in 1996.
-Rick Perry: Polling at around 10% on Nov 8 2011. He’s still get a big war chest and a potentially broad GOP appeal. He surged early but a series of misstatements and poor debate performances have been rough. I personally think his recent strange appearance at a Town Hall is going to be the end of him – like Howard Dean’s “War Cry”, voters aren’t going to respond to a guy they perceive as unstable. Becuase of his fund raising, you can’t count him out yet, but I think it’s going to be too tough to come back.
Newt Gingrich: Polling at 12% on Nov 8 2011. He carries a lot of personal and legislative baggage and still has that “establishment” feel to him that I think will prevent wide spread Tea Party support.
-Michelle Bachman: Polling at 3% on Nov 8 2011. She surged earlier but is languishing and is direly short of funds. I don’t really see a path to recovery for her. I’d be very surprised to see her win it.
-Ron Paul: Polling at 8% on Nov 8 2011. I admire him a lot – though I disagree with a lot of his politics, he has been probably the most intellectually consistent candidate for a long, long time. His problem isn’t his political skills or appeal – it’s just that too many people disagree with what he so clearly and consistently advocates.
-Santorum: What is the opposite of search-engine optimization?
If I’m wrong, I think Gingrich is the most likely to make me wrong. He’s got deep roots in the party and an interesting combination of intellectual credibility and grass roots appeal. He’s got a lot of intellectual firepower, and should be better at dodging land mines than most of the field. If Gingrich can hang on for long enough to make it a two-man race between him and Romney, he might have the advantage – Romney’s got a lot of experience from 2008, but his record is wide open for an attack from a savvy opponent. Gingrich has been smart enough to hang back in the debates so far and just try and look like the smartest guy in the room – if it’s just the two of them on stage (or, just him, Romney and Paul), the long knives will come out. That could be enough to really turn the momentum around.
That said, I think that the rest of the field will stay in the field for long enough to muddy the waters. Romney will continue to consolidate his support and run as if he already has the nomination. He’ll do well in the early primaries and Republicans will start to read the writing on the wall, and he’ll have a commanding lead before any of the other candidates can unite the opposition to Romney.