January 11, 2012

This past week, I think, will go down in this year’s election roller-coaster ride as the week that the Republican field defined itself in terms of who’s in it for the long-term and who is not. It’s pretty easy to figure out who the ones with lasting power are and aren’t. Let’s take a look at the winners and losers of tonight’s debate in order:

1. You can now call Mitt Romney the presumptive nominee for the GOP this year. While it remains to be seen whether or not he really won the Iowa caucuses (I’m guessing his 8-vote win over Rick Santorum will not hold up and he’ll finish second by a dozen votes or so), he did win New Hampshire, and barring any crazy stuff, will win both the South Carolina and Florida primaries, leaving him a clear path to the nomination. It didn’t have to be that way, but Texas Governor Rick Perry has run an awful campaign, performing poorly in debates and now going after Romney for his role at Bain Capital (something right out of the Occupy Wall Street handbook), and Newt Gingrich has imploded, showing the kind of “evil Newt” tendencies that ran him into so much disfavor as Speaker of the House back in the late ’90s.

2. Ron Paul is quickly emerging as the anti-Romney candidate, but do Republicans really want a candidate who’s basically an isolationist libertarian to run against Barack Obama? Look, I agree with a lot of what Dr. Paul says when it comes to the bloated federal government, crony capitalism, and the Fed’s monetary policy, but his ideas about foreign policy are off-the-chart insane in the kind of world we live in. Still, he’s racked up two solid showings in Iowa and New Hampshire, and if I’m Rick Santorum, I’m spending the next week going after Paul for the very reasons I mention above. A strong showing by Paul in South Carolina would be devastating to the rest of the GOP field.

3. Rick Santorum’s showing after Iowa was a disappointment, and I’m guessing he’s regretting that he spent any time and resources in New Hampshire this week, given that he has nothing to show for it. I think he would have been better off ceding NH to Romney and exploiting his Iowa showing and solid conservative credentials with the folks in South Carolina. He really had no chance in NH, so why bother when there are far more important battles to be won. Sometimes discretion is the better part of valor. Even though he finished in the back of the pack, the fact his campaign continues to take the high ground (unlike Rick Perry and Newt Gingrich) may bode well for primary opportunities ahead. Look for Santorum to ramp up his attacks on Ron Paul in the next week, since it’s Paul who’s the only one in his way to being the true “anti-Mitt”.

4. Rick Perry, only because he spent the week doing what Santorum should have been doing. Only problem is, his over-the-top criticism of Romney’s Bain Capital experiences a day after Newt opened up that front made him look like he was piling on. But that’s typical for Perry’s entire campaign, which has been poorly run from the start. His poll numbers better start ticking upward in SC in the next few days, or he risks not even making the cut for the next debate Monday night (hosted by Fox News, which has a poll % minimum requirement).

5. Jon Huntsman, who finished a disappointing (for him) third in NH. Two questions here: 1) is there a more boring and uninspiring candidate in the field? And, 2) does anyone really care what this guy thinks? I mean, he pours all his money and resources into NH with a strategy that a solid second would make him the defacto anti-Mitt (not a bad idea in and of itself); then, not only does he finish behind Paul by a lot, his speech is more warmed-over crap that you’ve already heard him say numerous times during the debates. I mean, maybe the guy has some legitimate ideas, but a candidate that generates less enthusiasm I don’t recall ever seeing.

6. Newt Gingrich. I have to admit, I’m very disappointed in Newt. Sharp, articulate, engaging, combative, and interesting in the debates, over the past week he’s turned into a nasty, bitter, confrontational figure hell-bent on destroying Romney in every way. Sure, Romney’s PAC ads in Iowa got under his skin, but if he didn’t think his Washington connections were going to get scrutinized in a primary contest he’s not as smart as he thinks he is. Hard to believe that just a month ago he was leading in the polls, but his vanity got the best of him and now his campaign has imploded, leaving him looking like the Old Man Potter of the field, a warped, frustrated old man.

So what happens in the next couple of weeks? Watch for Romney to sharpen his economic focus to further distinguish himself from Barack Obama in the hopes of solidifying his conservative credentials. Santorum goes hard after Paul to try and get a second or third in SC and Florida so he can become the “anti-Mitt” conservative. Perry’s campaign ends after a disappointing finish in SC. Gingrich continues to hang on, hoping for a miracle but drops out after Florida. And as for Huntsman, who cares?

Filed in: Politics & World Events by The Great White Shank at 00:35 | Comments (0)
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