Monday, January 2, 2012
I wasn't going to do one of those 2012 predictions, but I just can't resist. Herewith are the official Free Will predictions for the Republican presidential nomination race:
1. Newt Gingrich will fail to reach 10% in the Iowa caucuses. He will also fail to reach 10% in South Carolina or Florida. Like Howard Dean in 2004, he will continue competing, but will not be a factor.
2. Michele Bachmann will fail to crack 5% in Iowa, and will drop out of the race. Which will be too damn bad.
3. John Huntsman will fail to crack 10% in New Hampshire and will drop out of the race.
4. Rick Satorum will slightly under-perform in Iowa (I'd say 15%). His message and persona will fail to spark any interest in South Carolina, and he will drop out of the race.
5. Rick Perry will slightly over-perform in Iowa, and then do very well in South Carolina. He will try to make a serious play for the Tea Party/Sarah Palin/Ron Paul vote, and even succeed at that for a while. But, when it comes time to slam Mitt Romney as Mr. Wall Street, he will be unable to do so without coming across as anti-business, not to mention inarticulate. (cue sound of Tim Pawlenty kicking himself in the a**).
6. Ron Paul will get over 20% of the vote in Iowa, New Hampshire, and South Carolina and several other states (but no big ones like Florida or Ohio). He will be the subject of withering media scrutiny previously reserved for the likes of Sarah Palin and Pat Buchanan, which hurt him, but not kill him outright. He will be joining Rick Perry and Mitt Romney on the debate stage for months. While much will be made of his "crazy uncle" ravings and his racist newsletters, no one in the professional media and political classes will wonder why his message is so potent as to attract significant support despite his manifest deficiencies. Look for Paul to have a major speaking slot at the convention as the price for keeping away from a third party run. Look also for that speech to be a 21st century version of 1992's "we are in a cultural war" barn burner.
7. Barring death, incapacity, or a thermonuclear-grade gaffe so embarrassing as to make him literally vanish into a hole in the ground, Mitt Romney will be the nominee. But, he's going to have to break a sweat to earn the nomination. Romney will rise to the occasion and take on Obama on his own turf, but it will be a close run thing. Conservative voters will turn out to vote for him in November, but will put most of their energy (and $$) into House and Senate candidates who promise to be "independent voices" in Washington, meaning they will run - in part - to act as a counter-weight to the Republican nominee.