And then there were four - Gingrich, Romney, Paul and Santorum. To be honest, I'm pretty shocked to not see Perry in that list. On paper, Perry was really scary - served in the Air Force (not sure if in Vietnam or not), two time governor of Texas, seemed to be a true believer - but that was before he was exposed as an idiot at the debates. Anyway, without further ado, here are my thoughts on the last four remaining candidates:
Mitt Romney: As I've said, Romney's frontrunner status has defined the race - there has been a constant search for the anti-Romney leading to very strange frontrunners during the race. But what I didn't know is how much of a glass jaw Romney has. In a Republican primary, being a bruising capitalist for a company like Bain should be a net positive, and yet, Romney is still getting stung by the attacks. Yesterday, he said that he doesn't want to release his tax returns because the Obama campaign would have a field day (um, not the way to go, Mittens). And I still haven't heard about the attack ad to kill all attack ads being used against Romney. If anyone connected with the Gingrich or Santorum campaigns reads this, feel free to use this commercial:
Fade to black - show a grainy picture of Obama, with the caption "We all know that Obamacare is a socialist/marxist/Kenyan scam. But did you know that Obamacare is based on Mitt Romney's health care plan for Massachusetts." Then show a grainy picture of Mittens looking pissed. "You know what the difference between Mitt Romney's plan and Obama's plan? Mitt Romney's plan pays for abortions." Then cut to a picture of an aborted fetus, and finish with the line, "We need someone in Washington we can trust on our issues. Someone like _____." End commercial.
That would end Romney's candidacy in record time, IMHO. That said, Romney has money, he has connections, and he has institutional support. Against Obama, he has a decent shot. But he is really vulnerable right now. If anything, the last few weeks shows that if you catch Romney unprepared, he stumbles. And weirdly, you can catch him unprepared a lot. If he doesn't sew up South Carolina, then he will have a fight for the nomination that he may not be prepared for. I'd put his odds of winning at 1:1.
Newt Gingrich: Its amazing to say that a guy with a 59% unfavorability rating has a shot at the nomination, but Gingrich's place makes sense. He can legitimately associate himself with the 1994 conservative revolution, the Clinton boom of the late 1990's, and at the same time, separate himself from the Bush Administration's blunders. And with the possible exception of Tom Delay, Newt Gingrich can lay claim to the title of the leader of the modern conservative movement.
Those are the pros. The cons, of course, are his volatile personal life, his lobbying history, his ethical violations, and the fact that the overwhelming majority of the American people do not like him. But here's the thing, unlike Romney, most of Gingrich's blemishes are public and well-known. The ABC News interview with his second ex-wife was shocking, but not surprising. Everyone knows Gingrich is an asshole - he divorced his first wife after cancer surgery*. The best hits on him on the GOP side are those that connect him to the Bush Administration and Fannie Mae. The other good hit, the electability argument, isn't that much of a hit anymore either, because Romney ain't looking so good right now. In boxing terms, Gingrich is a puncher/brawler against a guy with a glass chin (Romney). Yeah, Romney should outbox him, but Gingrich has a puncher's chance. Odds of winning: 5:1
Rick Santorum: On the plus side for the frothy one, the Evangelical community has picked him as their appointed candidate. On the minus side, they waited until now to do so. Santorum might be able to gain some more steam coming out of South Carolina and into Florida. But, if I wanted to hit Santorum in the GOP primary, I'd hit him for his connection to the Bush Administration and earmarks. Plus, he doesn't really light up a crowd. Still a longshot, but if Romney keeps looking weak, and if Gingrich goes, well, Gingrich, then he's got a shot. 10:1.
Ron Paul: A non-factor, but a significant non-factor. Paul has his 15% of the vote, and he's going to keep churning out his 15% all the way to the convention. His foreign policy views limit his appeal to the GOP, and the newsletters he used to publish (and which included a lot of racist stuff) limits his appeal to independents and Democrats. On the other hand, he is setting up his son nicely for a run for President in the future. 100:1.
*Truth be told, Gingrich's first wife was kinda creepy - she was his high school math teacher, and they started dating when Gingrich was either 16 or 18. Either way, its pretty creepy on her part. So, he may be a sociopath, but he was a sociopath who was arguably molested as a teenager by someone in a position of authority over him. At the same time, he divorced his first wife after she had cancer, and his second wife after she got MS, which kinda says all you need to know about Gingrich.