Mitt the Inevitable?
Last night's Republican debate in New "First-primary-in-the-nation" Hampshire resulted in making Mitt Romney the clear favorite if not the inevitable nominee. Rick Perry had the most to lose and he lost it. With Romney the clear front runner, Perry had to either attack him and take him down a peg or two, or at least shine on his own as the new Ronald Reagan. He did neither.
While Perry was hyped to the moon initially as the great white hope and has had a long and successful career winning elections in Texas, he hasn't been able to make the jump to national politics, where the press is not quite as docile as in Texas. Bragging and blustering and posturing get you far in Texas, but that doesn't work at all in Iowa and New Hampshire. Still, writing him off completely this early is a bit premature, but if he doesn't get his act together fast, he's toast.
A lot of pundits said Herman Cain was the big winner. He is rising in the polls and is good with quips. Anyone who thinks the Republican Party will nominate Herman Cain is smoking something pretty potent and inhaling it. The Republicans are more likely to nominate Hillary Clinton than they are to nominate Herman Cain. He's just the flavor of the month--or maybe in his case the topping of the week--but nothing more. He's just another flash in the pan, in the same line that included Donald Trump, Michelle Bachman, Rick Perry, and now Herman Cain. When the actual voting starts, he has to compete in Iowa and New Hampshire first--essentially all-white states. Then comes South Carolina, a state with many black voters, but they are all Democrats. Then Nevada, with its large Mormon population. Where could Cain win an early contest? Nowhere.
The core problem the Republicans have is that Romney is not popular with large segments of the party, but they don't have anyone else. Everyone else who steps up to bat strikes out. Romney is the last man standing. Perry had lots of money, lots of experience, good advisors, but ultimately it is up to Perry. He brings to mind an old joke. A company that manufactures dog food is seeing poor sales so the CEO hires a top-grade animal nutritionist, a very experienced product packager, and a world-class marketing manager and tells them to improve sales. Six months later, he meets with his team and sales are still poor. He asks what is going on since he has great people working for him. A small voice pipes up: "The dogs won't eat the stuff." So it seems to be with Perry as dog food. The sales team is great and the budget is more than adequate, but the product itself really isn't very good. This defect is hard to fix.
The Republican establishment is starting to see Romney as inevitable and is beginning to close ranks around him. Gov. Chris Christie (R-NJ) endorsed Romney yesterday. Expect more endorsements. Christie might be angling for the Veep slot though. He has said he is not ready for the presidency many times, but he could run for Veep saying that in 4 or 8 years of sitting on Romney's knee and learning the ropes, he could be ready in 2020.
What do the tea partiers do now? They don't trust Romney, but with Perry sinking and Cain just not serious, they don't have a candidate. Furthermore, since Florida moved its primary to Jan. 31 and Iowa's caucuses are tentatively set for Jan. 3, there is no time for anyone else to enter the race, unless that person is already very widely known. Sarah Palin could probably do it, but she has said she is not running. There is basically nobody left, so barring a huge upset in a key early state (e.g., Perry winning New Hampshire), it is beginning to look like Obama vs. Romney. If Ron Paul decides to run as an independent, many of the tea partiers would vote for him, thus guaranteeing an Obama landslide. Paul knows this and is unlikely to run. Besides, he ran for President in the 1988 general election as the candidate of the Libertarian Party. His 15 minutes of fame have come and gone. So if Romney is the GOP nominee, the tea partiers are going to have to bite the bullet or hold their noses or however you want to put it, and support Romney, just as the Hillary Clinton supporters did during the Fall of 2008.
Such a race might produce a rarity in American politics, an issues-based campaign. Romney would say he wants to repeal Obamacare and Obama would say it is good thing and we must keep it at all costs. This is a major issue in which the candidates differ completely. It could be a change from the usual mudslinging.