It’s kind of a shame there are four candidates, because there should be three, one for each of the strains of conservatism that are popular in America now.
We’ll start with Paul, since no one else ever does. Paul represents a diverse sub-group of the right. They include the Libertarians, young conservatives, conspiracy theorists, Neo-Nazis, anarchists, minarchists, Constitutional originalists, anti-Federalists, anti-United Nationists, and I’m sure some people I’m leaving out. Paul isn’t all of those things (I think he’s a conspiracy theorist, but he’s not a racist… it’s just that some of his ideas on removing protections for minorities appeal to racists). Rather, those are just some of the types of people who back him.
Santorum/Gingrich are typical Neocons in the same vein as Bush. They invoke Reagan, though rarely side with any of his policies, except as they pertain to lowering taxes. They were over-represented in this race, as Michele Bachman and Rick Perry were both also this type of Republican. This group is heavy with Evangelical Christians, and they rally around social wedge issues like opposition to gay marriage and abortion. This type is usually supported by the stereotypical stupid, uneducated Tea Bagger that the rest of us have come to know and loathe.
Herman Cain might be seen as one of these Neocons, but he’s really more like Romney than most people would probably imagine. Those in Romney’s camp rally around successful people, often businessmen (or in Reagan’s case, an actor). The Republicans who support these kind of candidates are more pragmatic than ideological, more realistic than idealistic, and they make up what might be seen as the educated moderates of the Republican party.
Romney is going to win the nomination, not on the strength of the moderate vote in the Republican party, but thanks to the sheer number of traditional Neocons in the race. While Huntsman is a clone of Romney, nearly all the voters in that camp went with Romney, which is why Huntsman gave up. While the departure of Perry will likely result in more consolidation of the Neocon vote, it is still split between Santorum and Gingrich, who both trail Romney by double digit figures in South Carolina and Florida.
What’s more, Gingrich was the clear national favorite over Santorum, but it’s likely that the revelation of details regarding his philandering will not play well among women or social conservatives. Everything has been going wrong for the Neocon candidates since day one, and Romney has weathered the storm by simply not being wretched human scum.
The bar is incredibly low, and Romney has managed to keep his nose clean on all matters Republicans care about. Sure, he’s rich thanks to his father and he has been gaming the tax system, but Republicans don’t care about that. Every Republican imagines he will one day be rich… though I’m not sure how it’s possible to just one day wake up and have been born into a wealthy family. Maybe they believe in reincarnation…
At any rate, the race will undoubtedly be shaken up by South Carolina. Expect at least one candidate to drop out before Florida, and if current numbers are anything to go by, it will be Santorum. Even if there’s a three-man race going into Florida, Gingrich will still be an underdog to take Florida.
Ron Paul will probably have a poor showing in both South Carolina and Florida, though look for him to at least beat Stephen Colbert in South Carolina (who is being represented by those who vote Herman Cain; he cannot get on the ballot, but he can have people vote for candidates on the ballot who have dropped out). Paul will shine in the coming races, where he may garner big support in Nevada, Colorado, and/or Minnesota. He may also beat any Neocon candidate still in the race when Maine’s week-long caucus ends on February 11th.
Super Tuesday seems so far away (March 6th). It’s almost inconceivable for more than two candidates to still be in it, but Neocons are adamant about Gingrich staying in the race. If this turns out to be the case, Romney will have a rough general election to look forward to. Paul and Romney both run the kinds of campaigns that don’t leave the other crippled, but Gingrich has a scorched earth strategy that is bound to make him a serious threat to Romney’s electability come November, though Gingrich has almost no chance of winning the nomination himself.
What do you think? Is Romney a shoe-in to win the nomination? What are his chances against Obama? Will Romney and Gingrich get hit by a meteor, catapulting Ron Paul to the status of front runner?