Right now the four possible Republican candidates for President are Romney, Gingrich, Ron Paul and trailing the pack, Rick Perry. But the recent announcement that Gingrich and Perry failed to qualify for the very significant Virginia primary to be held March 6, 2012 pretty much establishes that Romney is going to be the nominee. Let's look at Ron Paul, Newt Gingrich and Rick perry individually.
Ron Paul has a good chance to win the Iowa caucuses according to Nate Silver. But he isn't likely to be able to build on that relatively strong showing in Iowa. His support is quite strong, but very narrow. Nate estimates that at the very best Ron Paul might be able to get about one-third of the Republican votes.
Nate bases his opinion on a series of polls. But his analysis comes from before the Republican establishment really started going after Ron Paul because he was beginning to appear to be a real threat to Romney. The growing chorus quoting Ron Paul's racist writings in his 1980's and 1990's news letters will lower these numbers. So will wider distribution of his views regarding pulling American troops back to the American shores and entering a new period of American isolationism.
Ron Paul's fervant supporters will keep him in the Republican nomination process until it ends, but I think Nate Silver's estimate as high as one-third of Republican voters is highly optomistic.
The next candidate to look at is Newt Gingrich. Newt's disorganization has jumped up to bite him big time. He has failed to qualify for the Virginia Primary which is to be held on Super Tuesday March 6, 2012. His campaign needed signatures from 10,000 registered voters, including 400 from each of the states 11 Congressional Districts. The Newt campaign could not organize itself well enough to achieve a relatively small admininstrative requirement by the deadline. This failure demonstrates what most observers already recognize - Newt is horribly disorganized.
It will be interesting to see if Newt's secretive backers and their Super Pacs who have funded Newt's recent rise from obscurity to being considered a viable candidate forthe Republican nomination as an alternate to Romney will continue throught the Spring.
Rick Perry, the only other non-Romney candidate likely to be able to compete into the Spring, also failed to qualify for the Virginia primary. Like Newt, Rick Perry has had the appearance of being a well-funded alternative to Mitt Romney. His series of gaffes in the debates have clearly demonstrated that he is not Presidential quality, but his deep-pocketed funders in Texas have been willing to shell out the money for the primary season anyway. I'm not sure what his funders thought they were going to buy, but it's pretty sure Rick Perry will never deliver to them. America as a whole is the winner here.
Given the weaknesses of Romney's three major opponents and the fact that the Republican establishment is circling the wagons in support of Mitt it looks like Mitt Romney will, as previously expected, be the Republican nominee for President.
Is there a chance this line up will change this spring? There's always a chance, but that chance is getting smaller and smaller. Without the Virginia votes on Super Tuesday Gingrich and Perry are very unlikely to be able to effectively challenge Romney. Ron Paul will never get over 35% of the Republicans and I'll be surprised if he gets 20%. The more Paul moves to become a real challenger the more the fact that he is utterly insane will become clear even to the Republican voters. The field of candidates really has winnowed down that tightly.
Both the tea partiers and the evangelical Republicans are going to make a lot of noise objecting to Romney, but as spring moves forward their hatred of Obama and the hope that Romney can defeat him will damp down that noise. As much as the evangelicals dislike Romney's Mormon religion, they hate Obama and the Democrats worse. They will hold their collective noses and prepare to vote for Romney in November.
The media is going to hate this. Where is the conflict that drives ratings and advertising? No drama Obama isn't going to give it to them, and while Romney will try to lure the media in he doesn't have much to offer them until after the Republican convention in August. That leaves the media in about a six months long silly season from Super Tuesday until the conventions. Then it will be Obama vs Romney - just as has been clear since last summer.