Election 2012: How Each Candidate Can Win
Barring a major change between now and the primaries this winter, someone among this group of five will likely be the Republican candidate for president in 2012. Each one has a path to victory and would represent a particular message that the GOP is sending to the American people for the 2012 elections.
Let's look at each of the five remaining major candidates and explore where they stand in the polls, their path to victory, and what their selection as nominee might mean for the Republicans in 2012. All polling data in this story utilizes an average of polls, aggregated at RealClearPolitics.com.
- National Polls: Second Place, 21.3 percent
- New Hampshire: First Place, 36.8 percent
- Iowa: Third Place, 17.0 percent
- South Carolina: Third Place, 18.0 percent
- Florida: First Place, 25.0 percent
Romney's Path to Victory Despite polls showing him in second place, Romney is in many ways still the frontrunner. He has more cash than Gingrich, and he's just not as prone to saying the kind of mindless, stupid thing that Gingrich is. He's also going to win New Hampshire and places well in the other key states. His path is simple: win New Hampshire, place in Iowa, and survive in good shape until Super Tuesday. The longer this drags out with Gingrich as his top competition, the more likely it is that Gingrich will say something stupid and derail Team Gingrich.
What a Romney Nomination Means to GOP in 2012 A Romney win would signal that the GOP is going to run on a "we're competent, we can fix the economy and create jobs" platform. This is their best chance at beating Obama, as he is vulnerable on the economy front. This paradigm also avoids talking about tax cuts for billionaires, which are not politically popular, or massive cuts to social programs, which are also not politically popular outside of the far right.
- National Polls: First Place, 23.8 percent
- New Hampshire: Second Place, 18.5 percent
- Iowa: First Place, 22.7 percent
- South Carolina: Second Place, 20.0 percent
- Florida: Third Place, 14.0 percent
Gingrich's Path to Victory Gingrich has turned from an absolute joke to a front-runner by virtue of two facts. One, he is not Mitt Romney. Two, all the other main contenders have had their turn as the anti-Romney, and have failed. It's simply his turn.
Unlike the other candidates, Gingrich might have a chance to parlay his strength into a win. He is leading nationally, which won't mean much until after these four early states have their say. He's in second in New Hampshire, and could close the gap on Romney now that he has a key newspaper endorsement there. If he can win Iowa and close the gap in New Hampshire, he could have this down to a three-man race (Romney and Paul) in minimal time.
Gingrich's victory depends on weeding out all the other anti-Romney candidates as quickly as possible, and then gaining the support of those voters. While Ron Paul isn't going anywhere, Perry and Bachmann are sure to drop out soon after the voting starts. Both of those camps have a chunk of voters more aligned with Gingrich than Romney or Paul.
What a Gingrich Nomination Means to GOP in 2012 If Gingrich wins, the GOP has decided its best bet is to relive the mid-1990s. Gingrich could push the party to adopt a reform it, don't kill it, agenda for social programs. He could also be the worst candidate since Mondale, and lose in a landslide.
- National Polls: Fourth Place Tie, 8 percent
- New Hampshire: Third Place, 13.3 percent
- Iowa: Fourth Place, 13.0 percent
- South Carolina: Sixth Place, 4.0 percent
- Florida: Fifth Place, 4.3 percent
Paul's Path to Victory Of the major contenders, Paul's path to victory is the most tenuous. There are three reasons for this. One, the media treats Ron Paul as if he doesn't exist. Two, Ron Paul's libertarian ideas are much more easily attacked than they are easily explained. Libertarians might understand the argument for cutting certain social programs, but average voters? Not so much. All they'll hear is "starving old people and killing babies" and run. That's a lot to overcome. Third, Paul is not a naturally slick, charismatic politician. He's a doctor who found another calling in politics. This leaves him without a broad constituency who follow him for anything other than his libertarianism.
That said, Paul does have a path to victory. It's a bit of a longshot, but I believe it is doable, if things go his way. First, he has to outpace Romney in Iowa. Cain is clearly imploding and will fall in that state, leaving Paul in at least third. He has to jump Romney and move into second place. This gives him momentum heading into New Hampshire, where he can make his charge and take another second place finish. This is enough to keep his campaign alive until the first wave of candidates drop out. If Santorum, Perry, and Bachmann all drop out, and if Gingrich starts to implode a little, Paul will get the benefit of extra voters. If Cain plummets in New Hampshire and Iowa (he is trending downward), those voters could come Paul's way as well.
Therefore, Ron Paul's path forward is to start pushing the social agenda and family-first parts of his program. His pro-life stance should be forefront in Iowa, South Carolina and Florida. He should highlight how his economic plans will help families far more than any other candidate (improved dollar, savings rates, low taxes, etc).
If Ron Paul fully embraces the Reagan style of libertarianism (and ignores the non-libertarian parts of it), and if he sells himself as the person who can get government the hell out of everyone's way (including parents, religious folks who feel persecuted, social conservatives, and so forth) he can capture the votes of everyone not beholden to Gingrich or Romney. He can make it a three-man race, and in those circumstances, he can win. Is it a big checklist? Sure. He needs all the cards to fall his way, and he needs a little luck.
He needs to expand his base by emphasizing family and religious freedoms, and he needs to point out that Gingrich and Romney are both big government Republicans. If I could give Paul any advice, it would be that.
What a Paul Nomination Means to GOP in 2012 A Ron Paul nomination would mean a sharp change toward libertarianism and an antagonistic relationship with more liberal elements in government. He could redefine the entire political spectrum.
- National Polls: Third Place, 15.5 percent
- New Hampshire: Fifth Place, 7.5 percent
- Iowa: Second Place, 17.7 percent
- South Carolina: First Place, 21.0 percent
- Florida: Second Place, 24.8 percent
Cain's Path to Victory For Herman Cain to win, he needs Gingrich to implode. This is entirely possible, because Gingrich has a tendency to say stupid, self-defeating things at times. Cain has scandals, but he also has the chance to put those scandals behind himself. If those two things can happen, Cain can re-emerge as a contender for the anti-Romney spot. He really needs to win Iowa, ignore his crappy finish in New Hampshire, and focus on winning South Carolina and Florida. If he can do those things, he has a shot.
What a Cain Nomination Means to GOP in 2012 If Cain wins, it means the GOP is not serious about reform or even defeating Obama in 2012. They would be conceding the race, losing the battle in the hopes of winning a larger war (reforming entitlements — popular among Cainites, but not so popular anywhere else).
- National Polls: Fourth Place Tie, 8 percent
- New Hampshire: Sixth Place, 3.0 percent
- Iowa: Sixth Place, 6.0 percent
- South Carolina: Fourth Place, 7.0 percent
- Florida: Fourth Place, 6.8 percent
Perry's Path to Victory Even if all the other candidates were to die in an outhouse fire, Perry would not be the nominee.
What a Perry Nomination Means to GOP in 2012 It would mean they have lost their damn mind.
Other candidates still have an outside shot, of course. Jon Huntsman could finish big in New Hampshire and win the hearts and minds of all 13 remaining moderate Republican primary voters. He is in fourth place right now, with 8.3 percent of the vote. Should Romney completely fall apart, Huntsman could become the anti-anti-Romney guy, if that makes any sense whatsoever.
Rick Santorum could win if, and only if, Americans were to wake up desiring to be led by a psychopathic religious nazi whose hatred for gays makes one wonder if Santorum is running out of room in that GOP closet. Gary Johnson and Buddy Roemer could win if they were given the chance to actually debate their ideas. Michele Bachmann could have won if her staff could have kept her AWAY from debating her ideas.
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