If there’s a scenario which causes movement conservatives to wake up in the middle of the night in a cold sweat, it is that deja vuish feeling that the 2012 GOP Presidential primary will be a redux of 2008; that a splintering of the conservative vote will allow Mitt Romney (aka The Flipper) to walz through the middle of the GOP nominating process with 30-35% of the vote and walk away w/the nomination much as Johnny Mac did in ’08 when, for example, he beat Romney by 7.5% in the California primary but walked away with 93% of the delegates. In a series of “winner-takes-all” primaries on Super Tuesday, McCain won a low plurality of the votes but walked away with an insurmountable number of delegates. And the rest, as they say, was history.
However, while reading an article earlier today on the arcane RNC rules governing this primary season in preparation for my duties as the Chair of our upcoming caucuses, I had a light bulb moment which will cause me to sleep like a baby tonight. I don’t know how many of you know this, or have contemplated the implications of this, but according to the new GOP rules, all primaries which occur prior to April 1 must award their delegates in the same proportion to the popular vote won by each candidate. After April 1, they are free to do as they please, i.e. proportional or winner-take-all.
And I believe that this is one of the great overlooked facets of this primary season. From my perspective, there are 3 conservative candidates, 1 loose Cannon who sometimes sounds like a conservative, other times not so much, 1 Flipper, 1 irrelevant ex-Chinese ambassador and 1 Fruitcake. The Flipper can’t breach 25%; the Fruitcake will have virtually no relevance after NH because his unhinged, ranting, naive foreign policy will never sell in the South and his strident fiscal policies will cost him in the purple areas of the country; the Cannon will remain viable only as long as conservative are willing to overlook his considerable baggage because they believe there are no other options (and his lack of cash will prevent him from slogging it out), and the irrelevant ex-Chinese ambassador is, well, irrelevant no matter how he does in NH.
Therefore, I believe that means this race will still boil down to Mitt Romney vs A Movement Conservative and from my perspective that means Perry, Santorum or Bachmann. Any reasoned analysis will conclude that due to the myopic effort that Bachmann and Santorum have put into Iowa, and their limited resources, their ability to continue their campaigns hinge wholly on their ability to finish in the top 4 at the Iowa Caucuses.
If one analyzes the dynamics of the race, and from whence support will ebb and flow, it’s highly unlikely that both Bachmann and Santorum will finish in the top 4 and it is quite likely that neither will make the top 4 in which case both of their campaigns are over. If one of the two manages to come out of IA, then they will be mano-a-mano w/Perry for the Conservative and Evangelical mantle because Perry’s coming out of Iowa no matter what.
Why do I believe that, you may ask? Because Perry’s got the financial pockets and the organization to make it all the way through Super Tuesday . And once it’s down to mano-a-mano, I believe that Perry’s superior organization and money will enable him to emerge as the conservative alternative to The Flipper.
What had been keeping me up at night, until my lightbulb moment, was that by the time the 3-legged stool conservative vote coalesced around one candidate, Mitt would have amassed so many delegates that the conservative alternative would be facing the ‘inevitability’ meme and would never be able to catch up. However, because of the proportionate awarding of delegates (and here’s where Ron Paul and Newt Gingrich should be welcomed by Perry devotees) Romney isn’t going to be able rack up huge swaths of delegates in February and March like John McCain did. And once it comes down to Perry vs Romney vs Paul, Romney will get his 25-30% of the RINO vote…Paul will get his 10-15% of the Loon vote, and Perry will garner 55-65% of the rest of the vote.
My prediction? If the top four in Iowa are (in no particular order) The Flipper, The Cannon, The Fruitcake and The Governor….Rick Perry will be our nominee… and the next President of the United States.
And I’ll polish off a bottle of tequila again on Election Day…except this time for the right reason.