The Iowa caucuses are only days away, on Tuesday, January 3, 2012. The media and political observers are focussed on this event as the first contest of the Republican candidates for president in Election 2012.
The race in Iowa is now between Ron Paul and Mitt Romney. Newt Gingrich has fallen rapidly in the polls in the Hawkeye State, since he has more political and personal baggage than a Samsonite factory. The reality is, however, that if Ron Paul wins in Iowa, it will do virtually nothing to enhance his chances of being nominated at the August, 2012 convention in Tampa. His views on both foreign policy and social issues are too much at variance with the Republican grassroots nationally for him to have even a remote chance for the nomination.
By contrast, the GOP presidential nomination is there for Romney to win or lose in January. There is a series of three primaries in January of which Mitt must win two: New Hampshire on Tuesday, January 10, South Carolina on Saturday, January 21, and Florida on Tuesday, January 31.
Romney is the only presently declared candidate who can both win the nomination and the election against President Barack Obama. If Mitt wins two out of these three January primaries, he will be well on his way to a first ballot presidential nomination. If he fails to do so, GOP leaders will look outside the present field for their nominee.
Mitt Romney would be an excellent managerial President of the United States. Despite allegations to the contrary, his success at Bain Capital qualifies him as a person of deep understanding of how the private sector creates jobs. Unfortunately, his role in the creation of the Massachusetts health care system has made him suspect in some conservative circles. This “Romneycare” controversy, however, will be a matter of the past if Mitt gains virtual control of the nomination in January.
A victory in Iowa would give Romney significant momentum as he heads into New Hampshire the following week. Mitt currently leads the field by a wide margin in the Granite State. Victories in both Iowa and New Hampshire would generate further momentum for Mitt as he goes forward into South Carolina and Florida.
South Carolina and Florida will pose much more difficult challenges for Romney. Polls show Mitt trailing Newt Gingrich by double digit margins in both states.
Anti-Mormon prejudice is, unfortunately, widespread in South Carolina. Despite the endorsement of Governor Nikki Haley, it is doubtful that Romney can win the South Carolina primary. Haley herself has been subject to severe criticism in some conservative circles in the Palmetto State, and her endorsement is only of limited value.
Florida is a different matter. An endorsement by popular former Governor Jeb Bush could go a long way towards erasing Newt’s lead over Mitt in the Sunshine State. Last week, Jeb’s father, the former President George H.W. Bush endorsed Mitt Romney for President. We can expect the Jeb endorsement of Mitt to be made some time soon after the New Hampshire primary.
If the Jeb Bush endorsement enables Romney to win the Florida primary, Mitt will be the GOP’s presidential nominee in 2012. Otherwise, expect leading national GOP leaders to attempt to draft Jeb Bush for the Republican presidential nomination, the same Jeb Bush whose endorsement is critical to Romney’s success in Florida.