The other thing is that there's a track to the nomination for anyone who comes out a clear second to Romney in early primary states. If Iowa and New Hampshire winnow down the candidates to where it's Romney versus any one other Republican, the large number of Republicans who find Romney unacceptable can be united. It's not only important for Romney that he win Iowa -- it's important that it come out being something like 30-20-20 in his favor rather than 30-25-15. In the first scenario, there's no clear person for later-state Romney haters to align behind. In the second scenario, there is.
One of the things that made the war in Libya so interesting from a purely military-strategy viewpoint was how different the two sides were. Gadhafi had a conventional army with lots of tanks and trained soldiers. The Free Libyan forces had a ragtag band of dudes with small arms backed up by awesome NATO airpower. It was interesting to see who would win, with the two forces so differently configured. If Gingrich, or really any Republican other than Perry, is at a major national polling advantage over Romney when the Iowa caucuses come around, Iowa and New Hampshire are going to be interesting in much the same way.
I've got a few things to say about this post, Neil, but I'll start off with the obvious one: it just doesn't seem likely to me that Newt will be polling this well a month from now; he's probably at the peak of his sub-orbital flight.
The problem is that each candidate in turn - Trump, Bachmann, Perry, Cain - looks pretty good just before their rise in the polls draws increased scrutiny. And inevitably the scrutiny brings them down.
It's Newt's turn.
The follwing teaser appeared yesterday on the front page of the wingnut rag, The Examiner:
How Newt Cashed In
After House, Gingrich Pushed Corporate Welfare
I'm not sure what GOP faction the Examiner's aligned with, but obviously somebody has it in for ol' Newt. And while corporate welfare may be just fine with the people who actually run the GOP, it still doesn't sit well with primary voters.
And Lord knows that's got to be just the start. If Newt were a quadruped, he'd still have far more Achilles' heels than legs.
I would bet against Newt's brush with the lead lasting much longer than Perry's or Cain's or Trump's.
I think if Newt's bubble lasts as long as Cain's bubble, Newt has a pretty good shot at winning. It's not that long until Iowa, and the timing is right.
Now if the stuff you're talking about actually takes him down, he'll have a shorter bubble and lose. But he's a better politician than the others and won't do as terrible a job of damage control than, say, Cain. Plus, these scandals are less juicy.
Second thing is, I disagree with your contention that there's a clear path to the nomination for whoever comes out a clear second to Romney in the early states.
So much depends on who that 'clear second' is, and what both the primary electorate and the big donors have concluded about them.
If the 'clear second' is Herman Cain or Ron Paul, it's game over - Romney's won. And at this point, it looks as if that's true even if Perry is the guy running second - his donors seem to have deserted him. And being second in the early primaries is no good if you don't have the money to continue to compete.
Who knows whether this will apply to Gingrich, but so far he hasn't exactly been a prodigious fundraiser to begin with, despite his connections.
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