The 2012 Republican Primary has been shaping up to be every bit as insane as liberals could have hoped for. Between Donald “Birther” Trump, the CEO of Godfather Pizza, and the complete implosion of Newt Gingrich we’ve already been taken on quite a rollercoaster ride. And as the real race starts to pick up, it’s only going to get wilder, because I think Michele Bachmann just may win this thing. Now here me out. Yes Bachmann wants to bring back the House Un-American Activities Committee, and yes she thinks that gay people are possessed by Satan, and no none of that will matter to Republican primary and caucus voters. Instead look at the dynamics of the race.
Romney is undoubtedly the frontrunner right now having never stopped campaigning from 2008. But his failure to close in Iowa last time coupled with his decision not to go all in there this time means that the earliest he can hope to lock down the nomination will be in New Hampshire. And that presents a two-fold problem for him. First, it guarantees that the media will create a Not-Romney candidate, almost certainly the winner of Iowa. Coronations are never good for ratings, and after the excitement of the Clinton/Obama slugfest in 2008 they’re going to want a repeat. And second, because New Hampshire is such an ideal state for Romney, his frontrunner status, universal name recognition, and vaunted fundraising prowess it’s going to be almost impossible for him to exceed expectations there, and indeed it may be difficult for him to even meet them.
As recently as four months ago his campaign was predicting that he’d raise $50 million by the end of the second quarter. Official numbers will be released on Friday, but campaign sources are saying he’s raised less than half of that, and probably less than $20 million. Being the frontrunner this far out also means that every other Republican in the race will be gunning for him over the next six months, and between Romneycare, his admitting that global warming is both real and caused by man, and his recent stumble over whether Obama’s stimulus was effective or not, they’ll have plenty of ammunition. Which has had the cumulative effect of him dropping 12 points from 37% to 25% in New Hampshire over the last three months. And his universal name recognition means most people have already made up their mind about him and he has an uphill battle to improve support.
So what about the potential Not-Romney’s? Tim Pawlenty seemed a solid choice, except he is the most boring man alive and proved himself unwilling to press his advantage in the last debate. I’ve had nightmares about a Huntsman/Rubio ticket in 2016 for the last few years, but with the stink of his time in the Obama administration still fresh and his bizarre decision to completely skip Iowa and the name recognition it could bring, at best he steals 5-10% of Romney’s vote in New Hampshire. Herman Cain is quickly collapsing as his staff quits him in Iowa because apparently being CEO of a Pizza Company did not actually teach him anything about campaigning. Ron Paul is Ron Paul. And Newt Gingrich is currently polling with the margin of error of zero.
Which leaves us with Michele Bachmann. A prodigious fundraiser originally hailing from Iowa and serving in Congress from a neighboring state give her a hometown advantage there that is magnified by evangelical and tea party roots being a perfect fit for the Hawkeye State. That’s enough to get her statistically tied in Iowa with Romney for the last month. Add in Republican campaign strategist extraordinaire Ed Rollins and his 2008 team that led Mike Huckabee to a shocking first place finish in Iowa and suddenly she has the makings of an impressive victory there. Which then takes her on to New Hampshire, where while Romney has dropped 12 points over the last three months, she’s shot up 14 to 18%. With room to grow on her name recognition in the state coupled with being the logical inheritor of Cain and Gingrich supporters after Iowa, all it would take was Huntsman over performing expectations there to drag Romney down enough for a surprise upset in the Granite State. Even in the more likely scenario where she simply comes in a strong second, she’ll head strong into South Carolina whose evangelical voter base will favor her over Romney. Leaving her going into the Nevada Caucus 2-1 against Romney, who will be pitting his Mormon roots against her superior voter enthusiasm, which in a caucus can be deadly. Romney’s whole campaign has been based off him being an inevitable juggernaut that the Republican base was just going to have to accept. If he goes into Super Tuesday against a well-funded Tea Party darling it’s anyone’s guess what happens next.
Now a lot can change in the next 6 months, and either Palin or Perry entering the race would throw a huge wrench into Bachmann’s plan. But with Intrade having Bachmann at only 17.5% if I had any money I’d be betting on that going up significantly before this is over. And if I were Romney, I’d be on the phone to Wasilla, Alaska.