In the last few weeks of the campaign for the Republican Presidential nomination, one thing has become perfectly clear, the choice of most conservatives is: Anything but Romney. You may think I’m wrong in this conclusion and reasonable people will have different opinions. However, let me give you a few facts.
Prior to the campaign season really beginning; i.e. before anything in Iowa, the field was two people Romney and the undeclared Palin. All polls showed that Romney was the front runner with Palin a distant second and then the remainder of the field. By the time of the CPAC conference in February, Romney finished second to Ron Paul with 23% of the vote to Paul’s 30%. This should have surprised no one as CPAC is one of the most conservative groups in the country and Paul is clearly their darling. The third place finisher Gary Johnson garnered 3% of the vote. Anyone at this point, would have thought that Romney would glide to the nomination.
After this, things started changing. Michele Bachmann entered the race as the Tea Party darling and started picking up substantial popularity, especially in the state of Iowa which is important because it is the first state to elect delegates to the National Convention. Immediately upon Ms. Bachmann’s emergence, Tim Pawlenty who had some support became an also ran. Ms. Bachmann gave a stunning performance in one of the first debates and immediately shot up to second in the polls. See e.g. “Is Michele Bachmann a Phenomenon About to Happen?”
Then, came the Iowa Straw Polls on August 13. It was expected to be a stronghold of Tim Pawlenty because of his Minnesota roots and was supposed to keep his election hopes alive. It did neither. What it did do, is remove Mitt Romney from the front runner status officially. Michele Bachmann came in first with 29% of the vote. Rick Perry finished ahead of Mitt Romney with 4.3% and Perry was not even in the race yet. In fact, front runner Romney did not even finish in the top five. Again, you can argue this didn’t matter as he didn’t really campaign there or care about Iowa, but let’s continue.
As a result of this unexpected finish in Iowa, Rick Perry entered the race. A mere two weeks later, a Fox news poll placed Rick Perry as the clear front runner with 26%. Romney finished second in the same national poll. Palin, still undeclared, finished with 8% and Ms. Bachmann only had 4%. Keep in mind that Perry and Bachmann have continued to perform rather dismally in each successive debate since they have entered the race. It began to look very clear that the Republican base was looking for an alternative to Romney.
And since then, it has just gotten clearer. Prior to the September 22 debate, a Gallup poll showed that Perry was the clear front runner with 29%. Romney was a distant second with 17%. Ron Paul had his usual 13% and Michele Bachmann had fallen to 10%. On September 22 at the Fox News/Google debate, Herman Cain and Newt Gingrich gave surprisingly strong performances. Perry and Bachmann both looked ill prepared. The general consensus was that Romney had swept the floor with all of them and was the clear winner. But, there was a stirring and excitement growing about Herman Cain and his 9-9-9 plan.
The stirring proved to be prophetic because out of nowhere Herman Cain won the Florida Straw Poll with a clear majority of 37% of the vote. Perry finished second slightly ahead of Romney with 15.4%. This is more of a shock to Perry than Romney as Perry was beginning to look like he would sweep the south in the primaries based upon national polling data. But, what is shows is that both Perry and Romney are losing momentum at a time when they should be picking it up. My opinion is that Perry’s debate performance and liberal stance on immigration is beginning to hurt him with the base. Again, you can argue that Romney is not strong in the south so this did not matter.
However, Romney is doing everything right and he is still not gaining any momentum or any polling numbers. In fact, he is falling deeper into the pack.
More evidence of this desire for it to be anybody but Romney occurred on Tuesday, September 27. Chris Christie who has been saying ad infinitum that he would not be running for President was giving a speech at the Reagan Center in Southern California. During the question and answer period, a women practically begged Christie to run. A standing ovation ensued. The Twitter world went nuts because for the first time, Christie did not say no. He did not say yes either, but he did not say no. In the ensuing 24 hours, it has been nothing but Christie in the Blogosphere and elsewhere.
Because nobody wants Romney; plain and simple. Christie may declare himself and shoot to the top of the polls in the manner of Bachmann, Perry and now Cain. He will then either perform and stay at the top or pull a Perry and/or Bachmann and slowly disappear. Hopefully, it will be the former. But, if it is the latter, it will again make my hypothesis clear: Anybody, but Romney.