Not that long ago, I wrote about how Rick Perry was unstoppably heading to the top of the Republican pack and how he was almost certainly going to be the nominee, since he’s the only one with all the superficial qualities that are necessary to be a GOP candidate. Well, now Rick Perry’s at 12.5% in the Real Clear Politics poll average, and the race actually looks like it’s now primarily between Mitt Romney and Hermann Cain. Didn’t see that one coming.
Here’s what I didn’t predict:
1. The power of ganging up on a candidate: One of the big factors that harmed Perry among Republicans was an entirely sane decision on Perry’s part to require HPV vaccinations among schoolchildren. Disease generally being bad, it makes sense to try to stop it. However, all the other candidates ganged up on Perry on this issue and others, making a probably right decision seem like something that everyone agrees was an attack on schoolchildren to favor a drug company. Funny thing is, Perry’s been involved in all sorts of political corruption allegations, but this one doesn’t even make the list. But people in general, and I suspect Republicans especially, hate to be on the side of the guy everyone is pummeling. It takes special, rare courage to stand up for someone like that, and none of the candidates – or pundits – or people Perry did corrupt favors for – seemed willing to stand up for him. Seeing their former favorite candidate getting beaten down by everyone, Republican voters walked away.
2. Rick Perry’s ability to screw himself: Perry certainly didn’t do himself any favors either. By all accounts, his debate performances have been weak. He fumbled an important attack against Romney to the point where the focus became Perry’s fumbling rather than what he was saying about Romney’s (very real) flip-flopping.
3. Mitt Romney’s ability to dodge attacks: Honestly, I thought Romney would be done by now, but he’s still there. Romney is actually not very conservative, but he’s a problem because he’s VERY close to Wall Street and probably hopes to accelerate the country’s sale to the highest bidder. Anyway, it’s clear that Romney has been undergoing some top-notch coaching since 2008, when he was a hopelessly awkward newcomer. But is it enough to make Republicans like him? My guess is still no.
4. $9.99: Advertisers have known for a long time that if you price something just under 10, you’ll sell it much easier. Practically, it makes no sense. I, and probably most other people, would imagine that we’d actually pay the extra cent just to avoid having to deal with the penny. However, sales figures show otherwise, and Herman Cain seems to understand that. Of course, the plan is horrible – it essentially redistributes taxes from the rich to the poor, which will lead to massive deficits and increased poverty. However, it’s strong enough to catapult a black guy to the front the Republican nomination race – according to RCP, Cain has a 0.5% lead on Romney. It looks like the best way to guarantee the Republican nomination may be to simply promise a 0% tax rate.
What’s going to happen now? Honestly, I have no idea. I still can’t imagine Romney or Cain winning because they each have certain characteristics that prevent them from being acceptable to large groups of Republicans. However, the race is so splintered that the winner of the early primaries will probably only need 25-30% of the vote. My best guess at this stage is that no one’s going to win. Not sure exactly how that will work, but it seems to be where everything’s headed.