When I travel abroad, as I do with some frequency, I am nearly always asked who the nominee of one party or the other is likely to be. And when I have my wits about me, if we are not already deep into the primary season, I reply that nobody knows. Politics in most countries is far more predictable than it is in the United States. Who would have predicted in January, 1991 that William Jefferson Clinton would be elected President in November, 1992? Who would have predicted in March, 2007 that Barack Obama would be elected President in November, 2008? Who would have predicted that either would be their party’s nominee? In the United States, politics is a bit like grand opera. It ain’t over until the fat lady sings.
I say this as a prelude to drawing your attention to a blogpost by Rhodes Cook on Larry Sabato’s Crystal Ball entitled 2012 Republican Race: The Field May Not Be Closed. It examines with very great care the unfolding logic of the Republican race – with considerable attention paid to the order in which the primaries take place and the filing deadlines. Cook’s contention is that — if Mitt Romney stumbles, or if neither Newt Gingrich nor Rick Perry garners a commanding lead in the early primaries and caucuses — another contender could enter the race as late as Valentine’s Day and win the nomination. This has Bill Kristol at The Weekly Standard excited, as well it might.
Count me a skeptic, but do not for a second suppose that I know what I am talking about. I thought that Rick Perry would be formidable. I never imagined that Herman Cain would emerge, even briefly, as a front-runner. I did not think that Newt Gingrich, given his record, had a chance. My mistake was that I failed to recognize just how great an impact the televised debates would have.
One of the reasons that one cannot predict what is going to happen in Presidential sweepstakes is that there is always a new wrinkle in the campaigns. Last time out, Mike Huckabee used e-mail lists to mount a low-cost campaign and win the Iowa Caucus. Last time out, Barack Obama outwitted Hillary Clinton and gamed the caucus states. Who knows? Rhodes Cook may be right that this time out the schedule of the Republican primaries and caucuses provides an opening for a late entry.
Read Cook’s piece. Judge for yourself. And let me know what you think. And if there were a late entry with the moxie to pull this off, who might it be? Jeb Bush? Paul Ryan? Marco Rubio? Mitch Daniels?