With the Iowa caucuses finally over, there is now a virtual tie between Mitt Romney and Rick Santorum. Michele "Don't Look Directly at My Eyes" Bachmann and Rick "Oops" Perry are about to drop out of the race, leaving only a few contenders left to run as NotRomney:
1) Rick Santorum. He's riding high today, but don't expect this to last. He opposes contraception, which even most Catholics favor, and in his last campaign he lost his Senate seat by a whopping 18 points. The only reason he's done so well in Iowa is that (a) he spent a ridiculous amount of time there, retail campaigning, while the caucuses are very low-turnout affairs, and (b) he hasn't had time as a top contender to get media scrutiny as others have. The next couple weeks will be rough on him.
2) Ron Paul. How far can a candidate go when he's borrowing the platform of William McKinley? It's just not serious to ask us to go on the gold standard. While libertarianism is attractive in general, an extreme uncompromising form of it will get absolutely nowhere in reality, with a divided government as we have always had. Then there's the crackpot newsletters he's spent the past few weeks disavowing. He may "go the distance" but don't expect him to win the nomination.
3) Newt Gingrich. He was doing well in the polls until people realized this was Newt Gingrich.
4) Jon Huntsman. Completely skipping the Iowa caucuses may prove to be a big mistake, as this makes him miss a great deal of media attention. For whatever reason, he just never took off--even though he's fairly conservative (more so than Romney, I'd argue) and very qualified to be President (both governing a medium sized state and serving as ambassador to China). He lacked the Obama-bashing tone of his rivals, which may have convinced Republicans he was a secret liberal, but I think his failure to catch on may have simply been a lack of sellable message or poor national campaign skills. Unless he pulls a crazy upset in New Hampshire, he's done.
5) Mitt Romney. How could Mitt Romney run as the NotRomney? I'd say only Mitt Romney himiself could pull that off! He'd be at his flip floppingly best if he emerged on stage one day with a big fake mustache and glasses, and said he was Trey Romnekowski, an ultra-conservative steelworker turned politician from Pittsburgh, running for President on a strong message to save the party from Romneyism. Hey, why not? If people could believe that Michele Bachmann's husband can cure people of being gay, the Romnekowski campaign still wouldn't be the most outlandish thing to happen this campaign season.