Republicans and talking heads are all going crazy with the wildly fluctuating poll numbers heading into the Iowa primary next week. Each time a poll is released, there is a new front runner. Romney, then Gingrich, then Paul, then back to Romney, Santorum on the rise, Perry on the rise ... on and on.
It's as if Iowa is the 2012 election itself.
The only reason the results in Iowa are important is that it is the first state to hold a primary.
How important are the results? Does victory in Iowa give the winner the Republican nomination? Does defeat kill a campaign?
Victory ... No. The winner of the Republican primary in Iowa has gone on to secure the Republican nomination 4 out of the last 6 times there was not an incumbent Republican President. In 2008, Mike Huckabee won with 34% of the vote. Mitt Romeny was second, Fred Thompson (remember him?) was third. John McCain, the eventual nominee was fourth with just 13% of the vote.
Defeat ... depends on who it is, and how strong a showing in defeat they have. Iowa can weed out the bottom feeders, stop campaigns that have no hope before they go any further. For strong candidates, a defeat in Iowa will not cause them to get out of the race. There is no way any of the top 4 vote getters will give up (and no way Ron Paul will give up even if he receives 0 votes - he's such a loon).
I believe that Gingrich is done for. His flash in the pan stardom mirrors that of Herman Cain - initial interest, until his 'issues' start to come out and folks get to know more about him. Newt is sometimes brilliant, sometimes an absolute dunce. There are good reasons he was pretty much run out of politics in the 90s.
Romney just keeps plodding along. Polling numbers don't vary much, he's pretty much a known quantity. A few new items are popping to the surface now that are going to come into play on down the road, giving hope to his rivals of taking him down a few points. Romney is the middle of the road candidate - moderates like him, because he is not conservative. Conservatives don't like him for that very reason. If Romney ends up being the nominee, as looks likely, there is a very real danger of a vast number of conservative Republicans choosing not to vote in November - which will hand victory to Obama, just as it did in 2008.
Ron Paul is dangerous. His high poll numbers in Iowa are going to give his ego a boost and keep him in this thing longer, continuing to screw up the Republicans. He will ultimately drop out as a Republican, tell all his followers that no one who gets the nomination is worthy of voting for, and quite likely end up as running on a third party ticket. If he does that, Obama will win the election, because all the votes Paul sucks off will come from Republican ranks, thereby diluting Republican/conservative voting strength. Remember Ross Perot? Thanks to him we got 8 years of Bill Clinton.
Santorum and Bachman have no realistic chance at the nomination. I think they both know it, and are just waiting for a true frontrunner to emerge so they can drop out and endorse. It is too early for them to do so, because chances are good that they might choose the wrong bandwagon to jump on to, embarrass themselves, and guarantee they won't have any part in an upcoming Republican Administration.
Rick Perry, I think, is still going to be a force to reckon with as we move forward. He will do well to finish fourth in Iowa. He will be off the bottom of the board in New Hampshire. He may be middle of the pack in South Carolina. If his campaign can survive those early tests and get him by the first wave of dropouts, I think he has a very good chance of rising again to challenge Romney. That is, of course, if he doesn't keep shooting himself in the foot (or mouth, as the case may be).
A spoiler could be Donald Trump. His continued threats to run as an independent will have the same effect as if Paul runs on a third party ticket. He won't steal as many votes away from the Republican nominee, but every one he does take will come from the Republican side. You can be sure that if Trump runs, it won't be for political gain or cause, it will just be him stroking his own ego.
A Democrat dream would be for Romney to win the nomination, and both Paul and Trump to run on third party tickets. That would give Obama a landslide victory.
Republicans just have to realize that we do not have a strong, Reagan-like candidate to go up against Obama. Republican candidates have to realize this, and keep their egos from killing our chances. Stop with the negativity, stop with the personal attacks, get the hell out of the race if you have no chance. As voters, we have to understand that, and rally behind whoever the nominee is, for the one and only priority that we have to focus on is getting Obama out of office.