As I have long predicted, it is all coming down to South Carolina. The Republican Party nominee for President of the United States will largely be decided there.
Romney’s lead has narrowed greatly in the polls there since his triumphs of Iowa and New Hampshire. While in theory the contest continues until April, three in a row would pretty much sew it up. It would guarantee him Florida, and funding for future contests for other candidates would dry up. Probably only Ron Paul would be left to take the fight to him, and while the Conservatives in the GOP hate Romney, they don’t hate him that much.
We are at a point in the race where things have clarified. While Huntsman did well, he failed to get the bounce from New Hampshire he needed. Conversely, Santorum did so badly in New Hampshire that it all but canceled out his strong showing in Iowa. Perry needs South Carolina to stay in the race, but right now he is nowhere there. Ron Paul is Ron Paul. The only candidate in the race who can possibly win South Carolina besides Romney is Newt Gingrich (who one poll shows is within two points), and it is fair to say that unless he can find a lot of cash to keep going it is his last stand. The nominee will eventually either be Romney or Gingrich.
A Romney nomination would not be a disaster in itself. Both Romney and Gingrich come with baggage weighing them down, but both can beat Obama with a good campaign. And both would be miles better than Obama if President. But a Romney nomination would be a disaster for the Tea Party. It would be severely weakened in influence, and Romney’s easy win might see him move towards a mere “tinkering” platform, only opposed by the Paulbots who could be more easily marginalised. Personally, I think he is the weaker of the two candidates. He has some great qualities – he is clearly a good manager and has excellent composure. I think he would be a solid, but cautiously conservative President. Which to me could never be enough.
Newt would be much better. Sure, he occasionally says and does things that make you cringe, but that is how he lives and campaigns, and how he governed when he was Speaker. He is bold, radical, inspiring and visionary. He was the Tea Party before the Tea Party existed – the man who put together a cohesive platform for the GOP that retook the House for them, then implemented it, balancing the budget and reforming welfare. Unlike Mitt, he has been consistently Conservative and he has a track record of changing America for the better. He’s not perfect, but only Newt would properly implement a Tea Party agenda and be the radical that the US Government now requires to avoid further descent into disaster.
There are eight days before South Carolina votes, which, to coin a cliche, is a long time in politics. I can only hope that Newt pulls Mitt back, wins the primary, stays in the race, and keeps the Tea Party dream alive.