There is no better moment to make predictions than hours before they can be tested. That in mind, what follows is my take on what we can expect to see on the the day of the Iowa Caucuses, and in the immediately following few weeks.
It’s critical to understand that we are standing on the precipice of a housecleaning. Iowa does not elect the president, but it does decide which candidates get to move forward. It’s time to lose some deadwood. Who knows, that fact might even provide a touch of spice to the coming debates.
My crystal ball:
Paul may eke a victory in Iowa with a small margin, but any tight finish is a win for Romney. Santorum will perform strongly, absorbing the last vapors of hope from the Perry and Bachmann campaigns. Gingrich will likely stay in the double digits, and will make vague shouts after the tally about staying in the race for the next few states. He probably won’t, as his fundraising will collapse following a fourth place finish.
Perry and Bachmann will both begin to look for an open door the very next day. Romney, ebullient after a strong finish in the first state (where he had been written off some hundred times in the last few months), will, in all likelihood, shortly pick up at least one of their endorsements. It will come down to monetary dance. Bachmann likely has enough debt that she is willing to go back on her previous sharp remarks on the Governor, provided he picks up her tab. Perry might have enough cash to close out his race sans the need to grovel. That will become clear once the numbers come out. However, given that his chance of endorsing Ron Paul is near zero, and with Gingrich set to fade away back to his Gollum-cave, his choices appear to narrow to one.
If he needs the money, expect him to say hello to Massachusetts quickly. If not, it could take time.
Paul’s campaign is geared up for the great spate of coming states, has the money to keep his candidacy going, and has more than enough of a volunteer base to keep pushing forward. However, once Romney locks up New Hampshire and does well in South Carolina, he will essentially be the nominee. Paul may force the longer slog, mostly because his base is unlikely to abandon him, even as the establishment coalesces around the only candidate that they ever found to be palatable.
At that point a two horse race is the reality (discounting Huntsman who is running, effectively, for the nomination in 2016 after Romney is womped by the sitting President), which will, after Romney locks down a host of delegates, culminate in a dull convention of broken dreams and bitter disappointment. Congratulations Mitt, you finally won. Not the general election of course, but you can count that your Wikipedia page will glom on a few new words.
And that’s that. The comments are yours: What do you see happening?