By Laura K. Garrison
|Gov. Mitt Romney|
With the coming of the New Year, the race for the Republican nomination has reached the home stretch. Now one caucus and two primaries in, no clear candidate has emerged for the GOP, while President Obama launches his reelection campaign. Assuming that this is your first time voting in a presidential election (remember to register if you haven’t already!), you will now have a voice in helping decide the course of the nation during this critical period in America’s political history. Here’s a cheat sheet of what’s happened (and what still could go down).
The number of candidates has dwindled over the weeks,. After disappointing returns in her home state during the Iowa caucuses on January 3rd, Representative Michele Bachmann announced that she was ending her campaign the following morning. After forsaking Iowa for New Hampshire where he received his third-place “ticket to ride,” former Utah Governor and Ambassador to China Jon Huntsman withdrew from the race on January 16th, endorsing former Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney. Though his lack of time in the spotlight undoubtedly contributed to Huntsman’s decision, it may have been partially motivated by polls that reported him behind Stephen Colbert in the comedian’s home state of South Carolina. On January 19th, Texas Governor Rick Perry suspended his campaign after reassessing his unlikely odds in the Palmetto State. Perry endorsed former Speaker of the House Newt Gingrich.
Four candidates remain in the running for the Republican nomination. Representative Ron Paul has stayed in the race, though he is getting little media (and less and less voter) attention. Former Senator Rick Santorum (Google it at your own risk) remains in the race and is the favorite of evangelicals and social conservatives. The two heavy hitters, however, are Mitt Romney, the fallback candidate of moderate Republicans and Newt Gingrich, his tenacious opposition.
|Speaker Newt Gingrich|
On January 3rd, I (and the political analysts of the 24-hour news networks), stayed up until two in the morning as the votes in the Iowa were reported and re-reported, a la the 2000 election. By the end of the night, Mitt Romney was declared the winner of the Iowa caucuses by eight votes, only to be stripped of this win two weeks later when recounts revealed that Rick Santorum had actually won the Hawkeye State by 34 votes (though the state has officially declared no winner could be determined). A week after the Iowa caucuses, Mitt Romney easily won the New Hampshire primary, thanks to his influence as former governor of Massachusetts and his owning of a vacation home in the Granite State. On January 21st, Romney was pitted against Newt Gingrich in South Carolina, the former Speaker coming up with an unexpected and decisive win. Sadly, Stephen Colbert (running for President of the United States of South Carolina under Herman Cain’s name) received one percent of the vote and suspended his exploratory committee.
So far, each contest has had a different victor – Santorum in Iowa, Romney in New Hampshire, and Gingrich in South Carolina. The Florida primary is tomorrow, January 31st. I think it’s safe to say that Santorum and Paul are effectively out of the race, but Florida just may be the state that gives Romney or Gingrich the push of momentum through the rest of the primaries. If Romney wins the Sunshine State, he may prove to be the inevitable candidate that pundits declared months ago. If Gingrich wins, his campaign may continue to take off, ruining the plans of Republicans who view Romney as the only electable candidate against President Obama in the general election. Tune in Tuesday; it’s almost guaranteed to be an interesting show.