After hearing a ton of whiplash for alleged extramarital affairs, Herman Cain decided to suspend his campaign. Suspending his campaign meant one of two things. One, he was actually guilty of engaging in one or more of the affairs or two, he was eaten up by the news media, who had to spread some dirt on a clean candidate who had a chance to win the nominee. Regardless of what happened, we will not be seeing a 9-9-9 tax plan any time soon.
That was what happened then. Now, it's about what is happening now and what will happen in the upcoming primaries. Seven top-tier candidates and a few second-tier candidates remain in the race. On the top-tier include Newt Gingrich and Mitt Romney on the top, and now more than ever, Gingrich is really rising in the polls. Also on the top-tier are Ron Paul, Rick Perry, Michele Bachmann, Rick Santorum, and Jon Huntsman. The second-tier candidates include Gary Johnson and Fred Karger. Buddy Roemer has decided to switch to the Americans Elect party, but will continue to compete in the Republican primary, which he will probably garner about a hundred votes, the same number that makes up the maximum amount of money that he allows donors to donate. With that being said, the field has been set.
Newt Gingrich and Mitt Romney are the two candidates of which the Republican has their eye on for the nomination. This will become a fact after the South Carolina primary, with Ron Paul, who still has a viable chance to be a dark horse, being the only other.
The remaining seven will take part in the first three contests. The Iowa Caucus should likely be the key decider as to which direction the race will be heading. If Michele Bachmann or Rick Santorum (or both) do not garner a good amount of support in these states, they will likely drop out. They will have to come out with at least a few delegates or 15% of the vote. Nothing else really matters. Bachmann at one point was a strong contender, but her numbers have since slipped. Santorum's numbers never made it far and his aggression was what has kept him around. If he realizes that things aren't going in the right direction, he may call it a day after Iowa.
The New Hampshire primary is going to be the decider for Jon Huntsman. If Huntsman does not come out in New Hampshire, he is done, as there will be little to no support in any of the other states. Gingrich and Romney should have strong numbers in this state, as this was where most of their effort has gone. Romney will likely win this state with Gingrich pulling in at second place. I can see Huntsman reaching between 5-10%, but that's only a possibility. Gary Johnson will likely make a decision about going to a third party after New Hampshire as well. Fred Karger may think the same way, but he's just going to be a candidate that simply fades.
Rick Perry could very well withdraw from the race after Iowa, but I think he will stick around for the South Carolina primary. This is his territory and he should gain some ground after Cain's campaign suspension. South Carolina has generally decided the nominee and it has also been a conservative battleground. Gingrich should also have a strong showing. In the event that he overwhelmingly wins the state and Perry shows lacking numbers, it may be time for him to drop out.
At this point, Newt Gingrich, Mitt Romney, and Ron Paul will remain, and this should be the lineup for awhile. While Paul's name does not pop up as being a candidate to win a primary, I would beg to differ. He could very well prove to be a spoiler in his own right. The primary is going to be decided by the voters that show up and cast their vote. Ron Paul has a growing group of voters and if they show up, he may very well pull ahead. The same goes for the mega-conservatives who seem to back Gingrich and the more laid back moderate conservatives or those who are realists that look for the best option to beating Barack Obama, who back Romney.
In 2008, Ron Paul continued to participate in the race until the primaries were over. Even though John McCain won the nomination in March, Paul stuck around until June. At the moment, Paul confirmed he will not be running for Congress in 2012. I do not know whether or not he will change his mind in the event that things are not mathematically going well this time around. That will be the ONLY instance that he drops out of the race. Otherwise, he is going to be the third candidate that engages in battle between Gingrich and Romney, which may very well come down to the final primaries in June.
I'm calling it right now! The next Republican nominee will be one of the three candidates that I mentioned in the previous two paragraphs. These will also be the candidates that win primaries and make a splash. It will be interesting to see any one of them go up against Obama and fight him for the 2012 nomination, but that in itself will be something we just have to wait and see what truly happens.