Never in recent United States presidential elections has a political party’s nomination race been so competitive. There have been small comparisons, such as the Hilary Clinton–Barack Obama race in 2008, but that is rather tame when viewing the primary season of 2012. Looking back at the 2011 pre-election cycle, there had been rotating leaders. Mitt Romney to Rick Perry, Perry to Herman Cain, Cain bailing and a tie between Newt Gingrich and Romney, before the latter retook the lead. For any year that leads into an election, this was hardly unordinary.
Moving into 2012, it was time to get serious. Just a few days into the new year, the Iowa caucus came into play. Initially, it proved to be the closest ever, with Santorum narrowly edging out Romney in Iowa, considered more of a scrimmage for the candidates.
New Hampshire was the first big prize, with Romney winning respectably. The leading man was headed for South Carolina with another lead in the polls. Gingrich kicked his conservative rhetoric into high gear, and took the primary for himself.
The two new rivals next battled in delegate-rich Florida.
After conducting a well-financed campaign, Romney swept the state’s primary and followed with Nevada. This made South Carolina into nothing more than a speed bump in Romney’s quest for the nomination.
Following Nevada, Gingrich’s support appeared to be diminishing. Romney had another primary and two caucuses approaching: Missouri, Minnesota, and Colorado. While Romney recognized that the first one would be a stretch, the latter had granted him victory in 2008 and should do the same in 2012. This was not to be, with Santorum capturing all three. Once again, the front-runner for the nomination is in question. Facing the current situation for the Republican candidates, there are some things to be noted.
One is the present standing of Gingrich’s candidacy. After three straight primary wins combined with two more caucus victories, the thought of him carrying the nomination is beginning to wane.
Along with the losses in the state contests, the former Speaker of the House may also be experiencing campaign financial concerns.
According to Trip Gabriel of The New York Times, Gingrich has a difficult obstacle to overcome, “Even as he sacrifices time in front of voters, his prospects of raising the cash he needs are uncertain.” He also faces the dilemma of Rick Santorum’s rise to prominence. Aside from Gingrich, Romney also faces more of a challenge now from Santorum. After three losses last week to the former Pennsylvania senator, Romney has once again found himself playing on the defensive.
Fortunately, unlike after his loss in South Carolina, Romney benefits from having more primary wins under his belt. Furthermore, the next big primary is in Michigan, on Feb. 28.
Because he was raised in the state, along with the fact that his father, George W. Romney, was both a popular businessman and governor, Michigan was intitally thought to be a cakewalk for Romney, but now it seems winning the primary will be much more difficult than expected.
Nevertheless, it can be safely assumed that Romney will not take any chances after his loss in Minnesota, Colorado and Missouri.
Santorum’s candidacy is still uncertain. It is possible that his recent victories will help grant him more momentum, which can be decided over the next month, particularly on Super Tuesday. At the same time, he faces an uphill battle due to Romney’s greater strength in spending.
If this proves true, his candidacy may fade quickly and will face a similar fate that Gingrich has been dealing with.
Judging by all these factors, this nomination contest will by no means be easy.
All that can be done now is wait and see what happens, one primary at a time.