The Republicans have a real problem. Mitt Romney has been running for the nomination, and sometimes has even led the race, since before Barack Obama became president, but the Republicans just don’t want him. Conservatives have been trying to find an acceptable candidate to promote their beliefs but it is just not possible to find a sane leader for a movement which has become outright bat-shit crazy. To demonstrate my point, at the moment they are stuck with Newt Gingrich. I’ve speculated in the past that that this could lead to none of the current candidates winning and the race going to the convention. The possibility of someone else winning the nomination received further attention after Nate Silver wrote a post today on this topic.
This possibility exists because of the problems with the candidates and the structure of the primaries. Republican caucuses and primaries held before April 1 cannot be winner-take-all, but afterwards they can. This means that it will be hard for anyone to take an overwhelming lead early, making it possible for a candidate with momentum late to win winner-take-all contests and win a larger number of delegates. Theoretically this could be a candidate entering late, but I wonder if this is really possible as anyone not currently in the race will lack the campaign infrastructure and will miss many of the filing deadlines to enter the contests. I suspect that if some of the other candidates recover it might be possible for different ones to win in different states, preventing anyone from clinching the nomination prior to the convention.
Once caucuses and primaries begin they create a new atmosphere and the previous pecking order might be meaningless. If someone wins convincingly in the early contests they should be able to lock up the nomination. The lack of a conventional campaign infrastructure creates doubt as to whether Newt Gingrich can win despite his current lead in the polls, but if the conservative movement, including the Tea Party, line up behind him this might be enough to beat Romney. It certainly doesn’t look good for Romney to be trailing Gingrich in Michigan as he is at the present. A loss in Michigan would probably be the end for Romney, but on the other hand the Michigan polls, as most other states, will probably shift based upon the results in the early states.
If none of the Republican candidates please conservatives, there are a couple of names being raised as potential independent candidates. Donald Trump, angry that only Gingrich and Rick Santorum are attending his debate says, “I am unwilling to give up my right to run as an independent candidate.”
Trump is particularly angry at Michelle Bachmann:
“She came up to see me four times,” Trump said. “She would call me and ask me for advice. She said if she wins, she would like to think about me for the Vice Presidency.”
As I’ve suggested in the past, it makes more sense for Trump to run as an independent than in the Republican primaries as it allows him to continue on Celebrity Apprentice this season. That said, there is a strong likelihood that Trump is only talking about running to attract more publicity. Ron Paul, who has declined to offer support to any other winner of the Republican nomination, is also increasingly being discussed as a possible independent candidate. Paul has been on an upward trajectory, but there is also a low ceiling for his potential support. He will suffer the same fate as candidates such as Bachmann and Cain when his views and past receive greater scrutiny. Speaking of Cain, he never had a chance to become president, but one organization is interested him–Fox.