The Romney-Perry-Palin Dynamics Of The 2012 GOP Race

The GOP is, for the moment, still a two person battle between Rick Perry and Mitt Romney and barring a Palin entry into the race, for someone else to move up, either Perry or Romney will probably have to collapse. Yet, almost EVERYONE seems to be piling on Perry and ignoring Romney.

Why?

Simple. All of the other candidates can imagine themselves as the conservative, Tea Party alternative to the establishment’s choice, Romney — but only Huntsman can see himself taking Romney’s place. So, Perry almost has to implode for Bachmann, Cain, or anyone else to move up the ladder and even if they do, Mitt will be in the catbird’s seat while they have to desperately try to catch up.

Could Palin change this dynamic? Yes…BUT.

What’s the “But?”

First of all, although Palin is still very popular, she’s slipped from the height of her popularity. If she entered the race today, she’d get a nice bump, but would still probably only reach second place. After the bounce died away, it’s entirely possible she could settle in back into third place at around 10%. In addition, the fact that she’s almost universally known and polls particularly poorly against Obama could make it difficult for her to climb the ladder. On the other hand, the counter-argument is that Obama is extremely unpopular and whoever the GOP candidate is will have a better than average chance to beat him. So, the argument goes, whatever the poll numbers may look like today, in six months, when there are only two choices on the ballot, it will be an entirely different ballgame. So, if Perry doesn’t fall apart, it would be an uphill climb for Palin to capture the nomination, although it wouldn’t be impossible.

On the other hand, if Perry collapses, the dynamic changes. Then, Palin could step in and immediately be hailed as the plausible “anti-Romney candidate.” This may explain why she’s acting like a candidate without pulling the trigger. She may be waiting and watching for signs that Perry is going to collapse. If Perry does start to slide dramatically in the next few weeks, that could be the event that spurs Palin to get into the race.

PS: Perry’s poll numbers in a match up against Obama ARE NOT as good as Romney’s numbers. However, a good bit of that is a result of two factors.

#1) He’s been under almost constant attack since he got in the race while Romney has largely gotten a free pass. Whoever gets the nomination will be under constant attack and that will even things out.

#2) Perry is not quite as well known as Romney and voters tend to react unfavorably to candidates they’re not familiar with. In other words, most voters prefer the devil they know to the devil they don’t. That being said, Perry needs to work harder to define himself out of the gate, lest his competitors in the GOP and Democratic Party do it for him.

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