Some endorsement, Rick.
Where does the time go? I haven't blogged about the Republican race in almost three months. What's most remarkable is how little has happened in that time. Of course there's been a steady stream of gossip and gaffes but the only changes have been the elimination of candidates who were never going to win the nomination. (For the record, I thought Huckabee and Santorum might over perform in Iowa, but they very much did not and now they are gone.)
What we have left is nine candidates that are pretty easily divided into three tiers of three candidates. Each candidate is listed by their chance of winning the nomination. (With the change from December in parenthesis.)
I. Three Contenders.
1. Marco Rubio 55%. (Up 1 from 54%).
The establishment has clearly rallied to him. He now has the most significant nomination in the field, although as the video above shows they haven't all been very helpful. Most impressively he got the media to believe that his third place finish in Iowa was somehow a bigger story than Ted Cruz winning or Trump coming second. If he comes 2nd in NH, the establishment will do black flips to line up behind him.
2.. Donald Trump 20% (Up 3 from 17%).
Six months ago a 2nd place finish in Iowa would have seemed like an unbelievable accomplishment. But he underperformed slightly and I do think there's something to the idea that he has a ceiling for how many people are willing to vote for him. He will win New Hampshire, but the most important number will be what percentage of the vote he gets. If he gets under 30% in a state that is his best chance for a win will not be a good sign.
3. Ted Cruz 15% (Down 2 from 17%)
Winning Iowa should be a boost but it has become very clear in the last few months that the establishment doesn't merely dislike him, they loathe him and they worry about him becoming the face of their party. If he comes in the top three in NH and wins South Carolina, then he will bill be around for months. But NH has a history of rebuking the Iowa winner and I thin he is going to be somewhere in the middle of the pack on Tuesday.
II. Three Middlers.
4. John Kasich 5% (Up 4 from 1%)
I've always been a little bullish on Kasich. I think he's the best candidate for the GOP because he will carry Ohio and it will be harder for the Democratic nominee to portray him as an extremist. He has placed all of his chips on New Hampshire. If he doesn't finish 2nd or 3rd, then he will probably drop out. But a second place finish will be an enormous boost to his campaign and it would probably prevent the rest of the establishment from rushing to endorse Rubio. He also has a winner take all primary in Ohio that has 99 winner-take-all delegates waiting to be won by someone. He's a long shot, but he has a chance of being the big story on Wednesday morning.
5. Jeb Bush 1% (Down 1 from 1%)
I never thought I could feel sorry for a member of the Bush clan but the repudiation of this man's campaign is painful to any observer. He is much smarter than George W. Bush and it must be very frustrating to know that he will never be the political equal of his idiot older brother, but that's life.
6. Chris Christie 0% (Push).
His greatest contribution to the race is the above video. His second best contribution would be to do poorly on Tuesday and get the hell out of the race. He's an abrasive jerk but even in a year of abrasive jerks, I am glad to watch him flame out.
III. Three Also-Rans.
7. Carly Fiorina: I think the GOP made a mistake by excluding her from the last debate but I for one am glad to never have to hear her voice again. She might have been a decent stealth VP candidate, but her grating style and her willingness to lie about anything under the sun are disqualifiers. She will not be missed.
8. Ben Carson: I'm still not sure if he ran for President because he wanted to win or because he wanted to make money by elevating his public profile. Either way, he will not be president. But I think he is angry at Ted Cruz' stunt in Iowa and that might make him hang around a little longer to split the evangelical vote. If that tips the nomination away from Cruz, the party will be grateful to him.
9. Jim Gilmore. Twelve votes in Iowa, surely hundreds to come in New Hampshire.
New Hampshire predictions.
Trump will win. I think he will get about 32%. If Rubio comes second, he heads south as the heavy favorite. If Kasich comes 2nd, the race will be re-oriented. Cruz just needs third place.
The upshot of NH will be that four candidates will be left: Trump, Rubio, Cruz and whoever does best among Bush, Kasich and Christie. I think Bush and Carson will stay in, no matter how poorly they do in NH. SC should be a good state for them. Christie will drop out unless he finishes in the top four. I hope that Fiorina also drops out, but she probably doesn't have much else to do with her days so maybe she'll hang around for awhile.
Whoever wins SC and or NV will be very strong going into Super Tuesday. But I think those states will not be won by the same person and mostly likely there will be three or four candidates winning states well into the spring months. I think a brokered convention is a real possibility. If you add up the probabilities of the candidates above you get 96%. I'm leaving a little wriggle room for a brokered convention that turns to a consensus compromise candidate that all remaining camps can live with. Right now the only name that I can think of filling that role is Mitt Romney.
Five possible nominees, in order: Rubio, Trump, Cruz, Kasich and Romney.