Ron Paul Will Win Iowa, And Mitt Romney Will Win The GOP Nomination

With the Iowa caucuses around the corner and the GOP field still unsettled, here are my predictions for how Republican candidates will fare in the first caucuses/primaries of the 2012 GOP presidential contest.

The predictions are based on the candidates’ current standing in the polls as well as their respective momentums, fundraising, and campaign strategies going into the home stretch of a dysfunctional race that, due to its twists and turns, has become the year’s most entertaining reality television event.      

Round One: The Iowa caucuses (January 3)

Winner: Ron Paul

Eliminated: Rick Santorum

Paul’s principled conservatism and passionate following will deliver him a razor thin edge on a three-way tie with Mitt Romney and Newt Gingrich, who will slow each other’s momentums with mutual accusations of being wealthy flip floppers. The media will accordingly disregard Paul’s victory as they focus on Gingrich’s apparent inability to capitalize on his national lead, Romney’s “comeback” leading to New Hampshire, and perennial “values” candidate Rick Santorum’s humiliating showing in the Hawkeye state. 

Round Two: The New Hampshire primary (January 10)

Winner: Mitt Romney

Eliminated: Jon Huntsman

Romney will deploy his arsenal of cash and political endorsements to win a surprisingly closer-than-expected state. The big surprise will be Paul, who will take second place after riding his Iowa momentum on the back of Gingrich’s latest atomic gaffe. Rick Perry and Michele Bachmann will look to South Carolina’s religious voters, hoping to revive their fading campaigns, as Jon Huntsman’s worse-than-expected showing will end his. 

Round Three: The South Carolina primary (January 21)

Winner: Newt Gingrich

Eliminated: Michele Bachmann

Gingrich will take South Carolina after waging a negative, yet effective line of attack on Romney’s religion, pushing him to a not-so-close second place and threatening with prolonging an already bruising primary battle beyond Super Tuesday. Paul’s surprisingly strong third place continues lending momentum to his campaign while setting Bachmann free to start writing books about her failed presidential bid. Perry will stubbornly remain in the race by blowing television ad money all the way to Florida. 

Round Four: The Florida primary (January 31)

Winner: Newt Gingrich

Eliminated: Rick Perry

Gingrich narrowly defeats Romney, bringing back the narrative of the former governor of Massachusetts’ lack of traction, and splitting the soul of the GOP between an establishment drawn to Romney’s general election appeal and a reluctant conservative base of voters still not convinced by the credentials of the author of RomneyCare. Paul’s momentum will slow down compared to his previous showings, and Perry will finally end America’s most expensive failing presidential campaign to date.  

Round Five: The Nevada Primary (February 4)

Winner: Mitt Romney

Eliminated: Ron Paul

Romney will narrowly defeat Gingrich in Nevada, despite the former speaker of the house’s inferior organization and gaffe-prone demeanor, further exacerbating the Republican establishment’s anxieties about Romney. At this point, the Republican Party’s behind-the-scenes activity will intensify with all the remaining actors assessing their clout and possibilities while listening to what the power breakers have to offer going into Super Tuesday when, following Republican’s order of succession, Romney should be crowned.

Paul will brave the headwinds from both the party’s establishment and the mainstream media to modest showings in Colorado, Minnesota, Missouri, Arizona, Michigan and Washington, only to honorably bow out of the race somewhere around Super Tuesday without endorsing any of the remaining candidates (who he believes are not that different from President Barack Obama) and ready for 2016 when he’ll wage another painfully honest, bravely quixotic and sadly utopic presidential run.

Photo Credit: Gage Skidmore