A Long and Winding Road for the GOP

Bachmann, Perry, and Romney will fight state by state.

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The entry of Texas Governor Rick Perry into the Republican's presidential race, coupled with the victory of MIchele Bachmann in the Ames, Iowa straw poll and Mitt Romney's strength in New Hampshire and elsewhere, have suddenly turned the GOP campaign into a three-way race. And it's likely to stay that way for a long time.

GOP insiders say that's partly because of one factor that has been largely ignored in the analysis. It's that the caucuses and primaries held before April 1 will allot delegates proportionally, rather than winner-take-all. This system was designed by GOP leaders to prevent an untested candidate from locking up the nomination too early with a series of winner-take-all victories. But the concern among some party insiders now is that the new rules are likely to prolong the race longer than party leaders expected. At this point, it looks like no candidate is likely to dominate the process, and the outcome could be a lengthy and divisive series of battles in which the nomination fight is waged state by state well into the spring. This could result in disunity and a depletion of party resources. [Read more about the 2012 presidential election.]

Bachmann, a U.S. representative from Minnesota, is well positioned to win the Iowa caucuses, the first test in the nominating process next winter; Romney, former governor of Massachusetts, is well positioned to win the first-in-the-nation New Hampshire primary shortly after Iowa. And Perry, the only serious contender from the South, is well positioned to win the first-in-the-South primary in South Carolina. But the results in these and other early states could be close, making it likely that no candidate will be able to deliver a knockout and lock up the nomination in a timely way.

Former Minnesota Governor Tim Pawlenty, once considered a contender, ended his camaign yesterday after a weak showing in the Iowa straw poll, in which he had invested heavily.

Representative Ron Paul of Texas came in a close second to Bachmann in the straw poll but senior Republican stragests and many reporters say his libertarian views are too far out of the mainstream for him to win the nomination. [Check out editorial cartoons about the economy.]

Bachmann and Perry are thought to be popular among social conservatives and Tea Party activists. Romney, a former businessman, is considered popular among business-oriented Republicans and Wall Street.

  • Vote now: Will Obama be a one-term president?
  • See a slide show of who's in and who's out for the GOP in 2012.
  • See a collection of political cartoons on the GOP hopefuls.