Long and Winding Road for GOP Presidential Nomination

John McCain 2008 comeback model shows Bachmann, Perry, and Romney can falter and still win.

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Republican strategists are increasingly convinced that their presidential nominating process will be an extended fight, with candidates rising and falling on a regular basis. "The merry-go-round continues to spin and no one knows where it's going to stop," says a senior GOP adviser who is not aligned with any candidate.

This is a common assessment among GOP strategists in Washington. They caution that even if a candidate drops in the polls now or has a bad stretch on the campaign trail, that doesn't mean he or she won't stage a comeback later.

[See photos of the GOP hopefuls on the campaign trail.]

They point to the example of Sen. John McCain, who at this time in the 2008 cycle was written off by many pundits and politicians because he was fading in the polls, was running out of money, and was cutting his campaign staff. Yet early in 2008, McCain began a revival when the delegate selection process actually began in the caucuses and primaries. He went on to win the GOP nomination, only to lose to Barack Obama in the general election.

GOP strategists say it's still very possible that Rep. Michele Bachmann of Minnesota will win the Iowa caucuses, former Gov. Mitt Romney of Massachusetts will win the New Hampshire primary, and Gov. Rick Perry of Texas will win the South Carolina primary next year, keeping the nominating contest lively and lengthy.

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