Far Too Early to Call 2012 Campaign Results

The Republicans have a real contest, as current favorites like Romney can't put the nomination away.

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There will be even more analysis this week about the 2012 campaign, sparked by the fact that America is now a year away from the balloting. The wave of punditry got rolling last weekend with stories in major newspapers, on TV, and on the Web.

But much of the punditry misses a key point: It's really too early to predict the outcome of the 2012 campaign based on current trends.

The campaign is, after all, just starting for most Americans. It is, both in theory and in reality, a competition that will enable us as a nation to judge our would-be leaders in a plethora of ways, and let the candidates show that they can learn, grow, and perform effectively under pressure.

[See a collection of political cartoons on the 2012 GOP hopefuls.]

For most voters, there is no hurry in making a decision on any of these matters, no matter how much the pundits, the parties, or the candidates want everyone to rush to judgment.

This has developed into a campaign of increments. Any prospect for a genuine breakout or a sustained stampede will be remote until early next year when Americans cast votes that will really count.

The first nominating contests for the Republicans start with the Iowa caucuses on January 3. After that, there will be a rapid-fire series of contests over the following month, including the states of New Hampshire, Nevada, Florida, and South Carolina.

The Republicans, of course, have a real contest for their nomination. The Democrats will renominate Barack Obama, who has no serious challengers within his party.

On the GOP side, former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney has the support, the money, and the organization to qualify for the top tier. This has remained true for many months. But Romney has been unable to rise above about 25 percent support in GOP polls. Many conservatives don't think he is really one of them because of his inconsistent positions on a number of issues, such as abortion and gay rights. A number of other candidates are vying to become the "non-Romney," his main alternative. They include businessman Herman Cain, Gov. Rick Perry of Texas, Rep. Michele Bachmann of Minnesota, former House Speaker Newt Gingrich, and Rep. Ron Paul of Texas.

[Washington Whispers: Ron Paul's Secret to Energy in a Grueling 2012 Campaign]

There will be another debate among the GOP candidates tomorrow night in Nevada. It probably won't be definitive, but will add another set of impressions of the candidates that are likely to reinforce what's already in the mix.

  • See photos of the Obamas behind the scenes.
  • See editorial cartoons about President Obama.
  • See who's been visiting the White House.