Yes, I watched the two New Hampshire debates this weekend. No, I’m not a glutton for punishment – I honestly wanted to hear what the candidates had to say. (If you missed them, you can find a transcript of the ABC News debate here and the MSNBC debate here.)
I think it’s always good to hear what candidates would do if elected, not that most of these guys have a snowball’s chance of that happening. Truthfully, I expect the field to winnow rather quickly. At some point in the not-too-distant future, the anti-Romney’s are going to figure out that only one of them can actually carry that mantle. Sorry, Max, but that person is not going to be Ron Paul, although as one of two candidates not in the running to be ABR, I expect him to hang around for a while.
The other candidate not in the running to be ABR is Jon Huntsman. I think Huntsman is actually the best candidate on the Republican side. Except for his embrace of the Paul Ryan budget, he seems to really get it. But I’ll be surprised if he makes it past Florida. (The 2012 primary calendar is here.) Look for him to make another run in 2016, though.
So that leaves Newt Gingrich, Rick Santorum and Rick Perry. Will Perry even make it to Florida? I don’t know. But he’s incapable of being ABR. Santorum had his moment in the sun in Iowa – and I expect that will be his high water mark.
Speaking of Santorum – I found his remarks Sunday on secularism to be quite interesting. On the issue of Pakistan, Santorum said:
They are not a theocracy. And we’re very hopeful of — of maintaining a — a more secular state than — than is in place today.
But when speaking of the U.S. and President Obama, Santorum said:
… he knows works because he has a secular ideology that is against the traditions of our country and what works.
So Santorum hopes that Pakistan is secular but doesn’t want that for us? Color me confused.
Anyway – Santorum is soon to be gone, leaving Gingrich as the standard bearer.
And that’s where things are going to get interesting. I think Romney and Gingrich are going to slug it out for a while – although not in Virginia.This trailer is just the beginning:
Once we get past March, the proportional allocation of delegates gives way to winner-take-all. Romney, who I expect will win the nomination, won’t have it locked up by then. The prize on April 3 is Texas – and Rick Perry will be relevant again. Who he endorses may very well influence the outcome there.
I can tell you: it’s a heck of a lot more fun watching the primaries from this side than it was in 2008.