Today is the big day in Iowa after a ridiculous amount of time and money has been spent by candidates jockeying for position.
A few predictions...
I think that Ron Paul pulls it out tonight in Iowa. Given the fluidity of the race and the huge "enthusiasm" disparity between Paul supporters and everyone else, it seems that Paul's support is rock solid. Santorum's supporters just came to him and could leave just as easily. Paul's supporters generally speaking won't support anyone else. I have a hard time seeing a lukewarm supporter of Santorum or Gingrich or Romney putting forth the effort to come out for them but Paul supporters would walk a mile barefoot on broken glass for him!
After tonight the field needs to winnow down. A lot. Huntsman won't leave because he didn't bother to show up in Iowa at all, instead putting all of his efforts into New Hampshire where he competes with another moderate mormon who has an enormous lead. He is kind of delusional but he is a politician after all and he is done after New Hampshire. I don't see Bachmann making it past tonight. She peaked at the straw poll earlier and has zero traction. Those who supported her have been siphoned off to Santorum so I am not sure how she sees a path to the nomination. I am not sure where Perry goes after tonight, it doesn't seem that he has much of a chance to do well in New Hampshire. I don't know if he drops after tonight but he should. I think Gingrich comes in fourth tonight but continues with "the worst organized campaign ever". After a mediocre showing in New Hampshire and South Carolina I think he, along with Perry if he is still kidding himself, will finally bow out.
In the weeks and months to come, it looks like a three man race between establishment favorite Romney, running on the "electability" platform as the guy best able to beat Obama; Ron Paul who has a pretty hard ceiling on support among traditional Republicans because of his refusal to pander to the military interventionist party line; and someone else. That someone else looks like Santorum at this point esp. if Bachmann and Perry drop out and their supporters coalesce behind him. Paul has the enthusiasm and organization for the long haul and no real compelling reason to drop out. It isn't as if there is a similar voice competing with him. I unfortunately don't see him winning the nomination because of the oft mentioned disconnect between his Constitutional principles on national security and the party line that sees nothing wrong with getting entangled in a new foreign engagement every couple of years. The end result is still what I figured it was a while ago, Romney with the nomination. I think Romney can and does beat Obama and will be a much better President, although that is setting the bar pretty low. Had Pawlenty not flinched and dropped out so soon or if Mitch Daniels or someone like him had entered we might have a different race but that die is already cast.
Longer term, this is Ron Paul's last run but his legacy will be more lasting. I can see another, younger champion of actual limited government rising up, one without the bogus baggage of the newsletters to deal with. The traditional two parties are rapidly losing their base of support as the Tea Party movement on the right in 2010 and the Occupy movement on the left in 2011 show. If the Democrats keep pandering to the far left fringe, the homosexual lobby, organized labor bigwigs and leftist academics and if the Republicans keep pandering to the corporate interests lobbying for kickbacks and a state of perpetual war, they will both be setting the stage for something else. We have had the current political set-up for a long time but not forever and it is high time that something new comes out.
Anyway, those are my predictions. They will probably all be wrong