1. Rick Perry – Gov. Perry performed very well in his first debate, leads in Iowa Polls, leads nationally, and has the best record in the field. He has broad support that includes fiscal conservatives and social conservatives. He has the huge advantage of facing attacks by the media and Obama, and will likely continue to benefit from future attacks from Obama and the media. Perry still is far the the certain nominee. He needs to show the ability to raise money, build a campaign organization, and it would help him to continue to pick up endorcements.
2. Mitt Romney – Gov. Romney performed very well in the 9/9 debate, issued a great economic plan, and has revitalized his campaign. He is running a far better campaign than last year. Romney continues to be broadly acceptable; however, he continues to have challenges in obtaining support from voters who are middle and lower class Christian conservatives. It appears he has written off winning their votes in the primary. This was fine when they appeared to support unwinnable candidates like Bachmann or Cain. Now that they support Perry, Romney is facing a challenge. Perry is a formidable opponent, and — frankly — has outsmarted Romney multiple times this campaign so far. Romney’s first step needs to be to stop falling into Perry’s traps. When Perry says something like social security is a ponzi scheme, the stupidest thing Romney can do is attack Perry for saying it. Voters who agree with Perry will be alienated by Romney’s attack. The few voters who actually do get offended by Perry’s comment were never going to vote for Perry anyway, and are no more likely to vote for Romney for the attack. So, Romney loses a chance at some votes and gains nothing. Perry’s apparent miss-speaks are a plan. If you listen to what he actually says when he ‘miss-speaks,’ it is never something of substance. Rather than saying — as Democrats and Republicans do — that social security is unsustanable, Perry instead says it is a ponzi scheme and defines that as it being unsustanable without changes. Same meaning, same message, but he uses news-getting words. When he is critisized for what he says, he simply defines it with the mainstream answer. His earlier trap about the federal reserve board being almost traitors if they print more money is another example. When another candidate attacks the words, they fall into the trap. If their only dissagreement is wording, they are being nit-picky and look petty. If they claim a policy dissagreement they are outside the GOP mainstream. For example, when Paul rebuked Perry for saying almost treasonious, Paul said the right word is counterfitters. You and I may know that Paul does, infact, have a better word, but who cares? The point in the mind of the voter is that both of them are against inflation.
Romney needs to do more than just avoid Perry’s traps, he also needs develop a plan to either win a long fight, or to win SC. Winning NH, SC, NV, MI would get him the nomination. Lose SC, and Romney will likely face Perry through super tuesday or beyond. SC is Perry’s must-win state.
I have removed other candidates from the list. At this point — although early — it is a 2 person race. There is no visable path to victory for the other candidates. Huntsman is too liberal. The others are not governors. In fact, the ranking could be a simple as 1 – governor, 2 – former governor, 3- nongovernors. Perry has a huge advantage as the sitting and longest governor of Texas. A far better possition to campaign from than nongovernors or as a former 1-term governor from Mass.