The presidential nominating process is a lot like the US Open tennis tournament. There is a final (the Republican v. Obama), a semifinal (the top conservative against the top moderate for the GOP nomination) and a quarter final (the conservatives against each other and the moderates competing together for the right to enter the semis).
Mitt Romney and Donald Trump are centrists. Businessmen, economic growth free market types who will vie with each other for the moderate nomination. In 2008, Romney fought and lost to Huckabee for the conservative nod to oppose McCain. But, because of his health care position, he now has to fight it out on the moderate court.
Mike Huckabee’s withdrawal opens the way on the right court for Gingrich, Bachmann, and Daniels. Had Mike run, he would have easily carried the day and faced Romney/Trump for the nomination. But, with Mike out, it’s an open field.
Bachmann has the most to gain from Huckabee’s withdrawal. Polling shows that the Tea Party types and the evangelicals are more or less the same people. With Mike out, Michele has a clear shot at their support (once they get over Herman Cain and Ron Paul, neither of whom can win — and Paul shouldn’t win). As the odd-woman-out dissenting from the Boehner deals with Obama, holding out for fiscal conservatism and tough Republican bargaining, she can pick up a lot of ground in a hurry.
Gingrich’s announcement puts the onus on him to dispel the negatives that dog his campaign. All agree that he would be the best opponent to Obama in a debate and that he is the brightest, best candidate would have. But many are scared off because of the negatives. He has six months to show them that they are wrong.
And then there is Mitch Daniels, potentially, the conservative establishment’s answer to Romney. Despite an absence of charisma, his extraordinary record as governor puts him right in the thick of the hunt for the nomination. He, along with his supporters (Scott Walker of Wisconsin, Chris Christie of New Jersey, and John Kasich of Ohio), have walked the walk not just talked the talk. His candidacy is a most attractive one.
It’s too early to handicap the field, but there is life after Huckabee.
(Next week I will post a series of videos on my web site discussing each candidate in depth. Tune in.)