The road ahead for the Republican candidates: what to expect

Newt Gingrich is currently polled in second. But can he really defeat Romney? Photo: Don Irvine Photos/Flickr

The last few weeks have seen Republican frontrunner Mitt Romney come under attack in every which way; a film has been released about his time as CEO of Bain Capital; he has been accused of being a moderate (god forbid) and yesterday’s debates backed him into a corner over his tax returns and his ever changing political stances — once again using left leaning ammunition to attack the frontrunner may not have the exact desired effect for the other candidates.

Nevertheless, Romney’s weaknesses have in fact become his strength. He is not even a particularly good debater, and his tendency for flip flopping could put Havaianas out of business. However, it has revealed more pressing weaknesses (from the conservative view point) in his fellow candidates.

Newt Gingrich is perhaps the biggest example of how this criticism has gone wrong. His pitiful results in New Hampshire caused him to back track on his original anti-Romney stance after it played into the hands of the Democrats and angered staunchly conservative voters. His performance at Monday’s debate earned him the crowd’s standing ovation; it may be too little to late for the former House Speaker to bump Romney from first place but it may help him cruise into second.

The two Rick’s will probably head the same way as the former governor of Utah, Jon Huntsman, who has now dropped out of the race and pledged his support to Romney. All three have had one thing consistently in common, invisibility (apart from Santorum’s almost (freak) win in Iowa — a feat unlikely to be repeated).

But what about Ron Paul? Polls have shown him to have earned a significant amount of support from independents and other not-usually-republican voters, mostly for his anti-war stance. He did well in New Hampshire securing second place six points ahead of Huntsman. However, South Carolina polls now have him in third behind Gingrich with a 6 point margin. This is perhaps not surprising in the traditionally conservative state. He may not win come January 21 but he could potentially go on to pick up all the ‘in betweeners’ who do not want to share their vote with either Romney or Gingrich.

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