The Republican campaign trail in 2011-12 has been one of the most tumultuous races among recent election cycles, with twists, turns and drama that would shame the most shameless of reality TV programs.
This kind of publicity, however, is boosting the ratings for all the wrong reasons. Sure, it’s nice to watch your favorite major news network, see the leading GOP candidate and learn who muttered something that will surely destroy their campaign.
But while the GOP struggles to present a viable candidate in its own primary election, the Republican polling numbers in a general election are destined to fall behind.
Now, after two primaries, it looks like the GOP is finally settling on a candidate, but is settling the best path for the White House? Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney has built himself a comfortable lead in what is best described as the GOP scratching their heads, shrugging their shoulders and saying, “Well, who else do we have?” to each other.
Look at how the Republican Party has gotten to this point. How many candidates surged from “up-and-coming nobody” to “party leader and possible nominee,” only to crumble to nothing in a matter of days?
The public has seen the likes of Rick Perry, Michelle Bachman, Herman Cain, Newt Gingrich and Rick Santorum surge in the polls because Romney just wasn’t conservative enough. I’m even sure there are those out at voting booths wondering why Sarah Palin isn’t on the ballot.
On several occasions in 2011, after an early straw poll in New Hampshire that declared Romney the early favorite to win the Republican nomination, five different candidates won a straw poll as the preferred candidate.
Sen. Ron Paul started strong, and led the Conservative Political Action Conference poll and the Tea Party Patriots poll in February 2011, but strong campaign-like action by the major news networks worked tirelessly to make Paul the forgotten candidate leading into 2012.
Political consultant/unknown Fred Karger stirred the pot in April 2011, winning a second straw poll in New Hampshire, a state Romney was expected to run away with during the campaign. Karger’s name hasn’t been seen since.
August 2011 belonged to Bachmann, who won the Ames straw poll in Iowa, typically a strong indicator as to who was going to rustle the most leaves in the primary.
However, after much media blowback about her credentials, Bachmann was forced to answer some tough questions, and she couldn’t deliver — she dropped out of the race after several disappointing showings in straw polls and the Iowa caucuses on Jan. 4.
In September 2011, Cain, the Godfather Pizza CEO, gained a mountain of support and donations, delivering results in the Florida 5 straw poll with just more than 37 percent of the vote.