It's pretty much turned into a two-horse race.
It's a race between Mitt Romney.
And with whomever the Teabagger wingnut division of the GOP likes instead of Romney.
Currently that is, shockingly, Herman Cain. Which kind of caught me off-guard because Cain's resume was one lacking in campaigning history, campaigning skills, campaigning savvy. Something he still demonstrates even today.
But a lot of it had to do with how each of the Far Right wingnut candidates - Santorum, Bachmann, Newt, Paul, and then Perry - just flamed out too quickly or never had a serious chance.
I originally thought Bachmann had the wingnut vote all to herself. But somehow Bachmann failed to win over her own crowd, leaving room for Perry to sneak in and steal her theocon base. When Bachmann tried to sell a plan where as President she'd cut gas prices down to $2, she lost everyone (seriously, if a President had that kind of power, why didn't Dubya use it back in 2007 when the gas prices went to $5-$6?).
And then it was Perry as "the Savior" candidate (saving the Far Right from Mitt, that is). But then Perry faltered when it came time for him to do something he'd NEVER DONE BEFORE: Debate. He came across as more incoherent than Dubya ever did: Considering Perry has to overcome the impression of him being a Dubya clone when a majority of the electorate still hates the Bush The Lesser Years, that was pretty much that.
Newt Gingrich had run a sloppy, lazy campaign from the get-go. Whatever wunderboy qualities he "had" back in the 1990s (which were overinflated anyway), he doesn't have anymore. And on the matter of "Family Values" he's a proven hypocrite: all it will take is Bill Clinton making an ad saying "Hey, this boy was committing adultery when he tried impeaching me for adultery!" and Newt will be finished.
Ron Paul has his devoted followers, sure, but like any libertarian cult idol he's only of interest to fellow libertarians, who by the by ARE NOT THE MAJORITY EVEN IN THE REPUBLICAN PARTY.
And I'm pretty sure Santorum never had a snowball's chance in the Flames of Perdition to begin with.
So why not Romney? Well, I've mentioned it before: Mitt has an electoral history he can't openly support (a health care plan that Obama duplicated for Obamacare); Mitt has a terrible history of flip-flopping so much he could work with Cirque Du Soleil; and Mitt is Mormon in an evangelical-led party that views his religion as a cult.
So it's become a race of Mitt vs. Not-Mitt: simply because Mitt is the party establishment's preferred choice (he's rich, he knows how to campaign, he's not scary to the moderate and independent bases), but he's not the preferred choice for the Far Right voting base that dominates the primary system.
This is where Cain re-enters the stage. Because what happened a few weeks back, when Cain offered up a simplified flat-tax plan he called "9-9-9". While the commentators, economists, and sane people reviewed the plan's basic details, they quickly determined it was a tax plan that would 1) make the federal deficit worse and 2) kill the economy. But for the voting base of the GOP - the Teabagger crowd, the ones who can't cope with concepts larger than what can fit a bumper sticker - that plan struck a chord. Mostly because it was a plan. Who cares if it worked? Cain got his surge by doing something the other candidates hadn't done, and because he was the first to propose a flat-tax plan that could fit a bumper sticker, he's getting all the attention now.
Even though Cain himself has changed the "9-9-9" plan to appease the critics (into something more horrific). Even though Cain doesn't even know how his tax plan really works. And even though Cain is now the subject of an erupting scandal surrounding a past history of sexual harassment when he worked for a lobbying firm.
Just try to remember: the "sane" ones in the GOP - Huckabee, Daniels, Christie - stayed out of this race even though they could knock Mitt off the podium inside of 10 seconds. It's because they know they'd have to cope with the Not-Mitt wingnut candidate as well: and the wingnut base of the GOP is behind the steering wheel, not Karl Rove or the campaign managers.
You know, they say you watch time moving faster as you get older. But I swear these election cycles are putting the brakes on...