The Republican Presidential race has become like college football’s BCS rankings, we all know who the top dog is but no idea who will or who should be the one to battle for the top spot.
After the latest CNN poll, Herman Cain’s free fall continues, as does the rise of Newt Gingrich, the surprise challenger to front-running Mitt Romney.
Still, that trio are the only candidates running above 10% in the polls with Cain at 16%, Gingrich at 19% and Romney steady around 20%. This group is the SEC West of the Republican race: LSU, Alabama and Arkansas.
They’re clearly three of the best teams in the country and would be favored against any team outside the top 3. On the other hand, Romney (clearly LSU) already seems to have the upper hand against the other two.
Ron Paul (10%), running ahead of Rick Perry (8%) is currently playing the part of Boise State, the candidate with a fervent fan base and legitimate chops, but one who never drums up enough support to be a legitimate contender.
After Paul and Perry, everyone else should consider themselves destined for the peripheral bowl games named after obscure credit cards or tech companies.
Unlike the BCS though, where there is only one week plus conference championships left, the race for the Republican nomination process is just getting started.
That doesn’t mean candidates like Rick Santorum have any hope of getting back into the race (they don’t), but it does mean the near 20% of people who have yet to pick a candidate have time to pick a side.
Within the next few months, that gap will narrow as candidates like Santorum, Bachmann and Huntsman will bow out of the race.
I’ve been an advocate of a Romney/(Insert conservative) ticket for weeks, a stance the ultra-conservative Anne Coulter echoed last week.
Cain will garner support in Iowa as will Ron Paul. I don’t expect Paul to back down at any point and his 10% likely won’t wain given the nature of his libertarian base.
Cain is unprepared, but popular, and Gingrich is the flavor of the week. That leaves Perry who has seen the wheels fall off his wagon the last few weeks and probably doesn’t have the skill to recover.
The debates were devastating to many conservatives because the candidate most closely identifying with core conservative beliefs (who also had a chance to win) was Perry.
In that way, Perry is like Wisconsin, having entered the field with so much promise but ultimately a few big mistakes put him out of the race.
With the ultra-important slate of games this week (LSU v. Arkansas, Wisconsin v. Penn State), college football is still a mess when it comes to determining who will play for all the marbles.
Iowa is looming for Republicans, the caucuses, not the football team.
It’s the first showdown of the bowl season for Republicans and while it won’t mean everything (remember Mike Huckabee won in 2008), it will be the first step toward determining who will represent the GOP in our country’s most important national title race.
Only the winner doesn’t get to raise a glass trophy, he gets to call himself leader of the free world.