Today is the Republican presidential primary in Florida. It's also the last day of January. A lot of us in the conservative movement can't quite believe either. We can't believe that we're already at the Florida primary. And we can't believe that at this late date, these are still the candidates with whom we're going to have to ride into battle against Barack Obama. Or one of them, anyway. Some conservatives still pine for a late entry by a Mitch Daneils, Chris Christie, Paul Ryan or Sarah Palin. It's not gonna happen.
So here we are, staring down February, with the dawning realization that this is it, and we'd better refocus on who can win in November and with what message.
Florida voters are still sizing up the candidates, even as they head to the polls today. We've had an unprecedented result in the first 3 primaries: a different winner in Iowa, New Hampshire and South Carolina. It's true that the voters are different in each state, as each state's concerns and issues vary. But it's highly unusual to have 3 states vote so differently in the space of about 3 weeks. Part of it is a direct function of the fact that we can't believe this is our field. We're trying to mix it up to give ourselves the impression that we've got more of a choice than we do.
The remaining four candidates all have big strengths and some real weaknesses. We'll see what the voters in Florida do today. If Mitt Romney wins, it could cement a momentum and lead that will be very difficult for anybody else to surmount. If Newt Gingrich wins, everything is back up in the air and things will get even more nasty because the race will be back on. If Rick Santorum wins, he will have pulled off the biggest upset yet. And if Ron Paul wins, well, then the whole thing heads into mayhem. Or I should say more mayhem than usual.
Whatever happens, today's primary marks the end of the beginning, a bookend for the first round of contests. We then go into February, which is marked by a few caucuses in Nevada and Maine and elsewhere but is without a major primary or debate (the next one, mercifully, isn't until Feb. 22). This will give time for Mitt to consolidate if he wins today. If Newt wins, expect all hell to break loose as the GOP and DC establishments will go bananas and try to recruit someone else into the race. Again, that's not gonna happen.
This is the field. We'll get the results tonight and have about a month to take a breather. Us voters need to regroup and re-evaluate our choices too, you know.
And we must do all of this while keeping our eyes on the Big Prize: defeating Barack Obama. Let's not lose sight of the fact that HE is the person in this race with the most baggage and the most destructive policies.
Not Mitt. Not Newt. Not Rick or Ron.