Tonight is a Republican presidential primary debate. It will air on Fox News. On Saturday, the Ames Straw Poll takes place. Do not mistake this as a regular poll with a random sample. The Ames Straw Poll is a better indication of a campaign's organization and the loyalty of its followers. For this reason, Ron Paul will likely do well.
It is impossible to predict what will happen tonight, but I expect the economy will be the big topic. I'm sure Fox News will find a way to ask Ron Paul some bizarre question, but he will get his points across as usual.
I see the whole race for the Republican nominee coming down to four people at this point. I never expected John McCain to get the nomination in 2008, but I do believe we are in a different era now, just 4 years later.
I expect the 4 main contenders to be Mitt Romney, Michele Bachmann, Rick Perry, and Ron Paul. I do expect Perry to enter the race and to be a contender. Even if Sarah Palin enters the race, I think it is unlikely she will get the nomination, although it would certainly make things interesting.
Romney and Perry are the establishment candidates. Romney is out of favor with the Tea Party. He has to defend Romneycare in Massachusetts. Romney passed Obamacare in his state before Obamacare actually existed. If there is one thing that unites the Republicans, it is their hatred of Obama and Obamacare. How could Romney possibly be the nominee given this fact?
Perry is trickier. He sometimes talks a good game. He sometimes sounds libertarian. He said he was open to the suggestion of Texas seceding from the U.S. He was pandering to his audience at that time. If conservatives look closely at his record (most won't), then they would see that he has been horrible on some issues. He has an advantage being the governor of a large state that is not struggling as much economically. His rhetoric will fool a lot of people. Just remember that this is the man who wanted, essentially, a forced vaccination program for young girls.
Bachmann is not favored by the establishment, but she would still be acceptable. She would continue the U.S. empire. She says she favors ending the Department of Education. It is hard to say if she is telling the truth. Besides that, she doesn't offer much in the way of specifics. I would be a little more impressed with her if she did. She says she wants lower taxes and less spending, but she doesn't really say what she would cut. I fear Bachmann in the way that Reagan was bad for libertarianism. She will espouse all of these free market principles, but her policies will not reflect her rhetoric. Then the hacks in the media will say that her free market principles have failed.
Then we are left with Ron Paul. The establishment hates him and his ideas. They fear him. They fear he is correct in what he says. They fear the following that he has accumulated. It is really unbelievable that he is polling in the double digits in many national polls. For anyone in the libertarian movement prior to 2007, this should be really impressive. This is the first time in modern day America that libertarian views are being heard by millions and millions of people.
The Ames Straw Poll is rather important. If any one of the big candidates, excluding Perry, finishes less than third, then I think their chances will be low of getting the nomination. It is very important, for those campaigning and participating, to finish in the top three. I expect Ron Paul will be in the top three.