It doesn’t matter if their candidate of choice is one of the flavors of the week in the GOP Presidential circus or a perennial backbencher, those who support and work for their favorite are adamant that this is the year for them.
That’s why the second tier of GOP candidates keep soldiering on in the face of declining poll numbers, empty campaign chests and dwindling hope.
At the moment, Mitt Romney, Newt Gingrich and Herman Cain represent the top tier of candidates but — with the exception of Romney — GOP frontrunners have come and gone. Rick Perry and Michelle Bachmann had their brief moments at the top. Cain is dropping amid sexual harassment scandals and campaign gaffes and two-time loser Ron Paul is flirting with a spot in the top three in Iowa and New Hampshire.
So, who will be in the top tier when the votes start counting right after 2012 begins?
Herman Cain? Probably history. Gingrich, most predict, will flame out as well.
Gingrich is surging in Iowa and has the lead in latest polls. Ron Paul, they say, could pull off a surprise win in Iowa but will finish — at best — a distant second in New Hampshire and start to fade in the stretch.
So does anyone have anything for Romney?
Ron Paul’s supporters say their guy is the one.
Paul has some solid, easy season fundraising and his small — but vocal and loyal — band of supporters say his time has come to seize the moment. They said the same thing in 2008 but their candidate never became a serious contender for the nomination.
Rick Stowell, a teacher, soldier and columnist for the conservative Washington Times, has this to say about Paul:
Every four years America gets in a big fight. As with most internecine arguments, passions run wild and loyalties are made or broken in fits of emotion.
It’s no different this election cycle in the Grand Old Party. And the most emotional bunch are the Paul disciples.
In many ways, Ron Paul is an appealing candidate, especially for conservative Republicans. He preaches individual liberty in an uncompromising way. He is a fearless advocate of limited, constitutional government. He has no known baggage of compromising on his principles. His warnings about the excesses of the Federal Reserve seem prophetic.
But the main question Republicans will be asking themselves as they go to polls early next year is: “Who can beat Barack Obama?”
Ron Paul cannot.
The backbenchers aren’t giving up.
Santorum knows he can’t win. His goal, he claims, is to “make a difference in the race.” He doesn’t explain how.
“If it doesn’t happen, it just doesn’t happen,” he says.
Bachmann claims she has the stamina and will to stay in the race. It’s all about backbone, she claims.
“I have the backbone,” she says. “I’ll put my backbone up against any other candidate.”
Backbone, however, does not translate into votes, poll numbers or campaign contributions.
Iowa and New Hampshire will launch the elimination season. After New Hampshire, the GOP field will shrink by at least a third, possibly even by half.
“It’s easy to get noticed in Iowa,” says GOP activist Alan Salsbury, “but Iowa is a caucus state where it’s easier to pack the room and win.”
Longtime GOP strategist Rich Galen — one time press secretary to Gingrich — agrees.
“In Iowa, you can sleep on people’s couches and hang on for a long time with very little money,” Galen told The Associated Press. “You can live off the land in Iowa. You can’t do that in Florida.”