I am starting the year with a week of Big Picture posts.
Republicans normally nominate the person whose turn it is to run for president. They typically pick a candidate who did respectably in their previous primary. By that logic, it is Mitt Romney's turn.
Some newcomers also run in order to get in line for a future race, or at least to position themselves for a post in the next Republican administration. I believe Jon Huntsman, my favorite of the Republican candidates this year, ran for this reason.
When I look at the rest of this year's Republican field, I see two things.
First, I think all the other establishment politicians in the party believe that Barack Obama will be re-elected. Therefore, they decided to sit this one out.
Second, the Tea Party is a wild card. This movement is as much against the Republican establishment as it is against the Democrats. None of those who are running are exactly Tea Partiers. Tea Partiers are mostly very conservative white Christians, drawn heavily from the petite bourgeoisie, who are the bedrock of any Republican coalition. I think Rick Perry and Michele Bachmann come closest. They are drawn to libertarianism, so they think well of Ron Paul. But mostly they are not really against government, as true libertarians are. Rather, Tea Partiers are against government spending money on people they regard as undeserving. All the Not-Romney candidates have been trying to mobilize the Tea Party, but none have a lock.
Herman Cain got into the race, I believe, to raise his speaking fees. That is his main source of income. Ironically, if he had not become the front-runner, this strategy might have worked. Too much exposure, though, destroyed his credibility (if not his marriage).
Newt Gingrich, I think, never expected to be the nominee. He does, though, wish he still mattered politically, so he ran to raise his profile. He may even get his wish. I think, though, he has also raised his negatives, reminding a new generation of Republicans why the previous generation of Republican leaders pushed him out of leadership.
Rick Santorum is, I believe, actually the strongest social conservative in the race - which is saying quite a bit. He is a very traditional Catholic - not an evangelical Protestant. One consequence of this fact, not usually appreciated by secular political commentators, is that traditional Catholics are not beholden to free-market capitalism, large corporations, or big banks. This is also why Santorum is not the candidate of the Republican establishment.
As I write this, the Iowa caucuses are unfolding. Romney, Santorum, and Paul are leading. I think the Republican race will continue with these three, or people representing the three Republican camps.
The Tea Party and the social conservatives will try to fend off the gravitational pull of the establishment candidate.
I expect that Romney, the establishment candidate, the my-turn candidate, will be the eventual nominee.