GOP 2012–Quitters and Winners

So a couple of men have dropped out of the race for the Republican nomination, simplifying things for the voters.  Who quit? Who benefits?

John Huntsman dropped out, so who does that help? Well, he was the token liberal (by Republican standards), so the man who stands to benefit would be the one perceived as furthest to the left among the remaining quartet. Mitt Romney? Come on down and claim your prize!

Rick Perry is the most recent guy to bow out. My first thought was that his supporters might be divided between the two survivors with the “conservative” label, Newt Gingrich and Rick Santorum. But then Perry endorsed Gingrich. If Gingrich can capture all of these supporters and gain a solid lead over Santorum among conservatives then Santorum might feel the pressure to drop out.

But there are some complications to this scenario.

Will Perry’s supporters follow his advice, or will some of them flock to Santorum?

Also, Gingrich’s second wife is making the rounds in the media, airing out some of his very dirty laundry. Will this renewed focus on Gingrich’s moral failures and hypocrisy force social conservatives to reject him? If so, the biggest winner is Santorum, though Romney might get some of those voters.

Can social conservatives (I mean, the ones who haven’t already opted for another candidate) continue to embrace Gingrich without looking like hypocrites and losing all credibility when they call for morality? I don’t know.

Finally, there was a recount in Iowa and, surprisingly, we have a new winner: Rick Santorum.

Interesting times.