Well, September 2011 is here and a lot has been happening with the Republican presidential candidates.
Right now, conventional wisdom says that it looks like a Rick Perry vs. Mitt Romney race with Michele Bachmann being a possible dark horse. This is a correct assessment to some extent, but a lot can happen to rearrange candidate positions going into Iowa, New Hampshire, and beyond.
Emergence of Additional Candidates
Obviously Sarah Palin comes to mind. Her entry would create a huge splash and ironically, would help Romney by splitting conservative support three ways with Bachmann and Perry. She would be an instant celebrity candidate with the ability to raise a lot of money. However, my instinct says that she does not run in 2012. (I though Hillary was going to win in 2008 as well, so my instinct can be very wrong!)
Other candidates who are considering jumping in at this late state are former NYC mayor Rudy Giuliani. NJ Governor Chris Christi is under pressure to run as well, although this is unlikely.
Recent polls have shown that Republican primary voters are by and large satisfied with the current crop of candidates. However, there is still room for another candidate or two.
Self Destruction of Existing Candidates
Both Perry and Bachmann are running into issues with high profile media gaffes. Perry's book has a number of politically controversial positions that could maim his candidacy as well. With so many microphones and video cameras tracking their every waking move candidates are bound to make mistakes. They need to avoid major gaffes that will come to define them.
Candidates Emerging From the Back of the Pack
A candidate like Huntsman (I happened to see him speak last week) could conceivably make a run if frontrunners begin to self destruct., However this is an unlikely to happen. Newt Gingrich simply ain't going to happen either!
One thing that may decide what happens in next year's primaries is that Republicans need a candidate who can beat President Obama. I foresee electability of becoming a larger issue as time draws closer. This would likely help Romney, but is he too radioactive among conservatives who dominate the primaries? Can Perry win over middle class northern suburbanites in a general election?
But remember that polling several months before the primaries is an inexact science at best. Just ask presidents Rudy Giuliani, Joe Lieberman, Howard Dean, Wesley Clark, Hillary Clinton...