In my blog from a few weeks ago about Gingrich's sudden rise among Republican voters, I looked at the timing of the previous booms and busts of alternates to Romney. Based on the periodicity of Bachmann, Perry and Cain, I'd made a numerological guess that he would peak on 12/2, and start a sharp drop-off on 12/23. As you can see below, things have ended up working out a little differently:
In fact his high, of 35%, was reached on 12/13/11. And while the last three claimants to the anti-Romeny throne each had roughly three weeks on top before beginning their respective plunges, poor Newtie only seems to have gotten a few days. His polling average started a fall on 12/16, and as of 12/21, has fallen 5 percent in 5 days.
While this certainly looks to prevent him from running away with it (which I think he would have if he truly held on to a lead three weeks from his 12/13 peak, which would have had him still way on top when Iowa votes January 3rd), I think there's equally good reasons to think he's far from finished. He has a lot more going for him in terms of intellect, policy acumen and public presence than Bachmann and Perry, who wilted under scrutiny, and certainly doesn't have the kind of problems that Cain did when he propositioned his way to collapse.
What's going on is more like the effects of the whole field aiming their ammunition at him over the last 10 days, and the fact that the focus on him is showing him to be a little unpalatable. But, without the major handicaps of the others, there's nothing here that would wipe him off the map. Which makes it quite possible that we end up with something like: Gingrich loses Iowa, but not by enough to be embarrassing (especially since current trends make it seem like Ron Paul might win!). Romney wins New Hampshire, but not by enough to be impressive. Gingrich then wins South Carolina and Florida, leaving three consistent vote-getting candidates to duke it out in February and March, maybe long enough that nobody has enough delegates to win the nomination until June. Or maybe not even then.
At the very least, Romney does not appear to be in for a cake walk. I read a piece recently that laid out four scenarios, none of which involved Romney quickly and decisively wrapping it up. I also read an interesting piece comparing Romney to Nixon in 1968 as an ideologically indistinct candidate that the party didn't particularly want, but eventually swallowed its distaste for after repeatedly failing to find an alternative. Finally, the other day I read this article on Gingrich's current fall which makes many of the same points I made in my original blog on November 19th.
Which, if nothing else, at least backs up my conviction that, in a parallel world where I'd opted for journalism school instead of years of misadventure in the business world, I could have made a pretty fair political journalist.