Don't be fooled by the full stage of podiums and candidates at the Republican Presidential debates or the ballot for the Iowa Straw Poll that has many names. The Republican Presidential nomination is down to three.
Perry, Bachmann, and Romney will fight it out for the Republican Presidential nomination. The rest of the field are wasting money and time.
Perry's main opponent is Bachmann, not Romney. Romney can only win the nomination if Perry and Bachmann battle to a standstill, exhausting themselves, and splitting the 60% of the Republican primary voters who want no compromises and a candidate voicing pure right wing ideology.
Romney has proven time and again that he will say anything to become Governor of Massachusetts for just one term. He will then say anything, including flipping on abortion, climate, health care and more. At times he cannot keep straight or remember what he said last.
The true believers of the right are not buying Romney. I too would not if I were them. Is there anything that Romney can do?
Romney is down to hoping that Bachmann can turn the fight with Perry for the dominant right wing purists into a political death match. Or hoping that Sarah Palin actually leaves the cushy seats watching the combatants and gets into the arena and splits the right wing vote three ways. Neither possibility seems strong.
Perry's odds of first defeating Bachmann and then finishing Romney are high. Bachmann is formidable, but the right wing now is presented with a choice: Bachmann who probably loses to Obama or Perry who makes the 2012 election close, close, close. I am betting that there is enough pragmatism in the ideologues to go with a champion of their views that could win.
Perry can raise money, can mobilize the Christian right, can sweep the South, and can win the support of the business establishment. That is a winning recipe for the Republican nomination and possibly for the general election.