Is a 'death match' coming between Gingrich, Santorum and Perry to be the Reagan Republican in 2012?

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Published January 16, 2012

| FoxNews.com

After a caucus in Iowa and a primary in New Hampshire many conservatives in America still say that Romney still isn't "right" enough to be the Republican Party's nominee in 2012. In fact, they may be itching for a battle between Newt Gingrich, Rick Santorum and Gov. Rick Perry for the title of best Reagan Republican.

However in light of the results of the Iowa caucuses and New Hampshire it seems that Romney may be just right enough to be the nominee for the Republican Party when all is said and done. 

A month before the Iowa caucuses, (a state wherein over 50 percent of likely caucus-goers identified themselves as evangelical Christians), Romney was expected to come in fourth. 

Romney wound up winning in Iowa – albeit in a virtual tie with former Pennsylvania Sen. Rick Santorum. But the fact is that Romney did much better than expected and he did win.

Then the race turned to New Hampshire (a state that prides itself in its independence and where independent voters make up a large part of primary electorate). 

Romney maintained a comfortable lead after Iowa and eventually cruised to a comfortable win in the Granite State primary. 

Rick Santorum was not able to capitalize on his Iowa showing in New Hampshire and came in fifth. 

Paul came in third in Iowa and Gingrich came in fourth. 

In New Hampshire, Paul came in second and Gingrich again came in fourth. Everyone knows that Paul is neither selectable by the Party nor electable by the People for the office of president of the United States. So if anything Paul has run interference for Romney from the rest of the pack. 

In Iowa, Gingrich promised to stay positive and take the “high road,” but soon thereafter veered off to the low road after Iowa and has been on it ever since. In fact, his latest attacks on capitalism launched against Romney seem to be backfiring.

Now the race moves to South Carolina where Christian conservatives again play a major role. Huntsman dropped out of the race today and endorsed Romney. 

The remaining field is now comprised of Gingrich, Perry, and Santorum. These three presidential hopeful are doing their best to channel President Ronald Reagan and claiming they are the only true Conservatives. 

Paul is just being Paul – happy just to be there. 

If Romney is able to take a first place or a very close second in South Carolina then I believe Florida will be the place to sew things up. 

A win in South Carolina will be overwhelming proof that Romney is just “right” enough to win the nomination. 

If that were to occur, Romney would have won in the conservative Midwest, the more liberal/independent Northeast and the conservative South.

Perry, Santorum and Gingrich need a win, place or show in South Carolina to continue to Florida. 

It's obvious that Paul isn’t going anywhere.

The real question will be one for Gingrich to answer. If Gingrich doesn’t come in a close 2nd or 3rd in South Carolina, will he engage in a “scorched earth policy” that if it is not going to be him, then he will make sure it is not the other guy either. 

I hope Gingrich will be smart enough to join ranks and seek to unite the Party and not further divide it.

History has shown that South Carolina is a validator of Iowa and/or New Hampshire and not a place for upsets. In addition, to date no GOP nominee who did not win the South Carolina Primary went on to win the election.

After South Carolina those not viable to continue will have to put the Party above their own ambition and ego. They should do what Bachmann, Cain and Huntsman have done and just fade away.

To be considered a viable candidate beyond South Carolina you need four things to continue: 

1. Fundraising 

2. Organization 

3. Message 

4. Voter Support 

Romney clearly has 1, 2 and 3 in advance of the South Carolina primary, however, the others may have only 1, 2 or 3 but not all 3 to date.

Conservatives sooner rather than later need to come to the realization that the ultimate goal is to defeat Obama. They need to select the best possible nominee in 2012. They need to select someone who is electable by the American people.

At the end of the day it is better to be “just right” than to be totally wrong.

Bradley A. Blakeman served as deputy assistant to President George W. Bush from 2001-04. He is currently a professor of Politics and Public Policy at Georgetown University and a frequent contributor to FoxNews.com

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http://www.foxnews.com/opinion/2012/01/16/is-death-match-coming-between-gingrich-santorum-and-perry-to-be-reagan/