The Republican presidential field is starting to winnow itself, even before Iowa holds the straw poll that traditionally starts the remorseless process. The Georgians — former House speaker Newt Gingrich and businessman Herman Cain — seem to be on their way out. Former Utah governor Jon Huntsman is fizzling. Former Minnesota governor Tim Pawlenty has been sinking. Rep. Michele Bachmann, the other Minnesotan, is rising. Mitt Romney is more securely in front of the other candidates than ever. And Gov. Rick Perry of Texas is sizing up his chances.
It is Perry, Pawlenty, and Bachmann who have done the most to reshape the race in recent weeks. The others have either passively benefited from the events that trio set in motion or confirmed their marginality. When Newt Gingrich was deciding whether to run, the conventional wisdom was that he was too erratic and undisciplined to win. Once he ran, he quickly proved his doubters right. A brief flurry of interest in Cain raised the possibility that he would become a major voice for conservatives in the primaries, although no sensible person believed he could be the nominee. But Bachmann has eclipsed him (as she has also done to Sen. Rick Santorum, who remains in the race for no obvious reason), and he is losing staff.
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