Nick Ayers and Alex Conant are among the brightest young political operatives at work within the GOP, and they were two of the key aides to Tim Pawlenty. If both of them commit to either Rick Parry or Mitt Romney, I would expect a lot of the Pawlenty funding team to follow.
This story is the nonsense that makes headlines, but the candidates’ organization and money will matter in a long campaign made longer by proportional delegate division in the early primaries. The best early analysis/prediction, from RealClearPolitics’ Sean Trende this morning (must reading though you can disagree with a lot of his take) is this:
If Bachmann wins Iowa, Perry wins South Carolina, Romney wins Nevada and New Hampshire, and some combination of these three candidates pick up any remaining unsanctioned primaries, Bachmann could easily stay in through Super Tuesday, when many of the March states hold their primaries. Given the proportional representation rules, this could be a real headache for Perry.
Because very conservative activists and Tea Party grassroots are high information consumers, Governor Perry is going to hope they understand Trende’s scenario and abandon Congresswoman Bachmann early on. By contrast, Governor Romney is going to count on the “November first” Republicans to assess the field, the dynamic around Bachmann-Perry, and to rush towards him as the most electable candidate in the general. Both groups are going to be scouring the news for signs of momentum and Fall 2012 advantage over the president.
This is the first election where the new information networks will run rings around the MSM in supplying key information to the GOP electorate, including details judged by the MSM to be “inside baseball” like the destinations of Ayers and Conant. The prospect of a second Obama term is so appalling to most center-right voters that electability is likely to be far more important than any other issue, and the Pawlenty insiders whose careers depend on picking the right horse will be making that judgment very soon.