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Commentary: GOP race on shaky ground

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Months of debates, TV advertisements and campaign stops all over the country have led up to the start of the 2012 presidential election season — and it started with a bang.

But the bang was not the kind that the GOP might have wanted.

Tuesday’s caucus in Iowa became a microcosm for the entire race for the Republican nomination for the presidency thus far: a wild and fast ride down the highway in a car with several drivers tugging at the wheel. And that bang you heard, that was the tire going flat.

Though many might have predicted Mitt Romney’s victory, the former Massachusetts governor hardly has anything to celebrate. Separated by just eight votes from runner-up Rick Santorum, voters have shown once again that they want to try on every alternative to Romney, whose front-runner status has been challenged by no less than five other contenders throughout the race.

Though candidates such as Michele Bachmann, Herman Cain and Rick Perry quickly saw their rising star extinguished under the suffocating scrutiny that bears down on any presidential front-runner, the constant need for a candidate who is not Romney shows that Republicans at the polls still have major reservations about the only contender who has held fast under the glaring light of the public throughout the race.

Add a shaky base to the rumors of political conservatives such as Donald Trump considering entering the general election as independents, and it becomes clear that the GOP is facing a crisis of confidence that has left them scrambling for a unifying figure to face President Barack Obama in November.

Competitive primaries are most certainly not guarantees of defeat in the general election ­­— as Obama proved coming out of a hotly contested race against Hillary Clinton in the 2008 primaries — but Republicans already have a lot of work to do before election day. If they don’t manage to find one candidate on him they can pin their White House hopes, those dreams might wind up in a ditch just off the highway until 2016.

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