The GOP primary process has been a real roller-coaster ride, like nothing we've ever seen before.
Seven different individuals led in the polls during 2011, the most vacillations since polling began way back in 1963.
Mitt Romney remained No. 1 or 2 throughout, but failed to excite a majority, leading to a series of "anti-Romneys" — Tim Pawlenty, Michele Bachmann, Rick Perry, Herman Cain, Newt Gingrich and most recently Rick Santorum. Meanwhile, Ron Paul stayed close with his unique appeal to his passionate, mostly young supporters.
But the field is narrowing as the Jan. 31 Florida primary vote approaches.
During oft-heated debates so far, we've seen various contenders falter due to gaffes, memory lapses, flip-flops, negative ads, scandals or past controversial positions.
Each of the candidates violated Ronald Reagan's 11th commandment: "Thou shalt not speak ill of any fellow Republican." Perhaps these attacks will harden the eventual nominee for even tougher assaults from President Barack Obama. But party unity may now be difficult to achieve at and after the convention.
But now, after strong support in Iowa, New Hampshire and probably South Carolina, Romney heads into Florida hoping to end the competition once and for all — and then sail toward the Republican National Convention in Tampa Bay in August.
It's ironic that Romney may essentially win the nod here — since Florida voters ended Romney's 2008 run by selecting John McCain.
This time, Republican primary voters are split into several camps: pragmatics and moderates, who prefer Romney; libertarians (especially young ones), who simply love Ron Paul; and the more conservative types, who seek either the next Ronald Reagan and/or a true social conservative — and who have vacillated over the various "anti-Romneys."
Pawlenty, Cain, Bachmann, Jon Huntsman, and now Perry have departed the scene. Ron Paul may stay in, but he'll not be nominated. That reduces the field to Romney, Rick Santorum and Newt Gingrich.
If the voters fail to coalesce behind one of these going forward, there's an outside possibility of a deadlocked convention — and even the potential of a completely new candidate (like Chris Christie, Jeb Bush or Mitch Daniels) being chosen by power brokers to end a stalemate.
There hasn't been a truly open, brokered convention since 1952 (when Dwight Eisenhower defeated Robert Taft). Today this would require perhaps four candidates, each winning 20 to 35 percent of the delegates, then refusing to bargain, handing the prize (via a backroom deal) to someone who didn't even compete.
That sounds crazy, but we're not living in ordinary times.
In the end, for a Republican victory in November, whoever is nominated must unite the various factions voting in the primaries, and then also appeal to all fiscal conservatives, including independents and Democrats.
Meanwhile, back in D.C., things will get worse in 2012 — more partisan than ever — with zero being accomplished, while our economic, unemployment and foreclosure crises continue.
Democrats will continue to claim that more taxes on "the rich" would help. Obama will be campaigning for wealth redistribution and against a gridlocked Congress.
Republicans will counter with their own vision of the future, offering a much-needed education on the American dream and on the choice we will be making in 2012 for future generations: less government and more individual liberties and personal responsibilities versus more government involvement, controls, entitlements and regulations.
This is a legitimate and crucially important debate. But negative politics will probably drown out any rational or calm civil discourse.
The Democrat ticket will be Obama and Hillary Clinton, who will swap places with Joe Biden, probably in the next few months. Biden will become secretary of state — and Clinton will become the Democrat vice president candidate.
This makes too much sense not to happen. Clinton strengthens the Democrat ticket; Biden adds nothing. Of course, this depends on Clinton's concurrence.
Whoever wins the GOP nomination may choose either Chris Christie or Marco Rubio as running mate. Rubio, the youngest U.S. senator, has really emerged as a voice of wisdom throughout 2011. We'll be seeing much of him for many years, regardless.
If Clinton is in fact the Democrat VP nominee, this could affect the Republican VP decision, and Condoleezza Rice, South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley or New Mexico Gov. Susana Martinez may be considered.
In the end, we're going to have another extremely close presidential election. Let's hope it doesn't take the Supreme Court to resolve it this time. And let's hope that somehow a miracle is achieved, and our nation comes out of this a bit more united.
Tymann retired as president of Westinghouse International, where he led business development in 75 nations. He is managing director of Naples-based SEP World and Naples Strategic Business Partners. He is a leader of the Naples Tea Party. Email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.