Just remember the early part of the race drives candidates to the extreme. The real race drives out the extremists. The race after Christmas this year will probably come down to Romney, Perry and Bachmann in a distant third.

The early part of any long race is misleading. Usually, a runner will set the pace and force the rest of the field to adjust.

Often, the winner of the race settles in and watches a couple of “rabbits” try to run away from the pack only to run out of steam and be overtaken by the stronger competitors in the field. That happens in political races, too.

In politics, you stop being a person and start being a brand. The most important part of branding is a recognizable name. No one starts out with a recognizable name.

Candidates for president tend to have been governors, members of Congress or celebrity business people. The pool to draw from is small because name recognition needs to be high.

You can raise your name recognition in two ways: You can buy it through advertising and grassroots mobilization, or you can earn it through media appearances as a newsmaker. Those who do best do both.

But to be a newsmaker is difficult. You have to have some standing on your own. A guy from Michigan railing against President Barack Obama isn’t news. It’s a day at the coffee shop. A senator railing against Obama is better.

That’s what we are seeing now in the Republican primary’s early stages. Mitt Romney has been a candidate before. He is the darling of the establishment and, until Rick Perry got in the race, was the obvious winner for best hair.

But Romney is a fly-under-the-radar front-runner. He is waiting back in the middle of the pack and letting the rabbits fight it out, knowing he has what it takes to go the distance.

Some of the rabbits are Herman Cain, Michele Bachmann and Ron Paul. All of these candidates have to rely on shock value and cult following for support.

Bachmann won the Iowa straw poll because she has inspired many ultra-conservatives with her message and style. Herman Cain has a small but fierce group of followers, and Ron Paul’s libertarian message is resonating with people who are tired of fighting two wars and funding big governments.

But now is when the rabbits start getting shot at. Newsweek runs a picture of Michele Bachmann looking like a third grader who is afraid she will accidentally close her eyes in her school photo. The Telegraph in London goes one step further and captures her eating a humongous corn dog in one of the least flattering photos ever taken.

Bachmann was out front, so she became a target. One of her appeals is that she is attractive. Because that is one of her appeals, it becomes an area where she is attacked. Sarah Palin faces the same issue. No one has seen more unflattering pictures printed of themselves for the sake of discrediting their political views than Palin.

Men don’t tend to get credit for looks. So they get attacked in other ways. They are made to look foolish or even worse. Rick Perry was attacked for saying the nation’s economy is a “big black cloud” over the country. Ed Schultz on MSNBC leveled charges of racism because the cloud is black and Obama is black, so Perry’s a racist. That is an incredible leap of logic.
Obama also has a black dog. Am I racist for noticing that?

As governor of Texas, Perry is hard to classify as a rabbit. He argues that his state has the most added jobs in the nation and the economy of Texas compares well to other states. Many argue that Perry has benefited from being in an oil-rich state during a time of high oil and gas prices –– much like Palin did in Alaska.

But Texas also has a solid taxing structure, a well-regulated real estate industry and strong local governments. While Perry may not be responsible for those, he is the longest sitting governor in America, and he hasn’t messed it up yet.

It is far too early to worry about which candidate won the watermelon seed spitting contest at the Iowa State Fair or who is polling well against Obama.
Palin still hasn’t even announced if she is running yet, so the race hasn’t really even started.

Just remember the early part of the race drives candidates to the extreme. The real race drives out the extremists. The race after Christmas this year will probably come down to Romney, Perry and Bachmann in a distant third.

If Palin gets in, she is in the mix and Bachmann disappears. Paul, Cain, Santorum and Huntsman are also out. None of them have the name or checking account to be a serious contender.