Opinion: In GOP Field, Line Between Contenders and Pretenders is Now Clear

Republican presidential candidate Rep. Michelle Bachmann (R-MN) greets businessman Herman Cain, along with former Georgia Congressman Newt Gingrich, Rep. Ron Paul (R-TX) and former Massachusetts Gover

"Tonight the light of love in your eyes, but will you still love me tomorrow?"

Primaries are exposing and embarrassing for the party involved. They inevitably lead to infighting, dirty revelations, and from the outside resemble a scrum in rugby. Who is winning is not clear until someone, finally, comes up with the ball.

Even then, the winner this week may not be the winner next week. It's all about timing.

Our Democratic friends are having some fun laughing at our battling field. While I don't blame them it's not too hard to point to the funniest primary of my lifetime - that would be Hillary Clinton vs. Barack Obama where Mrs. Clinton just wouldn't quit- to get them to quiet down.

Now that we're in October it seems like a good time to take stock of our current candidate situation.

Michelle Bachmann - She came on strong and held her own in the early debates. Ultimately though she was, unfairly to be sure, seen as a placeholder for Sarah Palin and her support drifted away. Could she come back? Unlikely but possible. She could have a strong showing in Iowa and hold on for awhile but she will probably not be the Republican candidate for president.

Ron Paul- let's be honest, I'm only mentioning him so I can get 1000 hits on this post and 10 comments telling me how he's the only true conservative in the race. I've googled Ron Paul and I don't think he's going to win this time. I've said it before, but I like that Ron Paul exists even if I think he's loony tunes on some issues. His purity is admirable if not realistic. Same goes for Gary Johnson. Love the principles, think a win is impossible.

Herman Cain - I don't pretend to not have a serious soft spot for Cain. I've written here before that I worked for Cain's 2004 U.S. Senate run in Georgia. His whole staff from that campaign will tell you we knew he was going places. He's said some things during this campaign with which I strongly disagree - not hiring Muslims is wrong, being gay is not a choice- but I still see him as someone who can be a strong leader, decisive, who says what needs to be said and does what needs to be done.

Having said that, I don't see a path to victory for Herman Cain. It's great to be polling well nationally, but the victories have to come at state levels and until he's polling in 1st place in any state (he isn't), he remains solidly in the 2nd tier.

Rick Santorum/Newt Gingrich/Jon Huntsman- Why are they still in this race? What do they add to the field? In what state are they hoping to be competitive? These three candidates need to exit the stage and fast. They are just sucking up valuable oxygen at this point.

Which brings me to the first tier, occupied by only two candidates, Mitt Romney and Rick Perry.

Yes, Perry has had a terrible two weeks. A convoluted, ridiculous race distraction has mesmerized our sheep-like media who loves finding reasons to call Republicans racist while his lackluster debate performance has made many Republicans take a second look at Mitt Romney. Bad as Perry has had it, though, the news hit today that he raised 17 million dollars in 7 weeks.

That's serious money and more than that it's serious candidate money. Being NotRomney has its advantages. With Chris Christie formally out of the race, Perry can boom with conservatives looking for an alternative to Romney. Look for more posts and articles by well-known conservatives proclaiming their support for Perry.

Mitt Romney, meanwhile, has been playing the front-runner very well. He's the guy to beat and everyone knows it. He hasn't been making too many mistakes (other than piling on Perry for the non-scandal of his hunting lodge name) and generally coming off as the good-enough candidate for Republicans.

There are worse things for Republicans than ending up with a Mitt Romney candidacy but if I could try to nail a trifecta of predictions for It's a Free Country (my first two were: 1. Anthony Weiner was not hacked and posted that pic himself and 2. Chris Christie will not run), I will go out on a limb and predict Rick Perry will be the Republican candidate for president. Sure, Mitt Romney, or some other candidate, could win and I could be completely wrong but my blink says it's Perry and I've been right before. Stay tuned. 

Born in the Soviet Union and raised in Brooklyn, Karol Markowicz is a public relations consultant in NYC and a veteran of Republican campaigns in four states. She blogs about politics at Alarming News and about life in the city with her husband and baby at 212 Baby. She can be followed on Twitter.