While much of the recent discussion about the Republican presidential race has focused on former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney and current Texas Gov. Rick Perry (with a potential bid from New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie generating some buzz as well), GOP consultant Mike Murphy argues in a new TIME column that another undeclared candidate still could prove to be a spoiler.
At this moment of inflection, two people hold the keys to the GOP primaries. First, Sarah Palin: if she enters, Perry will have far more trouble on his right and Romney will become much more likely to enter Iowa to win. The new McClatchy-Marist poll showing Palin only 5 points behind Obama surely has the grizzlies on Team Wasilla humming “Hail to the Chief” and thinking one last time about a surprise entry.
The second is Perry’s debate coach. If the governor of Texas cannot dramatically improve his performance in his next showdown with his GOP rivals, he may not even make it to Iowa.