THE ONLY thing predictable about the Republican presidential race is that it will continue to be unpredictable. But we can still speculate about what could happen.
Here are some scenarios, with multiple possibilities. Can you predict the surprises yet to come?
■ Cain endorsement. Will Herman Cain try to be a king-maker?
a) He will endorse Newt Gingrich, his longtime friend and fellow Georgian.
b) He’ll endorse a non-Georgian, hoping to be selected as the running-mate. (A ticket should have geographic balance.)
c) He will stay neutral, hoping that whoever wins will appoint him ambassador to Uzbeki-beki-beki-stan-stan.
■ New surging star. Could yet another candidate rise to prominence?
a) Gingrich will flop as frontrunner, and then Rick Santorum will surge as the new conservative hope in Iowa.
b) Mitt Romney will lose big in Iowa, and then Jon Huntsman will surge in New Hampshire as the new hope for moderates.
c) Donald Trump will re-enter the race. He will surge, but then quit again when Romney challenges him to a hair-off.
■ Iowa caucuses. Who can change the dynamic in Iowa?
a) Mike Huckabee will endorse Gingrich, helping him convert evangelicals.
b) Sarah Palin will endorse Santorum, boosting him with Tea Party voters.
c) George W. Bush will endorse Rick Perry as “truly prepared to be president, and smart as a whip,’’ then say he was just joking.
■ New Hampshire primary. Will Romney prevail in the Granite State?
a) Squeezed from the right by Gingrich, from the middle by Huntsman, from the left by Democratic attack ads, Romney’s support will crumble.
b) Romney will win, but “lose’’ in news coverage for not beating expectations.
c) Romney will announce that his summer house on Lake Winnipesaukee is now his year-round house. New Hampshire voters will embrace him as “our new Franklin Pierce’’ (the only president from New Hampshire).
■ Tonight’s debate. What new “media moments’’ might affect public opinion?
a) In tonight’s debate, ABC’s George Stephanopoulos will call GOP voters “fickle’’ for changing their minds about “flavor-of-the-week’’ candidates. He will be surprised when Gingrich asks if Stephanopoulos was fickle for quitting as a Democratic operative to work for ABC News.
b) Rick Perry will impress the audience by spelling Stephanopoulos’s name, with only two wrong letters.
c) In an earlier debate Romney grabbed Perry’s shoulder, but in tonight’s debate he’ll be widely criticized when he pats Ron Paul on the head.
■ TV ads. How will campaigns try to sway undecided voters?
a) Romney will follow up on a TV spot that stresses his marital fidelity (meant to remind voters that Gingrich is twice-divorced), with a special live broadcast of the candidate renewing his marriage vows.
b) Gingrich will follow up on his feel-good “Morning in America’’-style spot with a “Mourning in America’’ spot showing bleak scenes of devastation that he says we’d see in a Romney administration.
c) Michele Bachmann will do a TV spot with her 5 biological children and 23 foster children, ending with a pledge that, if elected, she’d adopt “all the orphans in Iowa.’’
■ Who will quit? When will candidates start dropping out of the race?
a) Rick Santorum will concede after losing in Iowa and New Hampshire.
b) Rick Perry will withdraw after he loses in South Carolina.
c) Herman Cain will end the “suspension’’ of his campaign and officially quit when his campaign manager accuses him of “inappropriate behavior - stealing my cigarettes.’’
■ Convention deadlock. The GOP changed its winner-take-all rules for early states, so losing candidates might stay in the race longer.
a) In a brokered convention, some will try to draft “consensus candidates’’ like Mitch Daniels, Bobby Jindal, Jeb Bush, John Thune, or Paul Ryan.
b) Desperate candidates will try to win delegates by announcing who they’d ask to be running mates. Romney names Florida senator Marco Rubio. Gingrich names Ohio senator Rob Portman. Ron Paul names Ayn Rand, until he is reminded that she’s been dead for 29 years.
c) When delegates nominate someone else, Romney buys a winter home in Iowa and starts running for the 2016 nomination.