Gingrich and Romney are latest acts in the Republicans’ three-ring circus
“A national campaign is better than the best circus ever heard of, with a mass baptism and a couple of hangings thrown in.” — H. L. Mencken.
It’d be just as easy (and trite) to start this column with the title of Queen’s 1980 rock anthem “Another One Bites the Dust. ” But H.L. Mencken’s observation seems much more fitting following a weekend when the latest “flavor of the month” in the GOP presidential sweepstakes has been kicked to the curb.
What started out as a barbecue to celebrate the opening of Herman Cain’s Georgia headquarters ended up Saturday being a roast, with the candidate as the featured menu item. Cain “suspended” his campaign in the wake of a series of allegations regarding sexual harassment and an alleged long-term extra-marital affair.
But fear not, children of the right. Newt Gingrich has risen from the ashes of his own campaign collapse and is now the featured flavor that has conservative Republicans licking their lips.
The Newtster was the latest GOP contender to kiss the ring of Donald Trump in a visit yesterday that confirms the status of the GOP race as more of a reality show than a serious exercise in political choice.
Doubt that characterization? Just consider that we’re seeing Republican debates about as often as some view the dysfunctional Kardashian clan, “The Biggest Loser” or “The Apprentice.”
Does anyone really care or, more importantly, base their choice for a party standard bearer on the endorsement of The Donald? No one, I’d bet, except for the candidates parading through Trump Tower for a personal glimpse of the world’s worst comb over and a chat with a laughingstock, one-time fellow debate partner likely most interested in gaining attention for his own threatened bid as an independent.
“GOP rivals hope Herman Cain’s demise will reinvigorate their struggling campaign for president” is the way the headline on the Associated Press report read. “How safe is Gingrich’s lead in Iowa?” the New York Times asked. “Will the new Newt Gingrich have staying power?” is the question posed by Reuters.
Probably not would be the safe bet, given all that’s transpired so far.
Pity poor Mitt Romney. Unable to appeal to the hard-core right, he’s been cruising along, saying as little as possible, utilizing a campaign strategy aptly described as the “Mitness Protection Program.” His consistent 20 percent, plus or minus, standing in the polls has been eclipsed time and time again, on a rotating basis, by the likes of Michelle Bachmann, Rick Perry, Ron Paul, the Herminator and now Gingrich.
Able to consistently outpoll only vice-presidential candidates Rick Santorum and Jon Huntsman, Romney’s got to feel like the plain-Jane friend of the most popular girl in high school. You know the type, the one described as “a good dancer, great personality, makes all her own clothes.” In other words, the woman least likely to get dinner or a rent check from Herman Cain or a Tiffany bauble from Newt Gingrich. But most likely to accept a ride in a Rambler with Mitt Romney.
Mitt has to step it up a notch. It’s one thing to say “Nein, Nein, Nein” to “9-9-9” or smile condescendingly while Perry shoots himself in the foot, to brush off Bachmann’s factually-challenged talking points or treat Ron Paul as a slightly weird uncle. It’s quite another to go mano-y-mano with a challenger whose M.O. is spewing out a voluminous mix of good and bad ideas while seemingly not caring if any of them hit the wall, much less stick.
While we’ve been watching this sideshow for almost a year now, we should remember the election is still nearly a year away. Much can, and will, change and we may not have seen the final stable of GOP candidates yet. Especially since it’s likely none of the above can fulfill the “Anyone but Obama” wish of Republican faithful.
“It isn’t important who is ahead at any one time or another in either an election or a horse race. It’s the horse that comes in first at the finish that counts.” — Harry S. Truman