Sunday, January 01, 2012

Iowa Out

The tragicarnival of the GOPer nominating campaign will have its first gong show in Iowa a few days into the new year.  Millions of dollars spent, thousands of hours wasted (including too many of mine) on a caucus of a few thousand GOPers, mostly zealots, in Iowa.  It's the few as well as the futility that makes it a microcosm of this tragicarnival so far, though the worst of it would be implications for the future of the country and the planet, due to one of these evil clowns becoming President.

Polls of stunning approximation fall over each other daily as reporters go into the field, and report what their intuition says. (Chris Matthews likens it to visiting Brigadoon, as Iowa "comes alive" to the Beltway arbiters of reality every four years.) On Wednesday (Dec. 28) the buzz was Ron Paul.  By Thursday the buzz was Romney.  On Friday it was Rick Sanctimonious.  But maybe Cowboy Rick (Perry), too.  One Washington Post columnist ( E.J. Dionne) was smelling a Sanctimonious surge to the top, while another (Eugene Robinson) had a feeling it was Cowboy Rick who had the momentum.

All everybody (nearly everybody) agreed on was that Michele Bachmaniac was toast, and so is Mitt Gingrich--a cap on the absurdity so far.  Gingrich was so far ahead in the polls a few weeks ago that it seemed he could sweep to the nomination.  Now he's slipped so far down in Iowa that it seems more likely than not that he will not win, place or show, and will soon drop out of the race entirely.  There's no mystery as to why this happened.  The conservative establishment media and officeholders went brutally public with their scorn, and shortly thereafter some millions of dollars were directed to creating and broadcasting slashing attacks on him, and he had plenty to attack.  Reporters say that nearly half of the abundance of GOPer ads on Iowa TV are attacks on Gingrich.  The only question I have is whether the money people directed the initial establishment attacks in the media as well, or were empowered by them to spend with such generous ferocity.

The question as of Friday was whether Iowa TEvangelicals would become sufficiently alarmed at the prospect of a Romney victory to finally coalesce around one candidate--which would likely be one of the Ricks.  How would caucusees react to the Des Moines Register final poll on Saturday night?  What will be said from the pulpit at their churches on Sunday?  It doesn't look as if either Rick is going to give up for the greater good--you know, a Christian self-sacrifice kind of thing.  But there is some perception that Paul (not the apostle, the libertarian) is fading a bit.  Neither Paul nor Gingrich are going to pick up each other's voters.  But Paul looks strong enough to remain in the top three.  Romney does, too.   Especially if Mr. 23% holds steady--that might even be enough to win.

As for the Third Man (and it is very likely to be a male person), there's a sweet irony: the best outcome for the TEvangelicals is also the best outcome for the Obama campaign.  And the name of that outcome is Cowboy Rick.  The reason is the same: the Third Man--the last TEvangelical standing in win, place or show position--can coalesce the TEvangelical forces in upcoming primaries, and at least string out the process if not change the Romney nomination.  But if its Rick Sanctimonious, he doesn't have the money or organization for the long run, having been no more than a joke until now.  But Cowboy Rick, even if he is a joke, does have some bucks, and apparent access to more (this may have changed however, since he found grade school civics questions too intellectually challenging) and he has at least theoretical appeal in the South.  So Cowboy Rick can carry the Tevangelical banner longer and maybe farther.

Which would delight the Obama campaign.  A quick conquest by Romey, the apparently most formidable GOPer candidate, would start off the new year with head to head viciousness, and would completely doom any congressional action the country needs. If Cowboy Rick could be Romney's focus for a few months, good.  Cowboy Rick actually winning the nomination, better.  That's where it all stood as of Friday night. 

The Des Moines Register poll released on Saturday evening showed strong momentum for Rick Sanctimonious over the final two days of polling, moving ahead of St. Ron Paul, and challenging Romney for the win.  It would seem that this Rick could be boosted further by this result in the remaining days, based only on the movement (because in fact the percentage differences from first place to third are only a touch outside the margin of error.)  Factor this in as well: Rick S. has new TV ads running, which claim he is the most electable against President Obama.  If caucus voters are willing to give him a look, especially TEvangelicals, because he may have the best chance of the anti-Romneys to win,  then the next item they need to tick off is can he beat the hated un-white President.  That ad is also running in New Hampshire, suggesting that contrary to conventional wisdom, Rick S. can go the distance to become THE anti-Romney and THE TEvangelical candidate.

Cowboy Rick on the other hand has let it be known that he'll have 1500 folks working for him to deliver caucus votes, and his ads are going at the other Rick directly (for wasting their tax dollars on earmarks as Sen. from PA.)  It now all could come down to what Evangelical ministers say in church on Sunday, opines E.J. Dionne.  Think on that a moment.  For about two centuries, the rebellion against qualifying government officeholders on the basis of their religious affiliation was known to be a prime basis for American settlement, and the fear about JFK in 1960 was that as a Catholic (no one had ever been elected to the presidency with that religion) he might violate the Constitutional and foundational separation of church and state, and take orders from the Vatican.  In his famous speech addressing the question, he directly pledged that as President his country would always come first.  Now a potential President has to be almost literally anointed by clergy of a minority branch of Protestant Christianity.  Give us our country back indeed.                           

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