Monday, February 20, 2012

State of the Race on Presidents Day: Romney Sinks; Santorum Sticks; Paul to Play Kingmaker

In the national GOP primary polls Rick Santorum has catapulted to a substantial lead over Mitt Romney. In the upcoming states, however, the numbers contract, with Mr. Romney’s substantial money advantage coming into play as he outspends Mr. Santorum on TV and radio ads in those specific states.

Nationally, Mr. Santorum leads Mr. Romney by 10 points in the latest Gallup poll, while in Michigan he leads by 2 points. In Arizona, Mr. Romney maintains a slight 3-point lead. Mr. Romney’s money advantage might give him small victories in both states, but our sense is that it will be a split, with the candidates flip-flopping for first and second place in the two states.

None of this is good news for Mitt Romney. In the 6-month game of whack-a-mole he’s been playing, Rick Santorum is the latest nemesis to pop his head out of the dirt. We suspect Mr. Romney’s whacking arm is getting tired. Now, with Donald Trump stumping for him in Michigan, his common sense must be questioned in his choice of relief-whacker.

Donald Trump? Does anybody like that guy? Even Republicans?

Maybe Republicans do. They’re an odd lot – witness the co-chair of Mitt Romney’s Arizona campaign, Paul Babeu, the Pinal County sheriff who has gained national political notoriety out of coming down hard on illegal immigrants. (Please note that the entendres throughout the next paragraph or two are unintentional and unavoidable. Pinal County, for instance. That really is the name of the county.) Sheriff Babeu has recently come out as a gay man, not, however, because he’s loud and proud, but because he was forced to do so by his Mexican immigrant boyfriend. After Sheriff Babeu had threatened to deport the guy. Ah, the course of true love ne’er did run smooth....

In addition to stumping for Mr. Romney, the good sheriff had been running his own congressional campaign, playing the usual cards of extreme right-wing rhetoric – tough on illegal immigrants, loves him some guns, family values, etc. We wish him the best of success with his campaign, which he is apparently vowing to continue, even as he steps down from chairing Mr. Romney’s Arizona campaign.

So, Mr. Romney has Donald Trump stumping for him in Michigan, and Sheriff Babeu, who seems to be using the deportation threat as a pick-up line, was his most prominent presence in Arizona. (Again, Donald Trump? Wasn’t George W. Bush available?) Can Mr. Romney still win this nomination?

A few days ago we would have thought Mr. Santorum now had the best chance to win. Then we remembered what Mr. Santorum is all about – he showed us, castigating President Obama this weekend for not being sufficiently Christian, for not using "Bible theology" as a template for governing, and for not governing in ways that coincide with Church teaching. Ah, we remember now – Mr. Santorum is an extremist right-wing Catholic zealot. Among a general election electorate that boasts a majority of women, Mr. Santorum’s anti-contraception, anti-birth control, anti-prenatal screening rhetoric dooms him to lose in the fall.

We suspect the GOP primary delegate count will be split sufficiently such that none of the candidates have the necessary number to clinch the majority. At the ensuing brokered convention, Ron Paul will make a deal with Mitt Romney, transferring his delegates in exchange for – something. A promise that will never be delivered: an audit of the Federal Reserve, or rollback of the Patriot Act, something that will sound good to his supporters and will doubtless never happen. It will never happen because Mr. Romney we suspect is not so good about keeping promises, and also – Mr. Romney will lose, badly, to the only sane candidate among the contenders.

Happy Presidents Day, Mr. President.

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