Wednesday, June 13, 2007

Here comes Mitt: An assessment of the GOP presidential race

By Michael J.W. Stickings

"Romney surges ahead in New Hampshire," according to CNN.

I once thought that Sam Brownback, social conservative extraordinaire, was the dark-horse candidate in the GOP race. He may still be, given his rightist bona fides on the issues that matter most to evangelicals and others on the religious extreme -- issues like abortion, stem-cell research, gay rights, and the imposition of theocracy -- but, for now, social conservatives seem content with the authoritarianism of Rudy They seem to need a father figure with a penchant for violence and retribution, an eye-for-a-biblical-eye, and Rudy seems to fill the bill. So does Fred Thompson, of course, or at least he's playing it that way, which is how he plays it on TV and in the movies, and that may be all that matters, such is the interplay of fact and fiction, politics and entertainment. So perhaps social conservatives -- the notorious base -- will switch to Thompson once he enters, stage (far) right, leaving Giuliani in the dust and Brownback pretty much where he is now, which is well off the radar.

John McCain is done and gone, and his old buddy Thompson, once a maverick of sorts, could eat into his warmongering support. He peaked back in '00, sold his soul, or whatever was left of it, to the establishmentarian devil, embraced Bush, literally, and is following Bush's rapid descent into political oblivion. But that wasn't all. McCain also embraced the now-disgraced neocon fantasy of democracy-by-force, American hegemony for all, and has similarly been discredited. The American people, waking up to reality, have at long last turned on the Iraq War (see elections, 2006), but McCain and the neocons lowlifes want more war, more bloody war, for ever and ever, amen. Poor Bill Kristol, Krazy Kristol, who fell in love with McCain way back when, risking excommunication back in '00, and who would likely have angled for a top spot in a McCain administration, which is now never to be. He and his warmongering ilk will eventually have to find some other horse to back, perhaps some actor masquerading as a neo-Reaganite tough guy.

Which brings us back to Romney, who's running well behind Giuliani, Thompson, and McCain, and just ahead of Gingrich, who remains on the sidelines, stroking his own ego, in all the latest polls. It hardly means a thing that he's pulled ahead in a state so close to his home state of Massachusetts, but the importance of New Hampshire gives him an advantage and just being mentioned in this way could bring money and support. He's too prominent a candidate to be a genuine dark horse, but maybe he's just that. With all the attention on the frontrunner (Giuliani), the former frontrunner (McCain), and the soon-to-be frontrunner (Thompson -- maybe?), not to mention the leader of the Revolutionaries of '94 (Gingrich), Romney could be left in the shadows, struggling for attention. But he has a lot of money, much of it his own, he's a polished candidate, if too polished, and, flipping and flopping aside, he may just be more solid a bet than the liberal Giuliani, the crackpot McCain, and the hyped-up celebrity Thompson. And don't even get me started on the rest of the cast of this atrocious spectacle: the foot-in-mouther Tommy Thompson, the more-extreme-than-you Mike Huckabee, and the renegade-radical Ron Paul. They add "colour," so to speak, but that's about it.

And so Romney's surge in New Hampshire, along with his strong standing in Iowa, must be put in context. They are both BT: Before Thompson. But what if Thompson fails to live up to expectations, as he very well might? What then? Are Republicans really prepared to go with Giuliani and his open closet? One suspects not, ardent, blood-thirsty authoritarianism notwithstanding. The base would settle for Giuliani if he proved to be, as he has thus far proven to be, the most fatherly of these faulty figures, that is, if he promised to torture the most evildoers and spy on the most (un-)Americans, but it would be foolish not to give Romney at least a shot at the nomination.

Even AT, he could surge.

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