There is some serious political news today, y’all. I’m sorry, I’m sorry, two political posts in a row… but you don’t want to hear me whine anymore about my failing body (feeling better, by the way) and I don’t have anything funny to share with you right now except Dave the Dirty Old Co-Worker’s ongoing ministrations to pregnant women (and new dads, turns out – I guess that is a defense against sexism?). So instead I’m going to tell you what made me giggle this morning.
Texas Governor Rick Perry dropped out of the presidential race and endorsed…
…Are you ready?…
When I read this, I bounced in my chair and clapped with delight. “Heeheeheeeeee!”
No, really, I did.
I know. I need a hobby.
Now, there are three reasons Rick Perry dropped out of the race. Lack of support, diminishing campaign funds, and… um… what was the third one? Uh… Wow, um… I can’t.
Perry’s campaign has had more than one mini-implosion since he got into the mix in August. He wasn’t really ready for the national spotlight. He was not prepared for his earliest debates. I mean not even close. And when he couldn’t remember the three federal departments he would eliminate if he became president, he came off as flaky, uncommitted and unconvinced. A series of gaffes followed him around, and if you’re willing to forgive gaffes, we can put those aside and instead point out the ways he may have alienated the base: his position on illegal immigration being a critical one. But when he said last week that the Obama administration had “overreacted” to a photo of four Marines urinating on the bodies of Taliban fighters, it seemed like a bridge too far.
Perry has always been a staunch defender of the military and was, he rightly claims, the only candidate who voluntarily joined up. But to say that it is anything less than incendiary, offensive and absolutely wrong for America’s military men and women to be photographed happily urinating on the bodies of men they’ve killed made it clear that Perry does not understand the implications on the global scale of pissing on… and pissing off… the organization behind so much of our strife in the last decade. It’s not about respecting the Taliban. It’s about not making them want to kill as many of us as possible all over again. It’s not that all American service members are well-behaved. It’s that there are photos.
This is not what American values are about. And if Rick Perry wanted to tout American values, he fell off the box.
His other profound misstep was telling his supporters (and the country) that, after a poor showing in Iowa and staging no effort in New Hampshire, he was going to go home to Texas to think about the way forward. The next morning, he announced he was going to be in South Carolina, but by then the fatal blow may have been dealt. The South Carolina primary happens on Saturday and Perry never gained any traction. He now joins Jon Huntsman in nixing the run before the votes are even cast.
But if you were paying attention during the debate the other night, you heard Perry basically concede the nomination early on when he told Mitt Romney that the country can’t un-nominate Romney in September if they find out then about a problem with his tax returns.
So why the endorsement of Gingrich? Gingrich, who is standing squarely under fire for his comments about welfare (seemingly forgetting that there are a lot of white people on welfare, too) and with an indicting story from his second wife, Marianne, in the hopper for tonight on Nightline? Gingrich, whom several prominent Republican congresspeople have said they would not like to work under again because his time as Speaker of the House was such a struggle?
It’s because the Republican voters are so not solidly behind Mitt Romney that the candidates are trying to give them a way to avoid him as the nominee.
It has long been my opinion that, if Mitt Romney gets the nomination (and I believe he will), Republican voters who are not behind him will stay home, and that will hand the election to President Obama. Perry and others are trying to keep that from happening. Just Tuesday night, Sarah Palin told Fox News Channel’s audience that “If I had to vote in South Carolina, in order to keep this thing going, I’d vote for Newt.”
That’s not exactly an endorsement. The prepositional phrase there is key. What she was likely saying was that if Romney wins South Carolina, it’s all over but the shouting, and pushing Gingrich to a win there would at least give him, Santorum and Paul a little room to work. But it came off, to those who may not realize the nuance, as a nod.
The other fun news of the day is that Rick Santorum actually won the Iowa primary. (This is the part where I do my little I Knew It Dance.) An official count released today shows that he beat Romney by 34 votes, reversing the previous result of Romney’s eight vote win over Santorum. There were eight precincts whose votes were not certified by 5pm last night, which disqualifies them. They could have gone either way, but officially, Santorum was the winner. Will that change the trajectory for Mitt Romney? Probably not. It’s too late for people to care now; they’ve moved on from Iowa to New Hampshire where Romney’s win was overwhelming, and now to South Carolina. Iowa never picks a nominee. South Carolina does. South Carolina has picked every nominee in the Republican party since 1980.
The irony of the Perry drop-out is that it may push votes Santorum’s way despite his endorsement of Gingrich. Santorum, despite what some less evangelical voters consider to be prejudicial stands on social issues, doesn’t come off as nasty and know-it-all as Gingrich does. Maybe they’d rather have religion than elitist condescension. And really, I’m not sure the people driving the truck care either way. Right now, it’s all about taking the ball away from Romney. Because if he does win South Carolina decisively, he’s going to run right to the end zone with it, to the deafening silence of the crowd.
Now on my bookshelf: Then Again by Diane Keaton
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