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dissecting the iowa carcass

i can't believe i watched the whole thing.

well, actually, i have to admit that i passed out before wolf blitzer went all rogue and started calling iowa election staff in the middle of the night, but i made it almost all the way. with a small nap in the middle, because it turns out that watching iowa caucus results come in isn't quite as exciting [or as tweet-worthy] as watching these guys debate each other.

but the first big challenge is over and one more participant has been voted off the grand old island, while one of the last remaining non-romneys has seen his star rise. a few thoughts on the whole shebang:

- ok, i really got it wrong with santorum. he'd been languishing in the basement of the polls everywhere for so long i just figured it was impossible that he'd ever get his turn as the flavour of the week. but with a barrage of negative ads having disarmed the newt-ron bomb, indeed, voters turned to rick santorum in a last-ditch effort not to vote for mitt romney. i guess it's only fair, since the guy's basically been living in iowa for the last several months. it does worry me a little that santa is apparently a rabid born-again, seeing as santorum got the biggest present of any republican, but i'm hoping i'll have a chance to live a long and interesting life before i'm condemned to the fires of hell.

santorum has been consistently my least favourite candidate, simply because almost everything he says is antithetical to my thoughts and to my idea of human decency. in the debates, practically every word out of his mouth has been a hateful indictment of some minority- muslims, gays, the poor, planned parenthood. but i've never laboured under the illusion that most people agree with me and spreading hate, xenophobia and suspicion has always been an effective political tactic.




even if they're expensive, mitt, they're a bad idea
i will, however, give the guy one thing. watching his speech and romney's late tuesday night. it occurred to me as we were lying in bed [me and dom, not me and rick santorum!!!] and dom said "he seems a lot less irritating". it was true. when santorum isn't talking about invading countries and groups he hates and removing america's meagre social safety net, he actually comes off as kind of a nice, funny, well-meaning christian boy. he joked about the amount he'd been eating while in iowa. he showed a genuine uxoriousness towards his wife and he was friendly with those who had assembled and hung in for the duration. it's not enough to make me like him, but i the contrast between him and romney-bot 2000 speaking immediately afterward could not have been more stark. sure, they've tried to make romney seem more human by stuffing him in a pair of ill-advised mom jeans, but he still looked stiff and tense. it makes me feel awkward seeing him on television and i can't imagine the experience is much better in person.

if you need a reminder of what type of politician americans prefer, think back to 2000 and 2004, when folksy, goofy, inarticulate george w. bush defeated al gore and then john kerry. santorum may simply be one more flash in the pan, but he's flashed [wow, bad wording -ed.] at an opportune time.

- i'd like to know who got to rick perry after his concession speech and convinced him to stay in the race. perry appeared, his usual texas swagger knock out of him, and declared that he was headed back home to reconsider his nomination bid, which is sort of like saying that he just didn't want to bum people out further by backing out that night. fair enough.

but the next morning, he's on a plane to south carolina shouting "yeeha" and damning the iowan torpedoes. wtf?

if i were a less charitable person, i'd intimate that he was drunk, or taking pills for back pain, but i don't think that's it at all. i suspect that his backers- very wealthy people [including corporations, since republicans think they're people] who have a vested interest in getting a republican back in the white house. and perhaps they think that he can regroup by re-focusing his efforts in south carolina, since southerners do have a tendency to be more receptive to candidates from south of the mason-dixon line. but i also suspect that some of them are aware that of all the candidates running, mitt romney is the only one who polls well against barack obama. keeping perry in the race splits the fundamentalist conservative vote, whereas his exit would likely send them all running to santorum. it wouldn't surprise me if perry was being used as a pawn and is just a bit too thick/ egotistical/ medicated to notice.

never smile at a crocodile. or any dangerous lizard.
- did anyone else think newt gingrich was on the verge of going thermonuclear when he spoke on tuesday night? if i were mitt romney and ron paul, i wouldn't be worried that he was going to start going negative on me. i'd be worried that he was going to break in and slit my throat in my sleep. i'd forgotten just how scary he could get.

i also found it interesting that he's taken on the role of rick santorum's enforcer. it's a calculated risk. going on the attack will likely be the death knell for his own campaign, since newt really tends to come off badly when he's lashing out/ throwing a tantrum. but with another slew of debates coming up, he has the potential to damage both romney and paul [neither of whom are as skilled a debater as he], while allowing his new bff santorum to stay relatively clean [and just possibly negotiate a spot for himself on a santorum-lead ticket].

on the other hand, newt's been written off before and has been resurrected, much like jason vorhees and freddy kruger, so i'm unwilling to say it's over for him.

- some were predicting that congressman ron paul might win iowa and although he fell short, he showed that he does have a considerable base and that he's effectively been spreading his message [he won only one county in his 2008 nomination bid]. i think his greatest accomplishment in iowa has been forcing the media to mention his name, something they seemed almost superstitiously unwilling to do earlier in the campaign. 



- it is with a heavy heart that we say farewell to michele bachmann, truly a favourite among those of us who have turned to the republican nomination race as a sort of demented reality show with a political overtone. although she had a strong performance in one of the early debates [possibly because expectations were pretty low -ed.] and iowa handed her a victory in their apparently pointless ames straw poll, she finished dead last in the caucus. [john huntsman doesn't count and, if his questionable new hampshire strategy doesn't pay off, may go down as the only candidate never to gain momentum in this race.] despite her strangely upbeat speech the night of the vote- which had me thinking that her people had been shielding her from the actual results- she dropped out the next morning.

i'm sure that we haven't seen the last of her, although with all the "eccentricities" [that's kind -ed.] that have come to the fore regarding her past statements and unorthodox beliefs, i rather doubt she'll be able to mount another presidential campaign.

of course today, we have the show's first dropout, hermain cain, attempting his own spinoff, starting a bus tour to promote his 9-9-9 tax plan. this is an interesting way for him to spend time with his family, which is why he said he was leaving the race to begin with. i'm hoping he ends up moderating a debate somewhere along the line.

on a side note, making cnn stars wolf blitzer, john king and anderson cooper, as well as their political pundits, stay up until all hours is t.v. gold. as i remember, things started to get a little wacky when cooper admitted he had no idea what their space-aged twitter-tracker did and got a bit cracked up... and then that spread... and seemed to get nuttier. dubbed "cnn after dark" by cooper himself, it was a hilariously humanising touch to a network that often seems too full of itself for its own good.so could all you new hampshire election-folks please give us another all-nighter next week? thx.

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