Tuesday, January 10, 2012

Live Free or Die

Upon watching the New Hampshire debate this past weekend, I honestly can't say my opinion of the remaining candidates has really wavered. Former Speaker Newt Gingrich, a one-time frontrunner who now stands fourth in the polls, lost the LGBT vote once and for all by dodging questions about gay marriage and instead turned that segment of the debate into a mini-rant against the meddling liberal media. Quirky old Ron Paul, well-meaning but still very much a dark horse, put Newt in his place but pointing out his status as a silver spoon, Vietnam draft-dodger. The two moderates (Romney and Huntsman) played it safe and barely criticized their reactionary opponents. The two remaining social conservatives (Perry and Santorum) were loud and proud, but hardly did anything to sway potential voters.

As the primaries drag on --sometimes literally-- one thing is becoming increasingly apparent: the candidate that polarizes the fewest potential voters will likely become the GOP candidate, and therefore the right wing's best shot at taking down Obama. As much as Tea Partiers would hate to admit, the sword would best be thrown by either Mitt Romney or Jon Huntsman. None of the remaining six candidates are perfect --an argument could even be made for Ron Paul-- but a moderate would swoon the independents and undecideds that the Republicans badly need. Michelle Bachmann's abysmal showing in the Iowa causus --and subsequent pullout-- after a decisive straw poll win barely six months ago was an indicator that the Tea Party's influence on the GOP has plateaued. The New Hampshire primary, first in the nation yet held in a state that nurtures independents, libertarians, and the moderate right, only further indicates the Tea Party's lack of appeal beyond the conservative core.

So what becomes of the incumbent? Even though President Obama's position at the moment is not unlike Jimmy Carter's in 1980, it's too soon to scream "lame duck." For all the attention that GOP circus has received in the media, defeating Obama is not an ace in a hole just yet. Retired network news anchor Dan Rather recently admitted his lack of confidence in the president, but keep in mind that the actual decision is still 10 months away. An Obama landslide is likely out of the question, but he could score reelection by a narrow margin depending upon who he runs against. For now, the focus is the six-way handball game between the remaining candidates; as the dodgeball bounces through the air, so does the fate of the nation.

Other notes:

+ Congratulations to Cincinnati Reds great Barry Larkin upon his induction into the Baseball Hall of Fame. I thought he'd get inducted next year --a potential logjam of a ballot including first-timers Craig Biggio, Curt Schilling, and Mike Piazza, amongst others-- but I'll take it. For my case for Larkin, check out this blog entry from 2009.

+ Four years ago this week, the government reported that unemployment rose to 5% in the previous month, triggering speculation of a recession. On that same day, a not-yet-sober Britney Spears lost custody of her children to Kevin Federline. Guess which one of these two stories garnered more media attention that day?

+ If Jimmy Carter is to 1980 as Barack Obama is to 2012, does that make Ron Paul our generation's John Anderson?

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