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Newt Threatens Romney in GOP Nomination Circus

A Democratic consultant ponders the what's next under the big top: Newt Gingrich vs. Mitt Romney

GOP circus


Last week, after yet another episode of bizarre behavior on the Republican campaign trial, one of my partners -- political consultant John Hennelly -- came into my office and asked, "Next, will all eight of these guys ride into the arena piled into a VW Beetle and pile out with big red noses?"

Over the many decades I have observed or participated in presidential primary contests, I don't think we have ever been treated to such a clown show.

Recall that the show began with a boomlet for Donald Trump who pretended to run for president to promote his TV show. On December 27th the pre-Iowa debate circus will reach its apogee when Trump chairs the last Republican debate of the year.

And the show would not have been the same without former Godfather Pizza czar Herman Cain. Though Cain has now "suspended" his campaign, who can forget the painful video of his attempts to remember which war was the one in Libya, or his absurd "999" tax plan, or the graphic descriptions from the charges of sexual harassment against him? And who didn't wonder at his seeming surprise when a recent thirteen-year-long affair somehow managed to find its way into the news when he decided to subject himself to the intense scrutiny of a candidate for President of the United States?

The New York Times reported that the announcement that his campaign had been "suspended" had a "circus-like" atmosphere -- "complete with numerous postponements, barbecue, a blues band and supporters in colonial-era dress."

Of course, when the race began most observers thought that Congresswoman Michele Bachmann might take the prize for least-ready-to-lead the free world. After all, she was prone to off-the-wall statements, offered radical right-wing solutions, and she and her husband owned a business that specialized in "fixing" gay people. But the Tea Party faithful's short infatuation with Bachmann came to a screeching halt the moment Rick Perry entered the race.

Perry launched his campaign at a "prayer rally," but it turned out he was better at being the "yell leader" at Texas A&M as an undergraduate than in explaining his positions in debates. His minutes-long attempt to remember the third Federal agency he would eliminate if elected president made everybody watching feel almost as uncomfortable as he appears to be exploring virtually any subject with more depth than a sound-bite. And his seemingly inebriated, giggling New Hampshire speech that ended in a near-swooning hug of a bottle of maple syrup was just downright weird.

Last week we were all reminded once again why Rick Perry has some distance to go convincing voters he is, shall we say, "in command of the facts" -- when he indicated that he thought that the voting age in the United States was 21 and he didn't know the date of the General Election to which he is supposedly devoting his life.

It's no wonder that on Sunday, Congressman Barney Frank said that in his casting of the Republican campaign as the "Wizard of Oz," Rick Perry would be the Scarecrow -- the one who desperately wanted a brain.

That's not Ron Paul's problem. Paul has to be regarded as a serious, knowledgeable legislator. His major limitation is that his well-articulated views are somewhere on the other side of the former planet Pluto when it comes to the American mainstream. Paul not only wants to abolish Medicare, like most of the rest of the Republican field. He also thinks both Social Security and Medicare are unconstitutional. He twice introduced legislation to abolish the Occupational Safety and Health Administration that protects workers on the job. He opposes the minimum wage, the federal income tax and the Federal Reserve.

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