Some people are sports junkies, and some are political junkies. A party leadership race is very much like a sport. There are many competitions, lots of critical numbers involved, and timing is a key technique to score points. This blogger has a partial addiction for both, sometimes. One of those times is now, during the U.S. opposing party's election primary process.
Boy, it's scary how fast time flies. Seems like only the day before yesterday that the world was wondering if Barack Obama could actually win the Democratic nomination, let alone become the first black president. Here's the big picture presently: It is four years since then, and it's the Republican's turn to select a party leader to run against President Obama next fall.
The U.S. election process just seems like a continuing process that never really ends, from one election to another. The Republican party has been forever whittling down its list of candidates since last year, and talk about potential candidates began years ago.
There were 9 candidates in the fall debates, and between debates, scandals, polls and state primaries, there are now four left. One of those will battle Obama in the new "election of the century" in November. They all (that is, Mitt Romney, Ron Paul, Rick Santorum and Newt Gingrich) have their humanity points, i.e., strong and weak points. Romney appears strong on the economic side, largely due to his multi-millionaire success status. Gingrich comes across as a sharp, thinking man who has decades of political experience, and a politically savvy set of antennae that can sense and know the feel of the state electorate, the media, and thus, mentally prepare passionate attention-grabbing responses. Such was the case on Wednesday night's debate when he was asked by CNN's moderator John King, about his alleged "open marriage" suggestion to an ex-wife.
Ron Paul is bold and in some ways a bit radical, for a conservative Republican candidate. In the debate Wednesday, he quipped in one response, that the media, CNN, is run by a corporation.. meaning that CNN and others, have a certain agenda which is of interest to a big profit driven system. Rick Santorum is not so familiar so far to this observer, but he seems to have a clean slate. LIke the others, he is unapologetically a faith-based candidate and who not infrequently invokes a God/religious or moral reference. Personality and speaking-wise, he is not as interesting as the other three.
Wednesday's debate was the big lead-in to Saturday's primary vote in South Carolina. These are still early days and the magic number of number of delegates needed to win is 1144. Up until Monday, Jan. 16, Mitt Romney had the most momentum, but in the last six days, the political veteran Gingrich's political prospects are, like Lazarus, being strongly resurrected. A small miracle? Maybe. Gingrich was Speaker of the House of Representatives for four years during Clinton's presidency, and was close to Ronald Reagan's presidential office back in the 1980s. He has certainly had a big share of the limelight, and been a major influence on American politics and its economic policies. So one could think perhaps he has spent his political energy and already peaked.
Several months ago, other candidates regularly got their share of attention. There were the debate gaffs.. like the time Rick Perry on live tv, could not remember a 3rd federal department he had alluded to a few seconds prior. Then there was the charismatic, millionaire pizza expert Herman Cain, whose alleged marital infidelities created too much heat in the kitchen, and Cain could only offer half baked excuses. For him, "it' had been a slice" as they say. Michelle Bachmann of the Tea Party was always one to watch, partly because some of her past statements, like the time she suggested that the HPV vaccine caused mental retardation, were ripped to shreds.
Gingrich has been confident, outshone by others, but this wise politician's timing seems to be dead on. His rise is taking away the silent, yet hesitant assumption of many that the younger and richer Mitt Romney would win the Republican nomination. In fact, Gingrich convincingly won the state of South Carolina on Saturday night, and the most recent debate was a strong factor because Gingrich slammed a couple of home runs that night.
This political race is getting closer, and like the marathon the process is, Newt is definitely a marathon runner, and has paced himself to catch up with the leader Romney, and is now poised to overtake him. The next meet is in Florida on Jan. 31, but all athletes will be working out, their strategies, lines, solutions, and ammunition. As they all said after the South Carolina results came in, this fight is going to be long.
As it stands now, the two frontrunners are Romney and Gingrich, and they will likely be the last two standing. The present score of delegates are: Gingrich - 25; Romney - 14; Paul - 10; Santorum - 8. This week was a game changer for Newt, but it's too early to say who will ultimately win first place. It's getting more dramatic and lots more drama will happen as we see other political heavyweights join candidates' team, and determine the plays and the score.