Culling the GOP field

Claude Sandroff

Governor Rick Perry sounded a strategic retreat on Thursday ending his campaign the day of the second South Carolina debate. Thankfully the needed winnowing of the traditional Republican field is continuing apace.

Most significantly, Perry endorsed Gingrich on his way toward the exit, something that has provided Gingrich an added tailwind to sustain his second primary season surge in as many months.

It's not so much that Perry's voting block was significant (he was polling only 2% in South Carolina according to Rasmussen) but Perry's support contributes to the sense that Newt is the man on the rise which Sarah Palin's earlier quasi-endorsement also suggested.  Perry's endorsement of Gingrich was also much more heart-felt than Huntsman's endorsement of Romney was a few days earlier. 

This seems to be the real problem with the Romney candidacy: no one supports Romney or his positions enthusiastically, not even himself.  We would all feel more comfortable with Romney if only he offered an unapologetic defense of free-market capitalism, explained with directness how proud he was about his spectacular business successes and articulated a full-throated, deeply-felt analysis of the dangers of liberalism.

Romney began to fill some of this enthusiasm gap with a more intense delivery in yesterday's debate but he has a long oratorical road ahead before he matches the former Speaker's spark. There was a real fear (or hope) among the punditry that when Marianne Gingrich relaunched Marriagegate her former husband's campaign would be over. But Gingrich seemed to dodge that landmine through the sheer force of rhetorical mastery and going on the offensives against the media while avoiding any personal attack on his ex-wife.

If Newt's character flaw is his unanchored hubris, Romney's is his calculated evenness. When Gingrich speaks there is a sense that what he espouses completely possesses him.  When Romney speaks we see a highly competent and controlled actor who delivers his lines well.  He's "indicating" as the acting coaches warn against.

It would be exhilarating to watch a Newt and Mitt one-on-one battle for the traditional republican vote but even if the remaining Rick in the race places a distant third or fourth in South Carolina (as current polls indicate) it seems certain that Santorum will persevere into Florida.

But four is really a crowd here.  Let's hope that after Florida we have our final culling.  As to why Santorum should opt out (if the current trends hold up): Iowa was his one-trick pony and he has never accomplished anything significant in his political career.  He never led a movement and he never helped anyone get elected.  Nice guy though.


Claude can be reached at csandroff@gmail.com

Governor Rick Perry sounded a strategic retreat on Thursday ending his campaign the day of the second South Carolina debate. Thankfully the needed winnowing of the traditional Republican field is continuing apace.

Most significantly, Perry endorsed Gingrich on his way toward the exit, something that has provided Gingrich an added tailwind to sustain his second primary season surge in as many months.

It's not so much that Perry's voting block was significant (he was polling only 2% in South Carolina according to Rasmussen) but Perry's support contributes to the sense that Newt is the man on the rise which Sarah Palin's earlier quasi-endorsement also suggested.  Perry's endorsement of Gingrich was also much more heart-felt than Huntsman's endorsement of Romney was a few days earlier. 

This seems to be the real problem with the Romney candidacy: no one supports Romney or his positions enthusiastically, not even himself.  We would all feel more comfortable with Romney if only he offered an unapologetic defense of free-market capitalism, explained with directness how proud he was about his spectacular business successes and articulated a full-throated, deeply-felt analysis of the dangers of liberalism.

Romney began to fill some of this enthusiasm gap with a more intense delivery in yesterday's debate but he has a long oratorical road ahead before he matches the former Speaker's spark. There was a real fear (or hope) among the punditry that when Marianne Gingrich relaunched Marriagegate her former husband's campaign would be over. But Gingrich seemed to dodge that landmine through the sheer force of rhetorical mastery and going on the offensives against the media while avoiding any personal attack on his ex-wife.

If Newt's character flaw is his unanchored hubris, Romney's is his calculated evenness. When Gingrich speaks there is a sense that what he espouses completely possesses him.  When Romney speaks we see a highly competent and controlled actor who delivers his lines well.  He's "indicating" as the acting coaches warn against.

It would be exhilarating to watch a Newt and Mitt one-on-one battle for the traditional republican vote but even if the remaining Rick in the race places a distant third or fourth in South Carolina (as current polls indicate) it seems certain that Santorum will persevere into Florida.

But four is really a crowd here.  Let's hope that after Florida we have our final culling.  As to why Santorum should opt out (if the current trends hold up): Iowa was his one-trick pony and he has never accomplished anything significant in his political career.  He never led a movement and he never helped anyone get elected.  Nice guy though.


Claude can be reached at csandroff@gmail.com