Ron Gone

Texas Congressman and Republican presidential candidate Ron Paul has announced that he won’t be spending resources to contest Republican primaries in any states that haven’t yet voted.  It’s just another reason why Mitt Romney is now described as the “presumptive” Republican nominee.

Paul always seemed like somebody’s batty uncle.  Now that he’s called a kind of end to his campaign, he can go back to the House of Representatives, where he has served for years and accomplished virtually nothing.  (Of course, the people who support Paul probably think that is a good thing.  When you take a libertarian approach to the issues, you don’t want the federal government doing much of anything.)  Still, Paul was entertaining, and his views clearly resonated with a quirky core of voters.  Accordingly, he deserves a bit of farewell doggerel:

Bring all troops home, so Ron Paul said,

And while we’re at it, shut down the Fed

Time to get government off our backs

Which means we end the income tax

And there’s one other thing we hate

Yes, that would be the welfare state

We’ll also strongly protect our borders

While we all become gold hoarders

So anti-government Ron is done

Now he’ll head back to . . . Washington?

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The Candidate Who Wouldn’t Leave

Yesterday Newt Gingrich indicated that he was finally ending his presidential campaign.  The announcement caught most knowledgeable observers by surprise, because they thought his campaign had ended months ago.

In this campaign cycle, Gingrich became the candidate who wouldn’t leave.  In recognition of his long overdue decision to face reality and get the heck out of Dodge, I offer this bit of doggerel:

Let’s raise a glass to our friend Newt

It took months to give him the boot

A white-haired whiz, great in debate

He somehow lost state after state

A stubborn cuss, he kept attacking

Only to take one more shellacking

His glibness was his main asset

That’s why he ended deep in debt

His campaign just went on and on

Long forgotten, he’s finally gone.

Santorum Sits

Today Rick Santorum announced that he was “suspending” his campaign.

Apparently “suspending” is the new word that political candidates use when they have lost, run out of money, or are otherwise unable to continue their campaigns.  They don’t withdraw, they don’t concede . . . they just “suspend.”  The word suggests that, at some indeterminate point in the future, Santorum’s campaign could suddenly spring to life again, along with the other “suspended” campaigns that might rise, zombie-like, and start chewing through the skulls of American voters hoping to consumer more of that delicious brain tissue.

There is value in an old-fashioned concession speech.  You show grace and class.  You acknowledge that the winner beat you, fair and square.  Such speeches tend to legitimize the process.  After a hard-fought campaign, a well-prepared and well-delivered concession speech ends the acrimony, emphasizes common values and interests, and pledges to work together toward common goals.

“Suspension” speeches, in contrast, just allow the loser to pat himself on the back and try to frame the narrative for a failed campaign — without accomplishing any of the classy and salutary  benefits of a graceful concession speech.

In this case, for example, Santorum’s “suspension” speech apparently did not even mention, much less congratulate, Mitt Romney, the man who beat him.  That tells me a lot about Rick Santorum.

Inexplicable Vanity, And Santorum’s Folly

Last night Mitt Romney won three more primaries, in Maryland, Wisconsin, and the District of Columbia.  He is now even farther ahead in the race for delegates — so far ahead, in fact, that his nearest challenger, Rick Santorum, would need to win 80 percent of the remaining delegates to win the nomination.  Does anyone — outside of the Santorum family, perhaps — seriously think we are on the brink of the tidal wave of previously undetected support for Rick Santorum needed for that to happen?  Nevertheless, Santorum has vowed to continue the race.

That kind of stubborn and inexplicable vanity, I think, is one thing that distinguishes politicians from normal human beings.  Why does Santorum think that he is so special that he must continue a race that is, for all practical purposes, already ended?  He was crushed in his last general election, when he sought reelection to his Senate seat in Pennsylvania.  He’s now been beaten in the majority of the primaries and caucuses in this 2012 primary season.  Why doesn’t he go gently into that good night?

The problem, I suspect, is that politicians spend most of their time in a cocoon of staffers, supporters, and sycophants.  They go to rallies where people cheer their every word.  Everyone they encounter tells them they are great, and they come to believe it.  And when election results are inconsistent with that belief, the results are rationalized away as the result of unlucky national trends, or being outspent, or ineffective advertising, or other factors that don’t reflect on the politicians themselves.  They cling to the belief that if only voters really knew them and truly understood their positions, they would be elected by acclamation.

I can’t psychoanalyze Rick Santorum.  The same goes for Newt Gingrich and Ron Paul, who also are continuing their quixotic campaigns.  They all need to realize, however, that they aren’t essential to the future of our republic.  Voters do understand them and their positions and have decided to vote for someone else.

They also need to consider one other point:  voters make judgments not only on the basis of TV commercials and debate blunders, but also because they weigh whether the candidate’s conduct seems to reflect the qualities we think a President should possess.  Being unable to recognize reality isn’t one of them.

Ohio, Ready To Swing

Tomorrow Americans across the land will vote in Super Tuesday primary elections.  Ohio — the prototypical swing state — is once again ready to swing.

The latest polls show that the race between Rick Santorum and Mitt Romney in the Ohio Republican presidential primary is too close to call.  The polls indicate that Romney has made up a fair amount of ground over the past few days and is doing well with late-deciding voters. There also are indications that Ohioans are not exactly straining at the leash to address “social issues” and would rather that the focus remain on the economy.

I’m not surprised by any of these results.  Although Ohio has some folks at the extreme ends of the political spectrum, in my experience most Ohioans are middle-of-the-road, pragmatic people.  They don’t seek out conflict.  They are fully capable of having a political conversation with a friend or co-worker who has a different political viewpoint without seeing the discussion devolve into name-calling or cheap shots.  Ohioans largely keep to themselves and expect their neighbors to do likewise.  And, if they think there is a problem, they just want to fix it, without paying too much attention to who gets the credit.

This year, Ohioans know all too well that the economy has been poor, and they are interested in seeing how that problem can be fixed.  I expect that tomorrow’s results will give the country a pretty good idea of which Republican candidate middle America thinks is best suited to that job.

Santorum And Satan

I’ve been hearing Rick Santorum ads over the past few days.  It’s clear that his focus — and the means by which he attempts to distinguish himself from his Republican rivals — is “social issues.” Even his economic plans are couched as a way of “helping families,” by which he clearly means traditional, married, husband-and-wife led families.

I don’t subscribe to Santorum’s ultra-traditional views of how life should be lived or families should be structured.  I’m also concerned by the overt nature of his religious beliefs.  I heard clips of a speech he gave some time ago in which he talked about “Satan” targeting and attacking the United States and its institutions, and it made me very uncomfortable.  When was the last time we had a presidential candidate talking openly about “Satan”?  If a random guy at the airport was talking about “Satan” in the way Santorum did in that speech, wouldn’t most of us give that guy a very wide berth?

Santorum is of course entitled to his views, but his emphasis on religion and issues like gay marriage and contraception are a problem for me.  I’m not quite a libertarian, because I do think there is a limited, appropriate role for government under certain circumstances, but I don’t think the government should be lecturing us or or directing us or judging us so long as we live lawfully.  I suspect that any government led by Santorum would be as intrusive and overreaching into our daily lives as the Obama Administration has been — just in a different way and with a different focus.

In my view, we don’t need a President who fancies himself a spiritual leader.  We need a President who will roll up his sleeves and deal effectively with our enormous, structural deficit and debt problems.  Achieving that goal requires someone who can bring people together, not someone whose forays into “social” issues — and ruminations about the latest nefarious activities of Old Scratch — push people apart and prevent us from achieving the consensus necessary to do the job.

I Don’t Get Robocalls

Now that the Republican primary campaigns have moved to Ohio and other Super Tuesday states, I’ve started to get robocalls at work.  But, although I’m getting robocalls, I don’t quite get robocalls.

By that I mean that I don’t understand the value of a robocall.  I’m sure there are studies that dispute this, but I just cannot believe that robocalls persuade voters to vote for a candidate.  They are so silly, and at the same time so irritating and intrusive, they can’t possibly be effective.  It’s bad enough to get a solicitation call from a human being; one that comes from recording is just deeply insulting and disrespectful of my time.

I suppose you can argue that robocalls increase name recognition for candidates, but if that is the point then why not hire town criers to walk the streets shouting candidate names, or revive the old, screechy sound trucks that used to roll through neighborhoods in the days leading up to an election?  How are they materially different from a robocall?

So, I’ve vowed not to pull the lever for anyone who sends me a robocall.  If they can’t show some respect for my valuable time, they’re not going to get my vote.