Curse Of The Corn Dog

Conservative favorite Michele Bachmann, a Representative from Minnesota, has announced that she won’t seek reelection.

How quickly the wheel can turn!  In the space of two years, Bachmann goes from running for President, to being an also-ran for President, to being investigated for campaign spending issues, and now to deciding that she won’t seek another term in Congress.  She says her decision not to run again has nothing to do with such issues, and that she will continue to be a leading voice for conservative causes.

We can take her decision to not seek reelection at face value, and concede that it has nothing to do with any of the issues surrounding her campaign.  However, we also can recognize that everything took a turn for the worse once Bachmann was photographed eating a corn dog at some summer political event.  She blindly ignored arguably the best political advice ever offered:  never be photographed eating a corn dog.  And once she did it, it all went to hell.

The Curse of the Corn Dog strikes again!

Curse Of The Corn Dog — A Poem

Yesterday, Michele Bachmann ended her campaign after a bad showing in Iowa.  In reality, she was doomed as soon as she violated a cardinal rule of politics — she was photographed eating a corn dog.  It’s no surprise that Rick Perry, who also has violated that rule, has struggled to attract votes, too.

I’m sure Bachmann rues the day she was tempted by the fatal foodstuff.  In recognition of the end of her campaign, I composed the following verse:

Curse Of The Corn Dog

O!  Curs’d dog, covered in corn

I ate you once, now I’m forlorn

My photograph, with mouth agape,

Became the stuff of cruel jape

The image stuck, was not forgotten

And led to thoughts much misbegotten

I broke the rule of campaign decorum

If only I had been Santorum!

Another Turn Of Fortune’s Wheel In Iowa

Thankfully, the Iowa Republican caucuses are tomorrow.  I don’t think I could take even one more day of breathless reports about the latest polling data.

I’ve written before about how the Iowa polls seem like Fortune’s Wheel — constantly turning, with always-new, surging would-be frontrunners who quickly crash and burn and then are replaced with latest darling.    Michele Bachmann, Rick Perry, Herman Cain, and now Newt Gingrich have all had their time at the top of the wheel, followed by speedy tumbles to the bottom.  According to the final Des Moines Register poll, the latest candidate to catch fire is Rick Santorum, the former Senator from Pennsylvania who is popular among social conservatives.  The poll reports that Santorum has broken into the top three, trailing only Mitt Romney and Ron Paul.  Gingrich, the former flavor of the month, apparently has talked his way back into the pack of also-rans.

The polls make voters in the Hawkeye State seem as silly and fickle as a crush-addled teenager.  Given that, perhaps reporters should stop writing critically about how Romney can’t seem to be break through the 30 percent barrier and write admiringly instead about his ability to steadily retain a solid core of support among an undecided and capricious Iowa electorate.

Newt, Or Nut?

Republicans are on pins and needles as the Iowa caucuses draw near.  They want the 2012 election to focus on President Obama and his record.  They think that if the election is about unemployment and the recession that won’t end, they’ll win.

This strategy presupposes the Republicans pick a reasonable candidate.  If they nominate somebody who seems like a nut, the focus will shift from familiar stories about the crappy economy to novel stories about the Republican’s nutty positions.  If that happens, President Obama’s chances of re-election increase dramatically.

Most people put Ron Paul and Michele Bachmann in the “nut” category.  The challenge for Newt Gingrich is to stay out of that category — but his comments about the federal judiciary aren’t helping.

Gingrich has railed against activist judges, has talked about abolishing entire courts to try to rein in the judiciary, and has even discussed sending marshals to arrest judges and bring them to testify before congressional committees.  His point seems to be that the federal judiciary is too powerful and the other two branches of government need to rein in the judges.  Regardless of whether you agree or disagree with that point, the notion of eliminating courts and haling judges before Congress is too nutty for most Americans.  It runs counter to notions of separation of powers, and respect for equal branches of government, that most Americans hold dear.  It also raises the specter of a President who might disastrously overreact in a moment of crisis.

I’m not surprised that Gingrich’s meteoric rise in the polls seems to be reversing itself.  He talks a lot — and often he seems to talk without really thinking things through.  When he does, he sounds like . . . a nut.

Surveying The Republican Field

Last week Kish and I turned on CNN at 9 to watch the news and watched, instead, the second half of the Republican candidates debate.  Here are my observations based solely on that limited exposure, moving left to right on the stage.

Rick Santorum:  Desperate for attention.  Consciously staking out the most conservative position on every issue.  (Seriously, the defense budget can’t be cut at all?)  His boast that he was best suited to beat President Obama because he had been elected in a “swing state,” without noting that he got hammered in his bid for reelection, was an eye-roller.

Ron Paul:  Looks like an elf.  Every rational point — like questioning some of our defense spending — was undercut by a nutty statement that makes you wonder what he would do if he actually became President.  It’s a scary proposition.

Hermann Cain:  Not ready for prime time.  Wants to reform the tax code — who doesn’t? — but seems to lack knowledge of foreign policy and other areas of domestic policy.  Repeated himself when he didn’t have anything new to say.  Business experience is great, but political experience is important, too, and Cain doesn’t have it.

Mitt Romney:  Glib, polished, well-prepared.  Calculated, too.  One of the most comfortable candidates on stage.  Gives the impression that there isn’t a question you could ask him that he wouldn’t be able to handle reasonably well.  Acts like he is leading the pack, and he is.

Rick Perry:  Awkward, tongue-tied, and uncomfortable.  Struggled to get out coherent sentences.  Is he  over-prepared or under-prepared, tired, or just not suited to the debate format?  It’s hard to imagine him in a one-on-one meeting with a foreign leader.

Newt Gingrich:  Smart and well-spoken.  His answer describing the silly danger of making automatic cuts if an arbitrary deficit-cutting goal isn’t met was as good an answer as you will hear in an unrehearsed setting.  Capably steered the discussion back to President Obama’s performance, where the Republicans should want it to be.  The most impressive candidate on stage.

Michele Bachmann:  An afterthought.  The answer in which she launched into a naked appeal to women who are worried about losing their homes seemed programmed and over the top.   Trying hard to look like she belongs on the stage.

The part of the debate we watched actually was somewhat interesting.  I might watch the next debate, now that we are getting ever closer to 2012.

Never Be Photographed Eating A Corn Dog

It should be a basic rule of politics:  never be photographed eating a corn dog.

During the state fair season, it’s inevitable that politicians will visit the fair.  And when they are there, the politicians will want to do whatever it takes to show that they can identify with and understand the concerns of their fellow fairgoers.  What better way to communicate that you aren’t some ivory tower, out-of-touch, upper-class twit than by eating some fair food along with the rest of the dusty masses?  And, of course, the corn dog is the most basic fair food item of all.

It therefore shouldn’t be surprising that staffers think having the candidate eat a corn dog seems like a fine idea. The problem, however, is that there is no graceful way to eat a corn dog.  Obviously, you don’t use a knife and fork.  It is an awkward culinary object, and most people don’t eat them regularly.

As a result, every picture you see of a politician gobbling a corn dog looks funny and unflattering.  Some are worse than others — Michele Bachmann’s recent photo, above, would be hard to top — but they all look bad.  When you think about it, Rick Perry’s photo to the left isn’t really much better.

If I wear running a campaign, I’d impose a no corn dog rule.  Munching on elephant ears, hot dogs, and ears of corn all are perfectly capable of communicating the “everyman” message, without running the risk of the dreaded corn dog photo.

T-Paw, We Didn’t Know Ye

Yesterday, the nation waited breathlessly for the results from the Republican straw poll in Ames, Iowa.

We wanted to know which of the host of candidates would receive the most votes from the tiny fraction of Iowans attending the event — many of whom were bussed there, fed, clad in t-shirts, entertained, and even had their entrance fee paid by one candidate or another.  The suspense was so great it took a herculean effort to go about our daily lives.  And then, this morning, we learned that Representative Michele Bachmann scored a victory for the ages by collecting 4,823 straw poll votes, barely edging out Representative Ron Paul, who tallied 4,671 votes.  Former Governor Tim Pawlenty finished third with 2,293 votes — and he found his performance so disappointing that he promptly dropped out the race, before most of us even had a chance to figure out who in the heck he was.

The endless drum-beating about the significance of the Iowa straw poll, with its paid admission, its miniscule sample of voters, and its wholly non-binding results, is so stunningly absurd that it somehow makes perverse sense that the results would convince a largely unknown candidate to leave the “race” for the Republican presidential nomination before the “race” has even begun.  It is hard to believe that a major party would use something as phony and contrived as the Iowa straw poll as part of its process of selecting a serious presidential candidate.  I think it makes Republicans look ridiculous.

Anyone who wonders why middle America thinks the national media and party establishments are out of touch need look no further than this weekend’s Iowa straw poll, which drew political journalists and party bigwigs like flies — but was ignored by everyone else.