Maybe I should have seen the Huckabee thing coming. For the first time in Huck’s life he’s got a hustle that pays well and doesn’t require him to hug sweaty overweight people. He’d be nuts to give it up. But whenever politicians pass up a chance at power, even when it makes logical sense, my Spider-senses go crazy. Might be more to this than meets the eye.
As predicted, Newt’s big mouth and untidy personal life continue to be the gifts that keep on giving for his opponents, and sure enough, his tiff with Paul Ryan and a $500,000 tab at Tiffany’s have caused him to tumble to the bottom of the latest Zogby poll. (Of course, that same poll has Herman Cain leading, which underscores that no one has put a lock on this thing. It’s no coincidence that many of the early “contenders” are media personalities like Cain looking for a little cheap press.)
And it looks like the decision to withstand the pressure from commenters and leave Mitch “Placeholder” Daniels off the bracket was a good one. I have a farm in Indiana, so I get to see his big-hat-no-cattle act up close and personal. I am not sure either his puffed-up résumé or his fragile family situation would stand up to the sort of scrutiny that comes with a run for national office. But more importantly, Daniels was/is/and forever will be a beard for Jeb Bush. He was just there to keep the money men from falling in behind someone else. (If V3.0 is elected, look for Daniels to be Secretary of Something. Darn it, there go the brackets.)
But first, we have more pressing matters to deal with: The Cruella Deville bracket.
And the winner is, envelope please (sealed unmarked envelopes have a sentimental value to Republican politicians): Michelle Bachmann.
Bachmann’s victory is less about her viability for higher office and more about her campaigning desperately against a lazy and unmotivated opponent. The same dynamics that led Huckabee to bow out apply to Palin. First, of course, she is making more money than she can count (insert your own joke here). Second, running a country is hard work. Third, though, and perhaps most importantly, both Palin and Huckabee (and Obama, for that matter) profited greatly from their novelty the first time around. But like your brother-in-law’s Happy Gilmore impression, it is not as funny the second time around. (Or the 3000th.)
Palin’s polls have continued to ooze downward. She’s now turned up the dial on her public appearances, so expect a bounce in the polls, but it’s hard to see her getting taken seriously a second time around. She’s now doing public gigs with Trump. Who’s next – Snooki?
Bachmann inherits enough Tea Party support to get through to the second round.
That gives us four candidates:
From the Strother Martin bracket (fat white men with Southern accents): Newt Gingrich. From the Barney Fife bracket (ridiculous twerps): Mitt Romney. From the Neidermeyer bracket (Manchurian Candidates trying their best to look normal): Rick Santorum. And from the Cruella Deville bracket (token hottie): Michelle Bachmann.
So will one of these four be the Republican nominee? Maybe, but maybe not.
Assuming the Republican Party plans to run a serious candidate – which after the McCain-Palin ticket is no sure thing – they may well be lurking at this point, hiding in the bushes ready to steal the nomination. Let the lightweights take each other out. Trump, Huckabee, Daniels, Barbour and Thune are already gone, and another handful will disappear by the fall.
In fact, just to be safe, I think we need to add two new play-in mini-brackets, the Snidely Whiplash bracket and the Freddy Krueger bracket, just to be sure. Here’s how that will work.
The Snidely Whiplash Bracket
Just picture the country as Nell and the candidates in this bracket as nasty villains tying America to the railroad tracks as a train driven by Goldman Sachs bears down on her.
Chris “Fat Sissy” Christie, currently governor of New Jersey. Yeah, yeah, yeah, he says he’s not running. But he’s a liar. Just ask the firefighters and policemen whose pensions he called a “sacred trust” during his campaign, then cut. He’s a darling of the smart quasi-libertarian faction of the Republican establishment because he is all about cutting the size of government (and cutting oversight of business). He also has the W/Schwarzenegger style thing going, a swashbuckling arrogance. Don’t laugh, that was enough to get him elected in liberal New Jersey. He’s an Ashcroft/Rove protégé with some dodgy business deals, but probably nothing that will stick. Could make a deep run if he enters, but might be for real about sitting this one out. In 2016, he will only be 54.
Rudy “Gulag” Giuliani. There’s a story about a famous now-dead author, who refused to tour to support his books. Finally, after years of begging by his publisher, he agreed to do a limited tour. Just Florida, where he lived, and just a handful of stores. His excited fans flew in from around the world and formed long lines outside the lucky bookstores where he was scheduled to sign. But his publisher cancelled the tour after one appearance. It turned out he was such a horribly nasty human being that he managed to offend people just by writing his name. His former fans formed a line at the front counter and demanded refunds for books he’d already signed.
Last time around, Giuliani was the early leader by a comfortable margin, despite being a socially liberal cross-dresser. He sniffed at the early primaries and saved himself for the campaign circuit in Florida, where people got to see what a nasty, vile little man he is and metaphorically lined up at the counter asking for their checks back. Only way this guy wins is if he never shows up to a campaign event. Still, there’s something about him that makes him attractive to a faction of the Republican Party.
Freddy Krueger Bracket
Yes, you did see them die in the last episode. But …..t-h-e-e-e-y’r-e…..b-a-a-a-c-k.
Jeb “V3.0” Bush. It’s called cognitive dissonance. That’s what the psychologists call it when you encounter facts that contradict your long-held beliefs and your mind can’t cope, so you explain away the facts and stick to your original belief. We have lots and lots of data to prove the Bushes can’t run a kegger (or a savings and loan, or a baseball team, or a state, or a company), much less a country. But there are nonetheless billboards of W all over Texas with the caption “Miss him yet?” You bet! I miss multiple unfunded endless wars, whimiscal diplomacy, annihilation of the middle class, pervasive corruption, and an economy that makes Greece look like the next big thing. Golly! Who wouldn’t? (Question for the philosophers out there: Can it still be cognitive dissonance if Republican voters don’t have any cognition?) Oh well, 3.0 has at least done something and is by most accounts reasonably competent. Insists he’s not running, but the Daniels thing suggests he is. Rumored to have big-time family issues, but the Wasilla Hillbillies may have inured the public to those types of problems. Capsule: It’s like I’ve told my clients for years, never underestimate the value of a brand, even a tarnished one.
Ron “Droopy” Paul. Harold Stassen, Ralph Nader, Lyndon LaRouche. Some people just like getting their asses kicked in elections. Still, his efforts have not been in vain. Droopy has almost singlehandedly made libertarianism respectable, and bowdlerized versions of his thinking now permeate the Republican Party. It goes without saying that we will never get within a light year of a libertarian government, because many of those most attracted to the anti-tax, small government elements of libertarianism are also the ones most attached to the lavish entitlement structure we have set up for old people. Remember, Alan Greenspan and Hank Paulson were both libertarians. Until the time came to prove it. Capsule: Hard to see this guy making much of a run. His ideas have been swiped by more charismatic and competent politicians (like Kantor) and he’s also got lots of baggage, including an uncomfortably close connection to the white supremacist movement. He once did a radio appearance with the lovable Hitler fans in the picture above, an Aryan teenie bopper duo called Prussian Blue. Think Bill Ayers was a problem? Try explaining that one away.
Now, for those folks from the Beltway who keep emailing and asking about Huntsman, I am still not putting him in, because he and Romney are actually the same person. Really. Check it out.
OK, let’s pick the winners of our two mini brackets, then we will get to second round.