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Posted at 11:11 AM ET, 01/21/2012

South Carolina primary: Maybe this thing ain’t over yet

Today we find out if the GOP race is over, as some twerpazoids have insisted. South Carolina could scuttle Mitt Romney’s plan to throttle the contest in its opening month. Romney has had everything going for him, including a miscount in Iowa that declared him the winner incorrectly, but he’s had a terrible week — a week of squirrelishness, if that’s a word (and even if it’s not!) — and could lose South Carolina today to Newt Gingrich, which would then put Florida in play. And Florida’s never much liked Romney. Floridians like Jeb. They like Marco Rubio.

We should acknowledge that, just in terms of generating stories, Newt would make for a more more interesting general-election candidate. Grandiosity plus smarts plus mean little jabs plus the whole open-marriage thing, the endless jokes about No No Newt We Said Swing Voters Not Swinger Voters — this is good for my business. Newt is great copy, as we say.

Romney, meanwhile, has tried to be as boring a candidate as possible. Strategic humdrummery. Offend no one. Put on the air of inevitability. Raise gobs of money and remind everyone how much it costs to run a national campaign. But gosh, why is he still so squirrelly on the taxes? His handling of this issue in the debate Thursday night was Romney at his worst – he looked like as comfortable as a guy trying to talk his way out of a street holdup.

He said explicitly that his tax returns would be used as ammunition against him by Democrats and that he wanted to control the media coverage by doing a single document dump after – after! – he was the nominee. With minor tweaking, this “defense” could be rearranged and rephrased as a direct attack on him.

Will ExGate hurt Newt? Nah. We’ve seen worse. We’re gradually getting French about this stuff, after the Lost Year of 1998. And it is a fact that infidelity hasn’t been, historically, a deal-breaker in politics. Or even flamboyant sexual deviancy. We all remember how Cal Coolidge turned the White Houses into something out of de Sade. We recall the shenanigans of the permanently concupiscent Taft. The public forgave Millard Fillmore for his transvestism. I’m taking these historical details from memory — probably I should Google them to confirm. We know that James Madison grieved not just at the burning of the Capitol and President’s House during the War of 1812, but also at the destructiong of his beloved bathhouses and leather clubs.

History: It’s so interesting!

By  |  11:11 AM ET, 01/21/2012

 
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