Rick Santorum won Mississippi and Alabama.
“A huge night” and a “huge victory,” Erin Burnett on CNN called it.
It was big, I guess.
As big things go, it went like the food court at your local megamall. Lots of choices, all vaguely resembling what you want, all, on further inspection, a little greasy and unsatisfying. More isn’t always better. Louder isn’t always clearer.
We seem to be getting Size and Duration confused. It’s long, all right. But I wouldn’t call it Big, exactly.
It’s enough to make you infuriated with Mitt Romney. Thanks to his chronic inability to seal the deal, we have dozens more such Big Evenings to look forward to, evenings where dutiful cable anchors will paw over state maps and scrawl numbers and Wonder Aloud about all kinds of possibilities.
Big Evenings when Rick Santorum will deliver further unmemorable speeches that include complaints about “delays in permitting” for wells and paeans to “the men and women who . . . go out and drill these wells and service these wells.”
“This campaign,” he will say, as he did Tuesday, “is about ordinary folks doing extraordinary things. Sort of like America.”
No, this campaign is about processes that you’d thought would be simple turning into prolonged drama fests that involved more sweater vests than you expected, sort of like Political America, those delightful folks who gave us the Debt Ceiling debate.
It means more Big Evenings of Newt Gingrich, standing behind his new Newt Gas logo (he must at least subconsciously be doing this on purpose), in front of a man with a giant button reading, “Don’t Believe The Liberal Media!” The gas logo looks like an obese robot contemplating shooting itself in the head.
“We need a visionary leader,” Newt will proclaim, as he did Tuesday. “Not all this petty baloney.” Newt Gingrich only settles for the largest baloney available. Big, after all, is what this race is about.
Look, the Ancient Greeks liked to amuse themselves by going to plays of which they already knew the ending. Watching the inevitable unfold before their eyes, hubris meeting its due, gods striking out of the machine — it held a certain charm that modern audiences seem unable to appreciate. We want suspense, surprise, twist endings and nail-biters (does Wolf Blitzer have any nails left?).
“The elite media’s effort to convince the nation that Mitt Romney is inevitable just collapsed,” Gingrich crowed.
Was there any such effort? If anyone were listening to the dull accumulation of numbers, he’d have a glass of warm milk, anoint Romney and nod off for the next eight months.
But instead, this has to be Big. It has to be Exciting.
So it’s another Big Night. In the course of it, another passel of delegates is being carefully carved up and shipped off to Tampa. Rick Santorum has prevailed over Mitt Romney in the South, in spite of Mitt Romney’s Grit Adventure into Southern cuisine and saying “y’all.” Too little, too awkward, too late.
This race is going on and on and on.
It’s less “big” than “mega,” in the sense of “megamall” or “megachurch” — large but generic. Expansive but not spectacular. It combined all the raw excitement and exuberant, colorful personality of a megamall with all the repeated references to the Most High of a megachurch.
The nominating process at this point reminds me of “Spider-Man: Turn Off The Dark.” It’s full of grandiose ideas, massively expensive for a few investors, all the swinging back and forth is making me vaguely seasick and no one seems to be having any fun.
Except that “Spider-Man: Turn Off The Dark” is now a profitable musical. And the longer this one goes on, the more you see the pulleys and wires.