Let’s give Mitt Romney his due. As the winner of the Iowa caucuses and the New Hampshire primary, the former governor of Massachusetts has made history. No non-incumbent Republican candidate for the presidential nomination has ever won both. So, good for him. But not for his rivals. Tonight’s victory pretty much means Romney has the momentum to wrap up the contest by the end of the month.
If you were just using Romney’s speech as background noise while you played Angry Birds or Scrabble on your iPad, you’d swear this were Aug. 30 instead of Jan. 10. The GOP front runner sounded more like the GOP nominee as he took the fight directly to President Obama in the opening seconds of his TelePrompTer-aided address. There was so much irksome rhetoric in Romney’s harangue that I’m going to have to come back to it later.
Rep. Ron Paul (R-Tex.) is the confirmed second-place finisher. Even though I’m told I shouldn’t discount him, especially since he has now racked up a strong second-place finish, I can’t take the guy seriously and y’all know why. A man who allows racist, homophobic and conspiratorial views to go out in a newsletter bearing his name and then is aghast when he’s asked about it should come nowhere near being the official occupant of the Oval Office.
Jon Huntsman is the confirmed third-place finisher. Sure, he put all of his eggs in the Granite State basket by moving up there and campaigning like crazy, only to come in third. But the former ambassador to China and former governor of Utah finished in a much better place than the polls suggested he would just a week ago. More importantly, he did better than Rick Santorum, who was a dinner party short of snatching victory away from Romney in Iowa. Huntsman did better than Newt Gingrich, who is now a one-man flame thrower against the frontrunner, and Rick Perry, who has joined Gingrich in roasting Romney.
And so the GOP clown car — as it’s been called — will roll along fully packed to South Carolina for the Jan. 21 primary. But as we have seen in the past, the Palmetto State is the Camp Crystal Lake of electoral politics. It will be ugly. It will be intense. It will make the red-hot rhetoric since Sunday’s “Meet the Press” debate seem like a parent-teacher conference. Paul, Huntsman, Gingrich, Santorum and Perry will hack and slash at each other and at Romney in the hopes that they and their presidential aspirations will leave South Carolina alive. The only problem for them right now is that Romney is the one with the keys to the car.