USA: Tortuous Process in Hunt for Momentum

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Credit: conservativenewssources.wordpress.comBy Ernest Corea*
IDN-InDepth NewsAnalysis

WASHINGTON DC (IDN) - Republican contenders for their party's nomination to run against President Barack Obama in November are poised for their forthcoming "big" event: "Super Tuesday" primaries on March 6. Candidates, their campaign staffs, and supporters are enveloped in a frenzy of expectations and engulfed in an abundance of forecasts, even though this year's Super Tuesday seems a somewhat less substantial event than its predecessor of 2008.

Super Tuesday occurs in February or March of a year in which a presidential election is held. It is considered "super," because it is the day on which the highest number of primaries is held simultaneously.

This year, 10 primaries are scheduled for Super Tuesday. In 2008, the number was 24, when over half the delegates to the Republican convention were picked. By contrast, this year only a fifth of the total number of delegates will emerge from Super Tuesday. They will represent Alaska (26) Georgia (76), Idaho (32), Massachusetts (41), North Dakota (28), Ohio (66), Oklahoma (43), Tennessee (58), Vermont (17), and Virginia (49).

By a quirk of mismanagement, former Speaker Newt Gingrich and former Senator Rick Santorum will not be contesting the primary in delegate-rich Virginia. Their campaign staff missed the deadline, and their names could not be placed on the ballot.

Going into March, 302 delegates had been selected. Another 508 will be added to the list through the Super Tuesday primaries, for a total of 810. That leaves another 1611 to be determined.

Heavily Outspent

Although Mitt Romney was born and raised in Michigan, he appeared to have less than total appeal to its Republican voters in the recently concluded primary there, a curtain raiser to Super Tuesday. His campaign tactics were not always easy to assess. For instance, seeking "favorite son" status, Romney for some unfathomable reason repeatedly said that growing up in Michigan, he loved the trees.

Perhaps readouts from focus groups assured his campaign staff that the good people of Michigan love their trees. Or he wanted to take their minds off Michigan's cars, as he has been criticised for suggesting that the automobile industry – the state's pride and joy – should be allowed to die.

When out campaigning, Romney gives the impression that he is unaccustomed to lateral communication with his peers. Perhaps this comes from years of top-down communication emanating from the board rooms he occupied with great success.

In a pained and painful effort to regain the confidence of Michigan's middle class voters who love their automobile industry he proclaimed to an audience that his family used only US-made vehicles….his wife, he said, drove two Cadillacs. "Not at the same time," a critic suggested.

Visiting a NASCAR racing site he confessed that he was not a great fan of this sport which is wildly popular among middle class Americans, but that some of his best friends are owners of racing teams.

At one point, Santorum appeared to be moving ahead of Romney and toward victory in Michigan, having given up on the Arizona primary which was held on the same day, before he erupted in overblown verbiage.

Came the primary and Romney won in Michigan as well as in Arizona. The final tally in Michigan was Romney 41 percent, Santorum 38 percent. Commenting on his narrow margin of victory in his home state, Romney said: "We didn't win by a lot, but we won by enough."

For the record, NBC's political team reported that "in Michigan, Romney and his allies outspent Santorum and his allies by a 2-to-1 margin, $4.1 million vs. $2.1 million."

Verbal Excess

The pre-Super-Tuesday count of delegates per candidate at the end of February was Romney – 168, Santorum – 86, Gingrich – 32, and Congressman Ron Paul – none. The total number required for an aspiring candidate to be declared the party's winner and be anointed as its candidate is 1211.

This tally might have been somewhat different if crude verbal excess had not cost Rick Santorum a realistic shot at winning the February primary in Michigan.

He desecrated the memory of a national icon, President John F. Kennedy, denigrated higher education, and insulted President Barack Obama.

Santorum's unrestrained rhetoric was widely derided but, strangely enough, did not draw comment from Romney. Presumably, that's how the "1 percent" plays politics.

Santorum ridiculed Kennedy's views on the separation of church and state. The late president's assertion that he believed in an America "where the separation of church and state is absolute" made Santorum "want to throw up." He later said that he wished he could take that statement back, but the deed was done.

A verbal Molotov cocktail thrower cannot attempt to blow up the reputation of a beloved figure and expiate whatever sense of remorse he suffers later by "taking back" his incendiary comment. His nauseous comment will most likely figure in every book on the presidential election.

No 'Test'

Kennedy's words which made Santorum want to puke were delivered in an extraordinary speech made during his historic appearance as the Democratic Party's presidential candidate at a session of the Houston Ministerial Association of Christian pastors.

In that same speech, Kennedy said: "At the Alamo, side by side with Bowie and Crockett died Fuentes and McCafferty and Badillo and Carey – but no one knows whether they were Catholics or not. For there was no religious test there."

Kennedy emphasized the secular character of governance not because he wanted to make an issue of it himself but because his detractors forced it on him. As Kennedy's brilliant speechwriter and prescient adviser Ted Sorenson explains in detail and depth in his book Counselor, the greatest opposition to Kennedy's nomination and eventual election was "based largely on his Roman Catholic faith." He needed to demonstrate that he would not be controlled by the Vatican. Thus, Santorum, in insulting Kennedy, displayed his ignorance or rejection of history as well.

Separately, Santorum also denounced Obama as a snob, with a compulsive urge to mold others so that they would be more like himself. He said: "President Obama once said he wants everybody in America to go to college. What a snob." Not content with that, he added: "I understand why he wants you to go to college. He wants to remake you in his image."

In fact, Obama did not suggest that he wants "everybody in America to go to college." He did urge, however, that provision should be made for all high school leavers to move on to further career-oriented training and education as a practical necessity. Nobody in his right mind can quarrel with that.

Gaining Momentum

And so, on to Super Tuesday. There have been past primary seasons when Super Tuesday afforded particularly strong candidates the opportunity to break out from the pack. Other contenders would soon drop out, and the candidate-elect could start preparing for the main contest ahead; the presidential election itself.

That does not appear likely to happen this year, and what many campaign strategists are hoping for is that there will be stronger indications than up to now of which of the candidates is the genuine front-runner, and that he will soon gain the momentum to end what has been an indecisive as well as unappealing primary season.

On the other hand, there are Republicans who have almost given up on the current slate, assuming that their aspirations are still born. Some would even start building a cadre of potential leaders for 1216, giving up the current contest as lost.

Paul, who appears to be enjoying himself without a care in the world and without a delegate on his side, presses on, regardless. The others are going through a tortuous process, and appear fully committed to fighting it out to the bitter end, even if they gravely weaken each other – their stature, their reputations, their potential -- in the process.

Super Tuesday could indicate whether the pessimists are correct, or whether a strong a competitive presidential contest lies ahead – thus giving voters a clear and well-articulated choice between competing approaches to America's future. [IDN-InDepthNews – March 03, 2012]

*The writer has served as Sri Lanka's ambassador to Canada, Cuba, Mexico, and the USA. He was Chairman of the Commonwealth Select Committee on the media and development, Editor of the Ceylon 'Daily News' and the Ceylon 'Observer', and was for a time Features Editor and Foreign Affairs columnist of the Singapore 'Straits Times'. He is Global Editor of IDN-InDepthNews and a member of its editorial board as well as President of the Media Task Force of Global Cooperation Council.

Copyright © 2012 IDN-InDepthNews | Analysis That Matters

Ernest Corea's previous IDN articles:

Picture: Timm Romney off to Super Tuesday | Credit:

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