The mixture of desire, expectations and enormity can be a heady one, one which may knock someone into a stupor like mixing meds or a first cigar, replete with the nauseous knots in the stomach that inevitably coil up whenever one gets the chance to prove themselves in a very public forum. Given carte blanche to check in on the GOP race after Super Tuesday brought about such emotions from me. The ridiculous candidates, the birth control issue playing behind them, the hilarious way in which the media covers returns; it was almost too much fodder to process. Where to start? Perhaps with a Xanax; my heart is racing.
Let us begin with a brief aside on the way these primary results are reported and commented upon. In the interest of full disclosure, I did not watch the returns roll in on Super Tuesday. My super Tuesday consists of New Girl and Justified, critical political stakes be damned. But I cannot imagine it could have been any less ludicrous than CNN's coverage of the Michigan and Arizona primaries. Anderson Cooper and Wolf Blitzer spearheaded a team of seemingly one million analysts, talking heads and deers in the headlights, motion graphics buzzing like bullets on a battlefield and circular discussion points spinning until you could practically smell the scorching rubber. Multiple times the flow of information was bogged down by user interface issues with the touch boards, while misspellings and miss labelings had journos tripping over which numbers belonged to which state. An examination of this circus could -- and should -- be a column in and of itself. I can only hope that Super Tuesday, with so much more on the line, was proportionally bizarre.
For the stakes were indeed high, despite this year's edition of Super Tuesday featuring only 10 states. Still, the 419 delegates ready to be snapped up represented roughly one third of the 1,144 delegates needed to win the nod, and a dominating performance by any of the Terrible Trio (Mitt Romney, Rick Santorum and Emperor Gingrich) could put some distance on the race. In an era of super pacs and one man party budgets, no one would be likely to drop out if such an occurrence had happened; so long as the big fish bleed money, ego will keep the buses on the road. Easy excuses -- such as Santorum's constant pleas of being outspent (it is a Presidential election, Rick, what did you think was going to happen?) and Gingrich's messianic complex -- further drag out the terrible slog to Tampa. In what is the most vicious, most protracted and most important sporting event in America, men with the ego of high school quarterbacks will want to back down.
Of particular interest as conservatives hit the booths was the effect of what the New York Times deemed the War on Women, which sparked a national outcry over egregious attempts by the Right to send women's healthcare back to 1955. Critical missteps included a panel composed of all males for testimony, and a constant caterwauling that there is a War on Religion at stake here. While the war on Christianity is disturbingly real in some part of the world, contraceptive health care can not be seen as a trampling of religious rights. Indeed, if the War on Women was to succeed, it would be perhaps the greatest coup of Religious over Civic values in the history of the country; we already have nations who rule by their faiths, and they terrify us. Is Rick Santorum running by his Bible any different from Iran's Islamic law?
The candidates did a good job escaping the all encompassing black hole of bigotry and bile known as Rush Limbaugh, who may have finally overstepped his bounds in his assertions that a Georgetown law student who testified on the issues before congress was a "slut" since she wanted to, in his mind, be paid to have sex. I'll let John Stewart handle this one as he quite easily decimates the slimy windbag and lays bare the facts in a way that most straight journalists could never do, yoked as they are to Objectivity. But while busily slithering away from the hell hole that is Rush, they were careful to only distance themselves from his locution, not his fundamentally flawed idea.
It was this backlash that perhaps took some of the wind out of Santorum's sails, being the candidate most connected to the religious right and hardline conservatives. Carrying only three states -- all data according to unofficial tallies utilized by CNN -- Santorum was defeated soundly, but not fatally, by Romney. Santorum and all other Social Conservatives play a dangerous game; they prey upon classes they routinely suck dry and violate with legislature, while riding the easily enflamed emotions that deeply held convictions can inspire. While that has worked so far for the GOP, it is a double edged sword. If the emotion tips to the other side, a candidate can quickly find himself lonely and alone, stranded in the Bible Belt and Middle America.
This may account for Santorum's somewhat disappointing showing, most pressingly with Ohio Catholics. Although Georgia had the most delegates up for grabs, Ohio was the crown jewel of Super Tuesday, a perennial battleground state and recognized microcosm for the general election. CNN's exit polls showed 43 percent of Buckeye Catholics going with Romney en route to a slim, 38 percent to 37 percent victory, the largest such bloc available and a surely gut wrenching turn of events in Rick's camp. Santorum did carry the white evangelical vote, and picked up delegates in North Dakota, Oklahoma and Tennessee.
Romney's victory in Ohio will no doubt not stop the concerned murmurings of the base, despite being as staunch a sign of general electability as any. Wins in home-away-from-home Massachusetts, Idaho, Vermont, Alaska and southern swing state Virginia combined to give Plastic Mitt a well rounded swath of victories. Crushing victories in New England, with 72 percent in the Bay State and 40 percent in Vermont, showed he can win where he is supposed to, while his victory in Virginia was tempered by Santorum and Gingrich's absence on the ballot. His decent showing in Tennessee somewhat belayed his dubious credentials below the Mason-Dixon Line, and it is to these numbers he is likely to point when it comes time to make his case to the party powers. Still, frustration must run rampant that a victory in Ohio, even a tight one, is being so roundly yawned off. Mitt must be wondering what more he can possibly do to gain the GOP's favor. Romney is silently locking up the nom; like a football team being consistently outgunned and outplayed but still leading on the scoreboard, his relatively sane nature and sway over independents (a factor that Republicans would be wise to consider come August) keeps him in the game, even if he seems like he is always getting whipped like a gelding mule. In the meantime, he will continue to win and conservatives will continue to panic, before being mowed down like McGovern once election time rolls around and Obama's private Chicago Machine springs into action.
The insufferable and evil -- literally, evil -- Gingrich won only Georgia, which unfortunately is most likely enough to keep his ill-fitted-suit wearing self in the spotlight he craves so fiendishly for a little longer more. A defeat in the state he represented for two decades would have been a massive nail in Gingrich's comically large coffin, a sharp rebuke that would have sent him scuttling like the scavenging little crab he is sideways into the brackish swash from which he came. Instead, a state voted with their hearts instead of their heads, and a campaign by the most blatant pandering promise maker and King Blowhard ever to blight the political landscape will continue. His recent alleged acquisition of Secret Service protection will only serve to stroke his ego, and perhaps the mad man most know to be lurking inside will finally sink him. In the meantime, I can sleep at night knowing that Gingrich has a long and well documented history of abusing power, and Canada is only an imaginary line away should people forget to read it.