Still a super mess

Flat candidates, divided voters dampen GOP's election-year fire

A long and bloody primary fight – which wasn’t necessarily shortened on Super Tuesday – has the Republican field looking dimmed, certainly.

Former First Lady Barbara Bush has called it “the worst campaign I’ve ever seen in my life.” She speaks for many.

Of course, with most of the nation’s attention focused on the GOP infighting, some other things go largely unnoticed – one of them being that far-left, long-serving liberal standard-bearer Dennis Kucinich of Ohio lost his congressional re-election bid in the Democratic primary.

Or that Barack Obama, the powerful incumbent president, actually lost Tuesday in 15 Oklahoma counties – among Democrats – and merely won 57 percent of the vote statewide.

What are we to learn from it all? Perhaps this: that drawn-out and hotly contested races may be signs of weak or unexciting candidates – or it may just be that America is sharply divided in their opinions and is having a hard time reaching a consensus.

Republicans had better hope it’s the latter, as presidential frontrunner Mitt Romney came out the winner Tuesday, claiming six of the 10 states up for grabs – but still showed worrisome signs that he’s a reluctant choice of many voters.

A lot can happen between now and November, and the Republicans all say they will unite. But they also will need to energize voters to support the eventual nominee, and right now that looks problematic.

But again, months are a lifetime in politics.

For now, the curiosity is why Newt Gingrich would stay in the hunt. He won but one of the 10 states Tuesday – his adopted political home of Georgia – and has polled a distant third or fourth out of four in some states. As much as we love his conservatism, his frankness in taking on the liberal media, his debating skills and his clarity in what needs to be done to restore America, he has yet to show he’s much more than a regional candidate. By his own logic and his assessments of other candidates, that has to change for him to claim his campaign is anything but a grudge match against Romney – whose “super PAC” carpet-bombed Gingrich in ads starting in Iowa.

Oddly enough, though, if Gingrich were tempted to pull out for, say, lack of money, Romney or his supporters might be tempted to pass the hat: By staying in the race, Gingrich essentially is splitting the anti-Romney vote with Rick Santorum. That may only be helping Romney.

Indeed, in largely Republican Columbia County on Tuesday, Gingrich won with more than 7,000 votes to Romney’s 4,700-plus – but the former Speaker of the House would’ve absolutely crushed Romney if he’d been able to woo Santorum’s 4,300 votes.

It works both ways, and on Wednesday Santorum’s supporters urged Gingrich to get out.

But it’s difficult for either Gingrich or Santorum to give up at this point. Politics is something like golf: One good shot can keep you coming back – and Gingrich got a big shot from Georgia on Tuesday.

Thus, the Romney camp may want Gingrich to eagle a hole now and then – but even that is problematic: Romney may like having a split opposition, but he still needs to win the majority of delegates to capture the nomination outright and avoid an embarrassing and unpredictable brokered convention.

So, have fun, he might want to tell Gingrich and Santorum – but not too much!

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