In the hunt for the GOP presidential nomination, we have moved past the “first in the nation” contests — the Iowa caucuses and the New Hampshire primary — and are now headed toward two key “make or break” contests for the second and third tier candidates: South Carolina on January 21, and Florida on January 31. Over the past week we’ve seen the candidates put their best face on the results (except for Michele Bachmann, whose ticket out of Iowa took her back to Minnesota), and the punditocracy unpack the implications for the various candidates.
As the Denizens see it, the suspense regarding the eventual Republican nomination is over: Mitt Romney wins. There, we said it. What’s more interesting, and arguably far more important, is how the symbolic importance of the primary results and the discourse between the candidates (and between them and the media) will shape the near-term future of the Republican party, as well as the identity of Romney as a candidate going into the general election campaign.
The ad proclaimed his proud Christian identity, asserted that military service by gay persons is a problem, and attacked President Obama’s “war on religion.” Part of this attack was a perennial mainstay of cultural conservative angst during the Yuletide season: “there’s something wrong in this country when . . . kids can’t openly celebrate Christmas.”
This parry by Perry against an allegedly pernicious “War on Christmas” was preceded this holiday season by media cultural warrior Bill O’Reilly, as well as the cast of Fox and Friends, whose annual protestations were met by The Daily Show’s Jon Stewart with a predictably satirical response.
This year, Perry isn’t the only one leveraging the political value of Christmas, as recent ads from Newt Gingrich and Ron Paul illustrate. Perry’s ad, however, is the only one in this presidential year to explicitly allege a “war” on religion, and implicitly allege a “war on Christmas.” Since we are once again in a time when our holiday season intersects with a high-profile campaign season, and in what I believe is in the true spirit of a defense of Christmas, I offer an essay co-written a few years back by myself and my friend and colleague Michele Ramsey from Penn State University—Berks Campus, which contextualizes the so-called “War on Christmas” in a way usually absent from the media coverage of this so-called controversy.
Merry Christmas – and Happy Holidays – to you and yours from the Political Denizens.
Today’s Talking Points Memo reports on a Campaign 2012 phenomenon that the Denizens have recently commented on: the persistent competition between Mitt Romney and “Not Romney.” Here’s the guts of Eric Kleefeld’s take on the poolling in key early primary and caucus states, which depict Romney’s stagnation amidst an ebb and flow of Not-Romneys:
As has been noted many times, the Republican contest has gone through a cycle of one candidate or another gaining a sudden, massive amount of support against Romney, only to collapse after a combination of blunders and media scrutiny — see Michele Bachmann, Rick Perry, and Herman Cain. The big question, then, is whether any candidate will be able to put up a stable anti-Romney front, or if the competition are too flawed, and Romney can take it by default. (Newt Gingrich, you’re now up at bat.) And if Herman Cain should now drop out of the race — he suggested on Tuesday he was ‘reassessing’ things — that could mean a sudden turn to a much rougher road for Romney. The numbers suggest Gingrich would be much more the beneficiary of a Cain departure than Romney.
Herman Cain’s meteoric rise and fall in the GOP presidential nomination race will be a subject of sustained inquiry for some time. Chris Cillizza does some early prognosticating for the Washington Post over who is likely to benefit if and when (likely when) Cain withdraws in the wake of the Ginger White extramarital affair story that broke Monday.
But some larger questions require some attention, beyond the inevitable “he said / she said” and the “how does this affect the horse race?” chat. We ought to consider how a Herman Cain candidacy got as far as it did, given its unconventional candidate and campaign approach.
Note: The views of the Political Denizens, their guest contributors and visitors do not reflect those of Augustana College. The Denizens are thankful to the College for providing them with resources and an outlet for their observations and commentary in the spirit of academic freedom and free public speech.