Because watching things fall apart can be fun...
- Tim Pawlenty ended his campaign last week after losing to state-mate Rep. Batshit in Iowa. As he continued on in the race, Pawlenty increasingly reminded me of a fictional Minnesotan: Jerry Lundegaard, William H. Macy's hapless car sales manager/would-be kidnapper in "Fargo." Like Jerry, "T-Paw" seemed constantly to be trying to project a confidence and charisma he didn't feel, and perhaps thought himself smarter than he was. The theory of Pawlenty's campaign was that he could emerge as more tolerable to the Zombie Army than Mitt Romney while remaining acceptable to the money gang whose preferences are usually determinative. But this required showing something to both groups--and Pawlenty delivered for neither, failing to take Romney on in an early debate and proving unable to raise enough money to endure a setback in the silly straw poll.
- I think this probably could have been predicted from Pawlenty's memoir title, "Courage to Stand." To stand for what? I think the silent subtitle is "For Whatever You'd Like Me to Believe." Even there, he was never going to out-pander Romney. That awful title has me trying to think up equally lame political memoir names: Forward to Our Future? My American Adventure? Patriotism and Principle? Blech.
- The new Republican contender who's aiming to be mutually acceptable to the nuts and the greedheads is Rick Perry. He's got a much better chance than Pawlenty, because he's not boring. Perry's problem is that he's so obviously an asshole, and unlike New Jersey governor Chris Christie--another unapologetic asshole, but a pretty clearly intelligent and engaged guy--there seems to be little principle and less thought behind it. The Bush comps are obvious and valid as far as they go, but what the pundits seem to be missing is that the press corps on some level must feel remorse at having given Dubya such a relatively easy ride in 2000; they won't do that with Perry. His personality is just much uglier than Bush's, his politics far more raw, and the public will see all that in high-def.
- I'm starting to wonder if Jon Huntsman has it somewhere in his head to go independent. The mullahs of right-wing radio surely will go fatwa on him after his TV appearance tomorrow morning, if they haven't already. His polling is in Gingrich territory. He's got little institutional support. But he projects reasonableness, he's got some clear admirers in the press corps... and the country is utterly disgusted with politics-as-usual. Also, his family is really, really, really rich. There are efforts in progress to secure national ballot access for independents. What if Huntsman announces in December or early January that he's leaving the Republican Party because our country's problems are too big for partisanship-as-usual--the same logic he can claim for his decision to serve in the Obama administration--and that he'll seek the presidency as an independent? If he could claim endorsements from every disaffected Republican--Colin Powell, Bruce Bartlett, Alan Simpson--and a bunch of civic-minded business leader/officials like Bloomberg? Maybe some of the old Clinton machinery would come around for him. It's a long shot, but I think there's a certain logic to it. He's damn sure not going to win as a Republican, and I think Sullivan is being over-optimistic yet again if he thinks the Rs will be more receptive to a Huntsman campaign by 2016.
- Speaking of Sullivan, he published a letter of mine that essentially covered the same ground as the previous post. See it here, if you'd like. This is where I think both his own biases and his deep investment in Obama--which I readily grasp--blind him; Obama's "restraint" isn't even the issue so much as his willingness if not eagerness to continually shit on his "base." The evidence is coming in that this will be a huge problem for him next year.