Wednesday, April 11, 2012

Rick Retires And Newt Bounces A Check

Rick Retires And Newt Bounces A Check

Rick Santorum has officially “suspended” his campaign.  For the uninitiated, you “suspend” a campaign rather than have it humanely destroyed because a suspended campaign can still collect contributions, which may go towards paying off any campaign debt.  In a serendipitous coincidence, Tim Pawlenty also ended his campaign today, formally bringing an end to that cheerful chap’s 2012 Presidential hopes.  Yin meets yang.

Contrary to some expectations, the end of Rick’s campaign is not a harbinger of the Rapture or the beginning of a new era of rampant immorality.  Nor does it automatically signal that Mitt can accept Caesar’s wreath quite yet.  Ron Paul is still there, albeit unencumbered by too many delegates.  And Newt, brave Newt, soldiers on, like Napoleon’s troops retreating from the Russian Winter, their arms left in the snow, the fallen placed on carts, tattered clothing too thin against the cold, tramping endlessly, shivering and malnourished, but carrying with them the hope of glory.

Onwards he goes, through the fetid thicket of absurdly moderate Northeast states, hoping to hack his way to the fertile ground of the South and Southwest, and the fine conservative stock of the Great Plains.  But, this Jobian effort has one final moment of irony.  The very last primary, on June 26, is Utah. What exactly Newt thinks he’s going to accomplish in Utah remains to be seen, but right now he has some damage control to do.  It seems that the check for his filing fee has bounced, and if he doesn’t make good on it by April 20, he’s going to be bounced from the ballot as well.  According to Utah law (Code 76-6-505) it also turns out that if Newt fails to make the actual payment on the “dishonored” amount, it’s a Class A misdemeanor.  It does leave us wondering if there’s some sort of bench warrant that could be issued for him if he decides to campaign in the Beehive State. 

The fact is, the cupboard is pretty bare in Newt-land. The Utah check was all of $500.00.  The campaign owes roughly $4.5 million as of last report and the “unaligned” superpac funded by Mr. Adelson (of neighboring, sin-free Nevada) is drying up.   In response, Newt has issued statements akin to Jefferson Davis after the fall of Richmond “Relieved from the necessity of guarding cities and particular points, important but not vital to our defense…nothing is now needed to render our triumph certain but the exhibition of our own unquenchable resolve.”  In Newt’s case, the resolve is certainly unquenched, but the flesh appears to be a bit weak.

It is often true that in defeat, one is afforded a opportunity for the dignity and respect that was absent during the actual campaign.  So it is with Rick, who chose Gettysburg as the site of his farewell speech.  He wrapped himself in Lincoln; “What I tried to bring to the battle was what Abraham Lincoln brought to this battlefield back in 1863 on November 19th.”.    You might be surprised that a politician whose primary focus seemed to be installing a domestic theocracy could possibly envision himself as the heir to a man who literally gave his life in the cause of human dignity, but, as Lincoln himself said in his Second Inaugural, in relation to the South’s aspirations,  "let us judge not, lest we not be judged.”   At least Rick didn’t quote Gandhi.

Where do we go from here?  Santorum couldn’t quite bring himself to endorse Romney, as his wounds from being out spent, out organized, and out campaigned seemed quite fresh.  Notwithstanding that, his conservative supporters, particularly from the evangelical right (Ralph Reed, Richard Land, Tony Perkins) will push for a cabinet post for him. If that doesn’t work out, the consensus is that he will land in the soft and succoring and plush arms of Fox.

Still, there is a message in Santorum’s comparative success.  I was struck by a statement from Ralph Reed, “He got into the race with virtually no endorsements, very little money, and he was an asterisk in the polls….And he ends the race having won 11 states and over 3 million votes, which is the most since any insurgent conservative candidate since Reagan.”  It reminded me of Varinia’s line at the end of 1960’s “Spartacus”.  "He was a man who began all alone. Yet on the day he died, thousands would gladly have died in his place."

Santorum’s journey, from a failed politician to subsequent mini-deification akin to the slave who rose to challenge corrupt and pagan Rome, is an important one.  In the marketplace of political influence, there are a lot of vendors out there,  but only some that can deliver a real wallop.  When you couple the unlimited spending by superpacs such as Karl Rove’s Crossroads with the fervor of the true believers, you merge turnout with overwhelming economic muscle.

The real question is what price Romney will have to pay for the foot soldiers when the conventional wisdom is that he needs to move to the center.   It turns out, it may not have to be much of a price at all. Courtesy of Christian Heinze, writing in “The Hill”, this morning’s rumor is Huckabee for Veep.  Mike is charming, he’s folksy, he’s well liked by women, and he’s just launched a new radio show, with Mitt as his first guest.

One might reasonably ask how Huckabee,  an ordained minister, could be pals with a man he once witheringly described as “having no soul”?  There’s nothing like the power of redemption, I suppose.  Or the redemptive power of power?