We began this week with one Republican presidential candidate, Rick Perry, reeling from a brain freeze. Another Republican candidate, Herman Cain, was fighting sexual harassment allegations and himself. That left some Republicans turning their lonely eyes to a new/old name, Newt.
What are five things we learned five days later?
5) Perry is in the final stage of campaign irrelevance
This is the stage where the candidate starts making what he thinks are bold proposals to refocus the cameras his way - but which instead are so nutty that they affirm why people have moved on. This week, Perry proposed a part-time citizen Congress, then wrote Democrat Nancy Pelosi a letter that challenged her to a debate.
Said Pelosi: "Well, he did ask if I could debate here in Washington on Monday. It is my understanding that the letter has come in. Monday, I’m going to be in Portland in the morning. I’m going to be visiting some of our labs in California in the afternoon. That’s two. I can’t remember what the third thing is.”
4) Cain's campaign will be remembered as one of the worst in modern political history
As the week began, Cain actually seemed to have a chance at weathering allegations of sexual harassment when he was president of the National Restaurant Association. But this week, America got a look at a painful (and therefore viral) video in which he floundered when answering a question on Libya in an interview with the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel editorial board. Then he inexplicably blew off the editorial board of the politically powerful and conservative Manchester Union Leader, New Hampshire's largest newspaper.
Together, the incidents illustrate most everything that's wrong with this candidate. He doesn't know policy, and he doesn't know how to run a campaign.
3) Gingrich might have more staying power than people think
Unlike Perry and Cain, Gingrich might not flounder when the attention turns his way. Voters already know that he has ethical issues at home and the office. They know he's a grouch. But those who've heard him on policy panels and in longer-form debates also know he is likely the smartest Republican in the field - no matter what someone would like you to believe.
Gingrich will go through the ringer this coming week as the media reminds everyone why we didn't used to like him much. It's a right of passage for every serious candidate - if you think Obama got a pass in 2008, you just weren't reading - but if he survives and can get into one-on-ones with Mitt Romney, watch out.
2) Barack Obama might have a bigger "who is he?" problem than Mitt Romney
The most scathing political essay this week was penned by a liberal writer at the New York Times - about the President.
Drew Westen, a frequent political writer and professor of psychology at Emory University, is unhappy that Obama put off a decision on plans to lay a high-pressure oil pipeline from Canada. But that decision, Westen says, is one of many perplexing choices Obama has made.
The money sentence:
No modern American president has ever managed to make it through nearly three years in the White House with so few people really having any idea what he believes on so many key issues — let alone what his vision for the country is.Don't dismiss this as a liberal who feels Obama isn't liberal enough. Independents, who propelled Obama to victory in 2008, are collectively shrugging, too. That's not the emotion you want from supporters come November, especially if the economy continues to drag along.
1) It's Mitt as the nominee. Deal with it.
He's got the money. He's got the organization. He's got the intellectual chops. And right now, he's doing a brilliant job of staying in the political conversation while staying out of everyone else's political messes. That's what you get to do when you're one of the front-runners. You let the process sift the others out.
Republicans are running out of candidates to put next to Romney at the top of the polls, and if Gingrich also flames out, we'll finally land where most people thought we would all along - Obama vs. Romney.
True, Romney still hasn't connected to the electorate, in part because of those nagging flip-flopper issues. But if he ends up the GOP nominee, voters will get to pick from the candidate who might not be who you think he is, and the candidate that you already know isn't.
Peter St. Onge