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Thursday, January 12, 2012

GOP Burlesque Show.

Editorial | GOP burlesque

New Hampshire is a scenic state populated by Yankees with an admirably stubborn streak of independence. But it’s also an odd place to have a big say in who gets a major political party’s presidential nomination: It’s small, each voter seems to expect to have coffee with every presidential candidate, and to the richly diverse American melting pot, New Hampshire basically contributes only ground beef and cheddar.

Still, the state is far less quirky than the presidential nominating process of either party. And history, conventional wisdom and the realities of political momentum all suggest that anyone who wins both the Iowa caucuses and the New Hampshire primary will be nominated.

So, it increasingly looks as if Mitt Romney will carry the Republican banner into the fall campaign against President Obama.

What’s really strange about that, though, is not the size and demographics of Iowa and New Hampshire. It’s that a sizable majority of Mr. Romney’s party yearns so deeply for someone else to be their candidate. Indeed, even at this stage, if the conservative alternative to Mr. Romney was one credible candidate instead of four fruitcakes — or perhaps, given where the national GOP is these days, if it were just one fruitcake — Mr. Romney might be in serious trouble.

Consider what Mr. Romney’s opponents say about the man most likely to lead their party.

New Gingrich’s backers are preparing an attack video that says Mr. Romney is “more ruthless than Wall Street.” Rick Perry says Mr. Romney’s business background is in “vulture capitalism.” Ron Paul agreed with an interviewer’s characterization of Mr. Romney as a “big-government conservative” and says he could cause the GOP to be “demolished” in November. Rick Santorum says, “Gov. Romney enjoys firing people. I enjoy creating jobs.” Jon Huntsman, the campaign’s moderate, says that Mr. Romney’s gaffes are “making himself completely unelectable.”

Whew. With friends like that, who needs enemies? The Obama campaign doesn’t need to do much more for now than keep a scrapbook.

But there will be a hard-fought fall race eventually. And if it largely focuses on Mr. Romney’s business career and the President’s government policies, and on their economic views, it will be an instructive one worth having.

Has Mr. Romney truly been a “job creator,” as he claims, or did his venture-capitalist endeavors generally strip companies, destroy jobs and move employment overseas?

Can Mr. Obama make a persuasive case that the economy today is quite a bit healthier than what he inherited and that he prevented a second Great Depression?

Will Mr. Romney argue that he would have let states flounder without bailout money and allowed most of the auto industry to collapse?

Done right, it could be a good debate. Democrats, emerging from a year of gloom, are starting to like their chances. Most Republicans don’t even like their candidate.

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