- The Washington Times - Friday, January 6, 2012


This is the Year of the Dork, and they’re all running for president.

Newt Gingrich wants to send the Army to deal with federal judges who make bad decisions. Ron Paul wants to retreat from the world and hope for the best. Rick Santorum wants to smash all the condom-dispensing machines.

Herman Cain is the most sensible candidate of all. He just gave it up and went home to sleep it off on an old sofa in the basement, where his wife can’t find him.

That seems to leave Mitt Romney as the last man standing, the Castor Oil Candidate. He’s the heavy favorite Tuesday in New Hampshire, and a new Rasmussen poll shows him leading Rick Santorum by 29 percent to 21 percent. The rap on Mitt is that nobody loves him, and that may be so. But this is the year when nobody likes anybody, and the anybody that nobody likes most is Barack Obama. Another Rasmussen poll shows that a “generic” Republican candidate, meaning almost anybody, would defeat Mr. Obama. Is this the year they gave an election and nobody came?

The Republicans are brawling in New Hampshire the way the Democrats have always brawled. Old-timers remember the seven dwarfs of the Democratic primary campaign of ‘88. Brawling, after all, is American politics at its best. Democratic brawls are a lot like cat fights. In the end, cat fights and Democratic fights only mean more cats and more Democrats. Once they were kicked out of the country club, the Republicans, dorks, dwarfs and otherwise, learned to brawl like Democrats.

Rick Santorum is the last of the dorks to get his turn in the Republican game of musical chairs, and the music stopped behind his chair just when the orchestra was about to stop the music for the last time in Iowa. His timing was almost perfect: He peaked only eight votes short of winning not just a moral victory, but the real thing. Iowa was his best shot for a victory to give him the momentum to propel him through the early primaries in New Hampshire, South Carolina and Florida. He worked hard in Iowa, courting the evangelicals on 350 campaign stops through every one of the state’s 99 counties. He probably shook the hands of most of the 30,000 Iowans who voted for him.

That kind of retail campaigning is possible in New Hampshire, too, but Mr. Santorum spent his time and money in Iowa. In New Hampshire and the states following he’ll run out of evangelicals of the kind he needs to sustain his unexpected good fortune. He’s the fiercest of the culture warriors, and his opposition to abortion, same-sex marriage and other favorite nostrums of the left has driven his rise and fall, and now another burst of success.

His relentless emphasis on sex-related issues, appealing to Iowa evangelicals hungry to hear someone say a good word for the proven and the authentic, is not likely to play quite so well elsewhere. Mr. Santorum has earned a reputation for piety, if not sanctimony, as well as for sticking unapologetically to principle and certitude, for trying to be more Catholic than the pope. He once suggested that same-sex marriage could ultimately enable other unacceptable relationships, such as allowing a man to marry his dog. (He apparently draws the line at cats.)

He has pledged, if elected president, to defund federally funded contraception, and he told blogger Shane Vander Hart in an October interview: “One of the things I will talk about, that no president has talked about before, is I think the dangers of contraception in this country. It’s not OK. It’s a license to do things in a sexual realm that is counter to how things are supposed to be.”

Well, counter to how Mr. Santorum and his like-minded friends think things “are supposed to be,” his proposition is likely to be a hard sell to nearly everyone else. Herein lies the dilemma of the dorks who have had their 15 minutes at the top. Newt had to deal with excess-baggage charges. Neither Michele Bachmann nor Rick Perry were ready for prime time. Herman Cain needed more time in his basement. Ron Paul is Ron Paul.

But the biggest dork of all sits in the White House, waiting to be taken by somebody. Rasmussen’s pollsters, usually the most accurate, say Barack Obama and Mitt Romney are all tied up in a dead heat. Castor oil, bitter or not, usually works.

Wesley Pruden is editor emeritus of The Washington Times.

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