Friday, April 20, 2012

Circling the Wagons

Once the first puck drops, the first basketball is tipped, the first football is kicked, or the first pitch is thrown, the betting windows close.  You can no longer stake your claim to one team over another with some skin.  All bets must be placed prior to the beginning of the contest.  For obvious reasons, you cannot wait to bet until after the game ends.  Your loyalties must be clear from the outset and your money speaks volumes.

So it should be dismissed that GOP leaders are now coming out publicly with their endorsement of Mitt Romney.  Could there be a less meaningful endorsement than the Speaker of the House deciding to promote his party’s presumptive nominee?

“After careful deliberation, and after reading in the papers and seeing on TV that no one else has a snowball’s chance in Hell of winning this thing, I have decided that I will endorse the last one standing, Mitt Romney, for the Republican Party nomination.”

Really?  And I would like to add that my favorite baseball team at the end of 2011 is the St. Louis Cardinals, my favorite football team after the Super Bowl is the NY Giants, and my favorite hockey team is….(I can’t type the Boston Bruins, even in gest; I haven’t liked the Bruins since Derek Sanderson and Terry O’Reilly prowled the ice).  Endorsing winners after the games have been played is easy, and gutless I might add. 
In sports and in politics, no one respects a bandwagoner.  For the uninformed, a bandwagoner is someone who claims fealty to whatever team happens to be winning at the time.  You know, the guy who shows up at your Super Bowl party and at the end of the game reminds everyone that he’s “always been a Giants fan” and that he was in favor of moving up in the draft to pick Eli Manning from Day One.  Too bad the bandwagoner doesn’t have his pre-season picks up on Twitter or YouTube.

The main reason for endorsing Romney at this stage has not been expressed as a belief in his steady conservative principles.  It has not been said that his charismatic persona on the campaign trail engenders trust and loyalty among swing voters.  It sounds to me from all these late lukewarm endorsements that Mitt has one definable quality that will lead him to victory: he is not Barack Obama. 
That is far from a rallying cry that can carry independents in November.  Lots of people are not Obama.  Not surprising, however.  Romney won the nomination by not being Perry, Bachmann, Gingrich or Santorum.  He’s like that Survivor cast member who drifts through the first few tribal councils while the stronger and more combative tribe members are vanquished.  After 8 weeks, the audience is left saying, “So how is this guy still on the show?”  At some point, he can only win if he can occasionally win that weekly immunity idol.  Otherwise, he’s toast.

Not everyone is endorsing Romney yet.  Ron Paul and Gingrich both have campaign events scheduled for today.  These guys have become modern equivalent of the Japanese soldier who was never told that WWII had ended.  Both will soldier onward, Paul in pursuit of legitimacy for his beliefs, Gingrich in pursuit of his own reflection.  When these 2 finally endorse Romney, I could write the press release.  “I fully support our party’s nominee.  He is not Barack Obama.”

Santorum left the campaign trail and he has not yet endorsed He Who He Must Endorse to Have a Chance in 2016.  His conversion to a true believer in his rival will be quite the hurdle, and a hurdle of his own making.

Santorum had a direct mail drop in Iowa this week, the week after he withdrew from the campaign, which read in part that the prospect of Mitt Romney as the nominee “truly frightens me.”  He will most likely need a few more news rinse cycles to wash that quote off of the front pages of the online political junkie rags.  Once the “truly frightens me” is forgotten, Santorum can jump on the bandwagon, too.  After all, he knows better than most that the GOP loves to nominate its runner up from one presidential primary cycle in the next presidential primary cycle (see Romney 2008, McCain 2000, GHW Bush 1988, Reagan 1976, etc.).  A ringing endorsement from Rick in the not too distant future will begin his rebranding from “insurgent” to “team player”.

The election in November will be a battle for that 4-6% of the electorate that hasn’t already decided.  Will any of these endorsements, made after the outcome was determined, by loyal Republican Party members, under tremendous political pressure, truly make a difference in the outcome?  I think not. However, there is one endorsement that could persuade independents to cast their lot in one direction or another:

Justin Bieber. 
I will respect him only if he endorses while the outcome is still in doubt.  Nobody likes a bandwagoner, even one named Bieber.

Bonus Endorsement:  My favorite Romney endorsement of the season comes from Rep. Louie Gohmert of Texas (R), who said this week:

“But let me just tell ya, if you are not sure about wanting to support Mitt Romney, whether you are liberal, whether you are very conservative, you ought to be excited because he’s been on your side at one time or another.”

With friends like that...

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