Seems like just last week we were welcoming Newt Gingrich into the fold of official candidates for president, and marveling at the way putative front-runner Mitt Romney was coming off a terrible week on the campaign trail.
But my, how the worm has turned!
Within days after getting in the race, Newt Gingrich was on the teevee telling David Gregory all about the way Paul Ryan's Medicare plan was a "radical" bit of "right-wing social engineering." Then hours later Gingrich found himself in the middle of a calamitous disaster, with fellow Republicans dissing him in public and people like Charles Krauthammer declaring his bid to be "over."
Wow, people. That was an intense couple of days.
Gingrich has been out of office for a long while, and he's basically skated by on a combination of a glib tongue, a reputation for being an "ideas guys" and his sheer ubiquity as a shadowy presence in the conservative movement.
None of that was worth a thin damn this week. His explanations generated mockery. His trademarked fall-backs got him nowhere. And more than anything else, he learned what his place in the firmament is.
It's been a long while since Newt's been up to his elbows in actual high-stakes policy-making, and there's a new paradigm: Paul Ryan's the "ideas guy" now. And no one really cares about Gingrich's gray eminence anymore.
The grassroots see people like South Carolina Governor Nikki Haley as a purer extension of themselves, now. So if Nikki Haley is going to kick you down -- as she did to Gingrich this week -- chances are, you're going to stay down for a good, long while.
Gingrich's takeaway from this week, should he choose to accept it (and there's no evidence that he will), is that he's got to adjust to a new reality. It's evolve or die time, Newt.
Meanwhile, Mike Huckabee and Donald Trump took leave of the race this week. Huckabee leaves a lot of voter support on the table. Trump leaves a lot of humiliation and public disdain.
The immediate beneficiary was Huck's best frenemy Mitt Romney, who cemented his frontrunner status and topped it off with an eight-hour fundraising event that took in a cool $10 million. But for all his success, the GOP elite just can't seem to bring themselves to get behind Romney -- they're all still dying for Mitch Daniels to step up and run.
As usual, Daniels spent the week making vague promises about decisions to come, while leaving everyone entirely clueless about his intentions.
Elsewhere, Jon Huntsman spent a week having to deal with the fact that his policy positions are too reasonable.
By contrast, Ron Paul was confronted with the fact that his policy positions aren't reasonable enough.
And decision time is closing for Michele Bachmann and Herman Cain. By this time next week, we may know more about what they're planning on doing.
And hey, what do Romney, Gingrich, Daniels and Huntsman share in common? Turns out, it's some degree of lovin' for the ol' individual mandate!
So it's not surprising that the GOP base is still pretty depressed about the field and hopeful that a candidate-to-be-named-later emerges to take control of the race. This week, everyone spent a day losing their mind needlessly about Rick Perry.
Who will it be next week? We can only wonder. But for a comprehensive rundown of the week gone by, please feel free to enter the Speculatron for the week of May 20, 2011.
(And if the world really does end over the weekend, it's been nice knowing you all!)