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The 2012 Speculatron Weekly Roundup For Dec. 16, 2011

First Posted: 12/16/2011 5:07 pm   Updated: 02/15/2012 4:12 am

Let's see, what can we say about this week in the 2012 race? Frankly, we're tempted to just say, "What we said last week, except more intense, and maybe a twist ending in Iowa? Or not!" This was the week where the seesaw that sawed Newt Gingrich into the top spot in polls in Iowa suddenly was seen to be see-ing back in the opposite direction. To the benefit of Mitt Romney? Maybe.

Romney could not have possibly started this week worse. First, he gets into a manhood measuring test with Rick Perry over the part of his book he changed and its context and significance, by daring Perry to make a bet. It's a bet that Romney would have won, if the matter had been judged by Politifact. But it was the swaggering amount of the bet -- $10,000 -- that had everyone's jaws dropping, and every Romney opponent reaching to stamp him with the patrician elitist label. (Let's be clear, of course, Rick Perry could have covered that bet. He's not exactly a tenant farmer anymore.)

With that, Team Romney began The Campaign To Humanize Mitt, and it was announced in a Politico feature story that unfortunately came with a picture of Romney poised to envelop some poor gray-haired lady in his robot arms. "Let me gently grind you with my upper body grasping pincers, human female!" was the message the image conveyed. Later in the week, Romney accepted and touted the endorsement of Delaware political grifter Christine O'Donnell, who for some reason is a person who journalists talk to. Her praise sounded like an epitaph: "He's been consistent since he changed his mind."

And yet somehow, this was actually a much, much worse week for Newt Gingrich. Why? Because all of his Republican pundit friends just cannot stand him. They hate him like they hate a bowl of cream of tapeworm soup. The Washington Post allowed George Will to be the centerpiece of a "page of Newt Hate," in which the denim-hating columnist teed off on Gingrich for daring to denigrate capitalism. But the National Review, said, "Okay, WaPo, we'll see your page of hate and raise you by a whole magazine worth of anti-Gingrich venom." By mid-week, the polls suggesting that Gingrich's support in Iowa was starting to crumble had begun their steady march.

Also aiding in the crumbling of Newt? Ron Paul! And not getting damaged by the relentless negative attacks? Ron Paul! Paul's never been closer to winning the Iowa Caucus, and succeeding there would be a critical "proof of concept" test for his movement, and a sanity-wracking event for everyone else in the GOP. Chris Wallace went so far as to say that such a result would "discredit the Iowa caucuses." Most people simply figured the win would be a boon for Romney. A few probably sized up John Huntsman's sudden strength and darkly wondered about the possibilities of a brokered convention. Maybe we should re-read that Mayan calendar we heard so much about, and see if it predicted the Donald Trump debate. (Which is not happening, thankfully.)

In short, bonkers bonkers nuts bananas times infinity plus one! But remember, all rides soon come to an end, and after Jan. 3, it's likely that one or more of our beloved candidates will be joining Tim Pawlenty and Herman Cain in the sweet bye-and-goodbye.

But for the moment, we roll on. This week Michele Bachmann teed up the easiest entry that Politifact has ever posted in its life. Rick Perry's campaign jumped the shark with a comparison to a sports hero. Ron Paul saw an old scandal take new life. Rick Santorum waited by the phone for his evangelical friends to call him back. Gary Johnson mulled a destiny-changing decision, someone you wouldn't believe is ahead of a big-name contender in New Hampshire, and you will never guess what candidate suddenly might win a single delegate from the Iowa caucuses if he plays his cards right. To find out, please enter the Speculatron for the week of Dec. 16, 2011.

Mitt Romney
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Mitt Romney got the message -- the primary battle he once thought he could snatch at the outset was looking more and more like it was going to be a long, grueling battle. Unfortunately, he stumbled at the beginning of the week by asking Rick Perry to take him up on a $10,000 cash wager. Everyone opposed to Romney, from Perry, Gingrich, Huntsman, right down to the folks at the DNC, delighted in one more example of Mitt Romney coming across as the out-of-touch, privileged rich kid.

And so, Team Romney undertook a mission to demonstrate that Mitt Romney was an actual human being, and not some sort of gold-plated android struggling to learn humanity's customs and emotions:

Rushing to fend off the sudden strength of Newt Gingrich -- a candidate who usually avoids delving into his own personal story, and has vulnerabilities there because of his two divorces -- Romney has engaged in a humanizing effort. He's casting himself as more personable, connecting with the economic struggles of the voters despite his own multimillion-dollar fortune, and even taking a new route to talking about American exceptionalism.

"Most of the apartments I lived in had no refrigerators," Romney told a crowd of 300 at a VFW hall here Sunday afternoon, launching into a long anecdote about life as a Mormon missionary in France that touched on the difficulties of shopping before every meal and living in buildings without a shower.

"If we were lucky, we actually bought a hose and we stuck it on the sink, and we'd hold there with the hose and the big bucket underneath us in the kitchen and wash ourselves that way," Romney said. "And so, I lived in a way that people of lower-middle income in France lived and said to myself, 'Wow, I sure am lucky to have been born in the United States of America.'"


Yes, America, Mitt Romney knows what it's like to have had to poop in a bucket, even if he doesn't fully grasp what it's like to dream of being able to toss 10 grand around at a whim.

Of course, that humanizing effort hit a snag when he tried ... more
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