This is our last Speculatron Slideshow of the calendar year, everyone. When we next have the opportunity to relate all of the week's campaign highlights, the Iowa caucuses will have happened, actual primary voting will have commenced, and delegates will have been assigned to a few lucky GOP contenders. Some will "have their ticket punched" to New Hampshire. Some will lay claim to [ENTER LAST NAME HERE]-mentum. And one or more will have called it quits and said some awfully nice things to the frontrunner, hoping to perhaps be considered for the V.P. slot, or have some campaign debt offset in return for an endorsement.
But most importantly, we will finally be discussing the "2012 race" in a year that's not actually "2011." This has always been a little strange, we know! So, in the spirit of the New Year, we'll leave you with an ever so brief recap of what's already happened.
When you get right down to it, the 2012 race pretty much began the morning after the 2010 elections ended, but the real action didn't get started until mid-spring, when Fox News scheduled the first of what would turn out to be several thousand candidate debates, some of which looked as if they might end in actual bloodshed or something akin to that scene in Scanners where that guy's head explodes. The candidates present at the contest were Ron Paul, Rick Santorum, Tim Pawlenty, Herman Cain, and Gary Johnson. Slim pickings, but more than a few pundits imagined that they might be looking at a future winner of the Iowa Caucus. (None likely realized at the time that the candidate they had in mind was Ron Paul, however.)
Eventually the field of candidates began to swell. Michele Bachmann joined the fray, gunning for an Iowa win. Mitt Romney jumped into the race, and eventually proved impossible for Tim Pawlenty to confront, face-to-face. Newt Gingrich ended his interminable dithering with the idea of running for president, and, after many false starts, finally got a handle on it and jumped in. He then went on vacation, and his entire staff quit on him. Also, Jon Huntsman decided that he, too, would run for president, for some reason.
But the people who seemed to matter the most in the early part of the campaign season were often those who were opting to not run for president. Mike Huckabee, who was considered a heavy favorite, opted to stay on at his Fox News show. The appealing Mitch Daniels declined a run after getting a taste of what the grueling slog might do to his family. John Thune bowed out, because of the book "Game Change," and its sexism. And the oddest non-candidate of all was New Jersey Governor Chris Christie. He kept telling reporters "No," and those reporters, like date-rapists, kept hearing "Yes." Eventually, Christie had to hold a press conference in which he repeated his intention to not run for a solid hour, until everyone in the room was weeping.
Donald Trump ran a fake campaign for president! Remember that? Mark Halperin, long after the rest of the world was laughing at this fake campaign, said things like "I think he’s much more serious about running," and "I don’t know why he would have gone through hours and hours of meetings if it were all just a charade," and, in an example of what low self-awareness gets you, "if you’ve got the ability to manipulate the media ... you could imagine a scenario of getting in late and riding a populist wave to the Republican nomination." Ha, ha, ha, people should remember these things that Mark Halperin said.
Sarah Palin also, famously and predictably, did not run for president. Though she did successfully stage a fake campaign bus tour that ... uhm ... took "hours and hours" of planning and "manipulated the media." Heh. She eventually bowed out on Mark Levin's radio show, earning her a scolding from Roger Ailes, who hired her as a Fox News contributor for the precise reason that he wanted her to do her in-or-out routine as an exclusive to his cable network.
The Ames Straw Poll happened! People rode buses to a parking lot at Iowa State University and ate deep-fried, fully be-sticked food items. Tim Pawlenty finished third, quit, and became a Mitt Romney surrogate who walked around lamenting leaving the race so soon, which is not very surrogate-y! Michele Bachmann won the straw poll, edging out Ron Paul, and immediately took a dive in the polls, because that's when Rick Perry entered the race. Then Rick Perry took a dive in the polls when everyone learned that he couldn't count and had the propensity to make odd noises when he was supposed to be forming sentences.
Then Herman Cain rose to front-runner status, on the strength of his basso profundo profundities and his ability to say the word "nine" over and over again, whenever he was stuck for needing to have something to say. Eventually, however, he took a dive, due to a combination of his handsy-lady problems and "Uhh, Libya, what is that now? I know this! Uhhh. Ummm. Freeen."
And so Newt Gingrich became the belle of the ball, despite all of his vacations and his lack of campaign staff or infrastructure, and this time we all thought, "Okay, this is maybe the guy who will rise as the challenger to Romney." That was before the entire conservative establishment unleashed the hot flames of Hell upon Gingrich, and Romney and Paul used their actual campaigns and their actual money to mount a slew of negative attacks on him, driving his poll numbers back from whence they came.
So now it's looking more like Mitt Romney -- the robot who had all the luck -- and Ron Paul, who is again surviving a flap over old crazysauce newsletters that went out into the world under his name, and maybe ... just maybe ... Rick Santorum, who gets to start his own upward climb into the boom-and-bust cycle at the precise moment he needs to. And at the margins, we still have various excluded candidates, like Gary Johnson, Buddy Roemer, and Fred Karger, who are switching parties, building movements, and/or making their last stand.
Also, Jon Huntsman. Still doin' some stuff somewhere, probably.
That's where we leave things at the end of this year. One of these people -- or more! -- will challenge the incumbent, President Barack Obama, for the White House in 2012. The Obama reelect team is clearly betting on Romney. Will they be right? For the non-Romneys, there are still obstacles to surmount. This week, the Bachmann campaign suffered another round of quit-fits. Newt Gingrich compared his ballot access woes to an American tragedy. Buddy Roemer finally got added to some polls. Huntsman mocked some corn-pickers, Perry got lost on the 45th parallel, Santorum's wardrobe choices got a moment in the sun, and one of our lucky contenders received the coveted "my life would suck without you" endorsement from an unlikely source. To find out who, please enter the Speculatron for the week of December 30, 2011, and we'll see you next year!
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