11/30/2011 09:24 am ET Updated Jan 30, 2012

All Fall Down

If the Republican presidential nominating race wasn't actually intended as a serious endeavor, it could be mistaken for a comedy routine. As one more woman makes up another story about Herman Cain's sexual proclivities, Rick Perry struggles to understand who is eligible to vote in the democracy he wants to lead. Mitt Romney changes positions as often as a light-hitting utility infielder; Michele Bachmann prompts questions about what is required to become a member of the House Intelligence Committee; Ron Paul makes enough sense to scare the electorate; Newt Gingrich has reached the fifth level of hypocrisy and thinks his contradictions are invisible or meaningless, while Jon Huntsman, who has been far too rational and informed to be riding in the GOP clown car, stands off to the side and wonders how he is not even qualified to be considered for the Iowa debate on December 10.

The departure of Mr. Cain, who is apparently being besieged by lying women who are puppets of Democratic operatives afraid he will win the White House, will not make things any simpler for GOP primary voters. Cain's surge happened after Perry mentioned that he supported in-state tuition for the children of undocumented workers. As Cain has been hammered by revelations involving his personal life, Gingrich has acquired enough support to lead the race, most of which likely came from Cain. Perry's numbers did not tick back up and Romney's stayed frozen in the high teens and low twenties. All of those voters who began dating other people when Perry faltered ended up also leaving Cain but still hadn't forgiven Romney for being Romney or Perry for being a dumbass.

What do they do with Cain gone?

The Gingrich team wants everyone to believe he is now inevitable. But there are two forces in control of most of the GOP primary and they have issues with Newt. What will the values voters and evangelicals make of a man who has had mistresses and three marriages? The Tea Party certainly can't be very excited about a candidate who has made millions advising participants in the scam that fueled Wall Street's mortgage collapse, and even though he claims he's never been a lobbyist and has only sold access to his inordinately large brain, Gingrich has made millions more getting his clients in front of members of congress. The Tea Party is not likely to favor his full résumé. Gingrich's baggage fills up three boxcars on the campaign train, and one of them is for Tiffany jewelry containers.

Mitt Romney is probably one of the leading GOP candidates with an actual statistical chance of beating President Obama but he seemingly cannot win his party's nomination. Romney is moderate enough to do well in the general election but not sufficiently right wing to win the primary. His problems, already deconstructed a million times, center around convincing GOP voters that just because he approved a state health care plan in Massachusetts doesn't mean he wants one for the rest of the country, and just because he said he'd be stronger on gay rights than Teddy Kennedy when he ran against him for the U.S. Senate doesn't mean he believes in gay marriage now, and just because he refused to sign the pledge to end federal funding to hospitals that provide abortions doesn't mean he supports woman's right to choose, and just because he said he thinks global warming is real doesn't mean he thinks humans are the cause. Romney's political cravenness approaches Senator John McCain's, who pegged the needle when he called Jerry Falwell and Pat Robertson "agents of intolerance" in one election and then ran to seek their endorsements the next time he chased after the presidency.

Romney's other problem, of course, is his religion. He doesn't talk about it, except for a speech he gave in Texas four years ago, which he hoped had put the matter to perpetual rest. But it hasn't. Various surveys show that white, southern, Christian evangelicals will not vote for a Mormon because the overwhelming majority does not view the religion as part of Christendom. The hypocrisy in this position is both entertaining and harmful to Republican presidential aspirations; apparently Moses tablet(s) brought down from the mountain are more believable than the Angel Moroni's golden tablets delivered to Joseph Smith. Regardless, no Republican will win the White House without successfully sweeping the south in the general election in 2012 and a Mormon candidate will apparently reduce enthusiasm and turnout among white, Christian voters. Mitt will stay stuck at about twenty percent regardless of how many GOP power brokers urge the voters to rally around his flag.

Which brings us to the wretched remainders.

Bachmann and Paul have undeniable electability issues, Rick Santorum is barely worth mentioning, and Jon Huntsman is too sane, considerate, well informed, capable on the issues, rational, analytical, thoughtful, and Mormon to have a chance within his chosen political party.

That leaves only the dumb one.

When the bright lights reveal more of Newt's warts than voters want to see, there will be no place left for GOP voters to seek sanctuary. The unfaithful and undecideds will have to reconsider Rick Perry. The values voters will realize again that he is with them on gay marriage and Jesus and global warming and abortion and government health care. TP-ers will conclude he's their best chance to show they have the power to destroy government. These voters don't care that Perry is a bit of a dolt on issues; they love him because he thinks like they do and there is no one else on the GOP primary ballot who completely fits that description. Unfortunately, every time a reporter considers writing a comeback narrative for Perry, the Texas governor begins talking and prompts second thoughts about how convincing such an article might ever be for readers.

Republicans must be frustrated as hell. They are facing an incumbent president who most polls show is mortally wounded and yet the GOP cannot find an acceptable, unifying candidate with prospects of victory. The fact that Herman Cain and Rick Perry have survived this long is an indication of the desperation of Republicans. They ought not to worry, though. Sarah Palin has taken up residence in Arizona.

And word is that she is tanned, rested, and ready.

Also at

Subscribe to the Politics email.
How will Trump’s administration impact you?