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As Long as We Remember...

January 31, 2012

Presidential Florida Sunshine

Roy Meachum

Over the weekend – on the eve of today’s Florida Republican presidential nomination primary – both Sarah Palin and Herman Cain endorsed former Speaker of the House of Representatives Newt Gingrich.


Neither mentioned frontrunner Willard Mitt Romney’s Mormonism; it’s there. He shares the first name with the original Marriot, the man who started the hotel and restaurant empire from an A&W Root Beer stand, on Washington’s Georgia Avenue. I was introduced to the first Willard in my life by another Mormon, Mark Evans (Austad). Sixty years ago we did radio/television shows on Washington’s CBS affiliate; the network partly owned the station.


Five years before, a pair of Latter-Day Saints moved next-door into the German castle where I lived; they were American Forces Network technicians. We were assigned to AFN Frankfurt. There were no Mormons in my New Orleans childhood. The two were set apart by their religion’s prohibition of alcohol and caffeine that forbade them from coming to the bar, our social club.


In the two Utah young men, I noticed they smiled only with their faces, never their eyes. Mark Evans, Willard and Bill (I met later) Marriot displayed the identical trait. I have watched on television and the Republican candidate for his party’s presidential nomination finds much to be amused in the current campaign; the windows of his soul do not agree.


Maybe I’ve been dead wrong since 1947, however.


For whatever reason, Mitt Romney turns off a large part of the GOP electorate. While never citing directly his faith, the original frontrunner has shared the number one spot with what Ms. Palin termed “flavor of the week.” She meant Mr. Cain at the start. Mr. Gingrich is the sturdiest, capturing by a strong margin the recent South Carolina Republican primary – despite Mr. Romney’s endorsement by the state’s governor. His heavy-thinkers decided to go for broke in today’s voting.


Florida is the least Southern state and getting more Northern even as I write; it’s principally made up of couples and individuals who want to get away from the cold, snow and ice. I know several. My Catholic and foreign-born South Louisiana friends did not abide the Ku Klux Klan that flourished in the former Confederacy. Outside Miami, which was international at its core, lots of bed sheets were grabbed up; the state possesses a bad record in race relations. From the outset, it figured to unite against the Democratic African American president.


Four years ago, the Republican-dominated Florida legislature voted for a maneuver that was strange and self-defeating. They decided they would stage the first presidential primary in the nation, on January 29, 2008. The Democratic National Committee negated the results, restoring a mysterious formula later that wound up with Barack Obama winning in the general election by 2.8 percent over GOP nominee John McCain. This November it figured safely in the Republican column.


Newt Gingrich couldn’t match the Romney dollars in recent days. His supporters may stay home for the presidential election rather than support a man who many distrust. It’s hard to guess.


Meanwhile, the former speaker has vowed to remain in the race until the national convention; Texas Rep. Ron Paul promises the same. The Sunshine State promises to whip up – rather than settle – Republicans’ selection to sit in the White House.


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