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March 16, 2012

Inevitable GOP Tuesday

Roy Meachum

As Tuesday pointed out, Republicans seem headed for the fate that led to Abraham Lincoln’s election, establishing the party on the American political scene.


In 1860, Democrats ruled the land. Nomination on their ticket was tantamount to a key to the White House. The great favorite was Stephen Douglas, who had defeated Mr. Lincoln for the U.S. Senate two years before. At their convention in Charleston, South Carolina, they went through 55 ballots before adjourning to Baltimore. Mr. Douglas was the winner of a divided party. The pro-slavery Democrats chose Vice President John Breckenridge, of Kentucky.


This year, as I’ve written before, religion is the sticking point. In my native South and other parts, few people have personally encountered Mormons. They are considered members of a cult, vaguely Christian; most Americans once looked on Roman Catholics in a similar manner. John F. Kennedy won in 1960 because Texan Lyndon Johnson was on the ticket; the results were so close that Chicago’s John Daly is accused of tilting the results in favor of fellow Catholic Kennedy.


Former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney has been the GOP 2012 favorite for several years. There have been several “flavors of the week,” as labeled by 2008 vice presidential nominee Sarah Palin. When Ms. Palin coined the phrase, it was about Georgia’s Herman Cain, a black man. Without regard to gender or race, there has been a slew, including former Speaker of the House of Representatives Newt Gingrich. The longest lasting is ex-Pennsylvania Sen. Rick Santorum, ironically a Roman Catholic like Mr. Kennedy.


“Coming into this week, Mr. Romney had more delegates than his rivals combined,” asserted The Huffington Post, “and is amassing at a rate that puts him on track to clinch control of nomination before the GOP convention opens in late August. The Associated Press tally shows him with 494 of the 1,144 delegates to win the nomination. Senator Santorum has 251, Speaker Gingrich 131 and Ron Paul 48.”


Then Tuesday happened. Despite spending the most money, the former governor came in third, behind the ex-senator and former speaker. Mr. Paul nudged along, as he did all winter. In reality, Mr. Romney has won no states in the country’s “Bible Belt.” Southern voters are interest more in keeping “the cult” from the Oval Office, rather than turning out Barack Obama. (A recent survey shows many believe the current president is a Muslim.)


Newt Gingrich turned away suggestions that he retire from the field after Tuesday, saying he will hang on until the convention. Having forked over $15 million, Las Vegas casino entrepreneur Sheldon Adelson and his wealthy Israeli wife publically have made no commitments. But, what the hey! At their spending level, they figure to go along. Having bought a former speaker of the United States, they might as well see the race to the end.


The real question that hangs heavy over 2012 GOP presidential nomination is whether Mitt Romney or Rick Santorum blinks first and founds another party to elect him. From the beginning of the year, that’s always been a possibility. I wrote about it before. Until “woman trouble” forced him to the sideline, the likeliest candidate appeared to be Mr. Cain.


Tuesday’s results in Mississippi and Alabama forecast the GOP split, exactly as the Democrats in 1860.


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