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The reality of politics

Published 9:47pm Wednesday, January 4, 2012

If the year-old presidential carnival lasted any longer, with candidates campaigning on breaks from reality television shows and book tours (Donald Trump, Herman Cain), Joe Rogan becomes a logical tiebreaker for the eight-vote virtual dead heat between Mitt Romney and Rick Santorum.
Tuesday’s Iowa caucuses don’t predict winners — they thin the herd, with Rick Perry and Iowa’s own Michele Bachmann suspending their campaigns.
Eventual 2008 Republican nominee John McCain came in fourth.
Rogan’s “Fear Factor” is back on steroids. It occurred to me how revealing it would be to watch Romney, Santorum, Ron Paul and  Newt Gingrich catapult into a net, transfer 11 pounds of writhing snakes with their teeth and dangle upside down over a body of water from a helicopter.
It’s about all we haven’t seen them do. For $50,000, they might.
But I’m not here to beat up on the sideshow 16 GOP debates produced.
It detracted from real issues Republicans raise in various ways about the Roosevelt welfare state, from Teddy’s regulatory efforts to FDR’s social safety net.
As the Tea Party flourished asking in 2010, how much government is enough?
How do we reform a relic built for an industrial, assembly-line era and make it relevant to a global economy built on technology that needs to encourage innovations which made America great?
After 2011, a turbulent year reminiscent of 1968, pundits talk freely of the “post-American world” emerging in China, India, Brazil and Russia.
Romney, at heart a Michigan moderate, is a plausible presidential possibility.
They must be coming unglued at Fox News at the idea of a bland Romney White House. A President who is a secret Muslim socialist leaping us off the bankruptcy cliff into Shari’a law plays better with the red-meat script that drives ratings.
Over in the relative quiet at MSNBC, Ed Schultz and Howard Dean confidently predicted a Santorum win while most dismissed the dark horse.
Perhaps more conservative than Romney is former Utah Gov. Jon Huntsman, who steered clear of the Hawkeye state.
President Obama’s former China ambassador offers fewer tax loopholes, aggressively confronts Wall Street, rebuilds American manufacturing and refuses to sign the obligatory no-tax pledge.
Remember what caused the smog of negativity hanging over the heartland after the revolving door of front-runners and the tug between Tea Party insurgents and Washington power brokers?
The barrage of attack ads comes not from the candidates, but independent groups known as super PACS spawned by the 2010 Supreme Court ruling in Citizens United which green-lighted unlimited contributions.
In December, for example, the pro-Romney Restore Our Future Political Action Committee reportedly spent three times as much as Romney’s campaign.
A lot of that cash went to bursting the surging Gingrich’s bubble to fourth, behind Paul.
Romney, ironically, calls super PACs “a disaster.” And to be fair, President Obama lamented outside groups four years ago, but will be buttressed by Priorities USA Action and its expected $100 million on behalf of his re-election.
A wild card for 2012 is the real prospect of a third-party candidate.
A non-partisan group, Americans Elect, which has had it with two-party politics as usual, has methodically worked toward ballot access in all 50 states for a candidate chosen, in part, by a national online vote.
The Donald? Huntsman? New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg slow-dancing with Lady Gaga? Or, heaven forbid, a certain former Alaska governor?
Sarah Palin commented right before Christmas “it’s not too late” for “folks” to enter this race.
Where McCain sewed up his nomination in February, this tour could last until June 5 and California’s 172 delegates.
Where have you gone Tie-breakin’ Joe? A nation turns its bleary eyes to you.
We have nothing to fear but Fear Factor itself. Didn’t FDR say that?

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