Friday, 27 January 2012

State of the Union

As the fag-end of the UK pantomime season smoulders to a close, the American equivalent takes centre stage. The only dame dropped out after the first audition, and the principle players are endeavouring to distance themselves from dodgy dialogue and unwise ad-libs from past productions, as the contenders to be Republican Party Presidential candidate for the US election vie to avoid being cast as the panto villain. The protracted process comprises a series of primaries and caucuses, regional votes in which Republican voters select preferred candidates. We whittle down the wish-list, as the results roll in, with candidates capitulating as their funding and fan-bases either enlarge or evaporate.
The contest kicked off in Iowa, with folks from “America’s Heartland” failing to deliver a decisive verdict. Having misplaced their copy of “Democracy for Dummies”, the organisers sent some votes through the wash in their jeans pockets, we’ve all done it, others slipped down the back of the sofa, and it was thought best to call it a split between former Governor of Massachusetts Mitt Romney and “social conservative” Rick Santorum. But the farce did thin the field, with the notable withdrawal of the darling of the Tea party, but apparently not many others, Michele Bachmann. With former Speaker of the House of Representatives Newt Gingrich winning the South Carolina Primary, and veteran Ron Paul hanging on in there, in more ways than one at 76, it’s a four horse race, with the chosen candidate taking on President Obama on November the 6th.
The mandatory mud-slinging may even get a tad dirtier this time out thanks to a new ruling. Any interested party can now find funding to launch an advertising campaign to compliment or condemn a chosen candidate, providing they are not working for one of them. But presumably you would have to produce a note from your mum to that effect.
In sporting terms, the race to the White House is more marathon than sprint, and tactics can be a long way south of cricket. The “birthers” have been reborn, questioning if the President is really American. Rick Santorum has been repeatedly cross-examined to see if he’s really as anti-gay/abortion/Palestinian as people feared/hoped, delete as appropriate. Mitt Romney has had to flash his tax return, proving he only coughed up 15% of the income from investing his $200 million fortune, and Newt Gingrich starts from the position of being the only Speaker of the House of Representatives to have been disciplined for ethics violations. Ron Paul probably has some skeletons in his closet too, but may have forgotten where he put them.
Although it will be a riveting contest for the neutral spectator, it is unlikely to be a good clean game. You’re guaranteed a few high tackles before the final whistle, but probably not a communal bath after it.   

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