THE LAST SHALL BE FIRST
First of all, thank you again, Zandar.
Now, as for the antics of the weekend, I love it that Michele Bachmann and Ron Paul scored nearly 30% of the vote each in the Ames straw poll and the result is that we're told it's now a two-person race -- Perry vs. Romney. Look, that may be how it ultimately turns out, but give the Ames winners a little credit. Bachmann is the only candidate in the race who seems to know how to campaign like an A-lister while doing voter appeal exclusively like a teabagging holy-fool outsider -- I know Perry is supposed to be able to do both, but he may slick it up, whereas so far Bachmann seems to be purely, authentically crazy, which is what this crowd wants.
Everything that people like Sarah Palin and Herman Cain have occasionally done well, Bachmann is doing well on a consistent basis. She knows what the base wants, she know how to make it sound well thought-out even though it's lunacy and gibberish, and she seems to have no fear of anyone else in the race -- I suspect she's going to go right after Perry just the way she went right after Pawlenty, and she might have the ability to do him serious harm, largely because she just can't seem to imagine herself failing. Or maybe she'll take on Romney next.
And as for Paul, why couldn't he exceed expectations, at least in the early states? He also has no self-doubt, and the base is coming around to his cockamamie views on money. The isolationism is a drawback, but this is going to be an election about domestic issues, right? And, like Bachmann, he's indier-than-thou, as they used to say in the rock world -- no one thinks of him as Establishment, and that's got to help him.
But the expectation that it's going to be down to Romney and Perry now is just the late summer version of what George Will wrote in March:
Let us not mince words. There are at most five plausible Republican presidents on the horizon -- Indiana Gov. Mitch Daniels, Mississippi Gov. Haley Barbour, former Utah governor and departing ambassador to China Jon Huntsman, former Massachusetts governor Romney and former Minnesota governor Tim Pawlenty.
Yup, Pawlenty was Will's #5. Tee-hee.
Will went on to write:
So the Republican winnowing process is far advanced. But the nominee may emerge much diminished by involvement in a process cluttered with careless, delusional, egomaniacal, spotlight-chasing candidates to whom the sensible American majority would never entrust a lemonade stand, much less nuclear weapons.
The careless, delusional, egomaniacal, and spotlight-chasing people Will thought were sullying things for their betters have, needless to say, taken over the asylum, and, to judge from Obama's poll numbers, America may well entrust one of them with the nuclear launch codes, just because it's "time to give someone new a chance."
Meanwhile, sure, I suppose it makes much more sense that this thing will ultimately be decided by Establishment money (and, for instance, by the press smelling that money and deciding to take sides -- here's Politico doing that this morning, unabashedly in Perry's favor), but I wouldn't bet the house on that. Bachmann just keeps coming back, even after awkward moments. It could be that she's Clinton '92 or Obama '08 for angry, mean, stupid people.
And if she doesn't have enough mojo to stop Perry (and the starburst-seeing reporters he attracts), I think she could at least be the second-last candidate standing. I'm starting to think this might not get down to Romney vs. an anti-Romney -- I think Bachmann, Perry and to a lesser extent Paul might finish Romney off early. I think it might get down to those three and, ultimately, to Perry and Bachmann.