Although it does not look like the Republican primary season is going to end anytime soon, absent a black swan event that leads to a mythical "floor fight" in Tampa, Willard's Bataan Death March to the nomination will likely succeed. So why not take a look at the winners and losers from the weakest Republican field in modern memory.
Rick Santorum. You went from being a guy whose name was synonymous with anal juices who lost his last statewide race by 18 points to being a legitimate threat to win the Republican nomination for President. If VH-1 had a "Best Week Ever" spinoff called "Best Primary Performance Ever," you would win by a mile. Although the Romney machine is likely to grind your bones into powder the longer this race continues, your star is on the rise in conservative circles and you've made the sweater vest (sort of) fashionable. Your best case scenario is having a 1 in 2 chance of becoming the leader of the free world. Your worst case scenario is a featured spot on FOX News or whatever other part of the right-wing noise machine you want to hang your hat on and earn serious money.
Newton Leroy Gingrich. Nine months ago, you were nearly drummed out of the race when reporters found out you and your third wife had a line of credit at Tiffany's that was 10 times larger than the median income of an ordinary American. In response, you alit to Greece and yet, you're in the final four. You delivered the biggest ass kicking of the primary season in South Carolina and you've probably lined your ample pockets by shoe horning in book signings and movie nights when no one was taking you seriously. Your primary night speeches are epochs of self-aggrandizement and ego, you seem not to see the irony in lecturing others on morality and you came out in support of a colony on the Moon and yet, I repeat, you're still in the fucking race. I give you the Charlie Sheen #winning award.
Herman Cain. Even if you believe, as Rachel Maddow argued persuasively, that Cain's entire campaign was a sophisticated art project, who the fuck had heard of Herman Cain before 9-9-9? Exactly. So what if he turned out to (allegedly) be a handsy boss who had numerous sexual harassment charges lodged against him, mocked the need to know anything about foreign policy and had that weird ad with the guy smoking the cigarette. Herman Cain took chicken shit and turned it into Mario Batali-restaurant quality chicken salad. It tells you everything you need to know about the weakness of Mitt Romney, the radicalization of the Republican Party and the influence pop culture has on our politics that this guy became a superstar.
National Press Corps. The traveling campaign press corps has, as Jon Stewart observed, become the kid in school who says "you gonna take that shit?" as a means to gin up a fight. The primary season has been an uninterrupted orgy of debates, twitter feeds and candidate boomlets that provides a never ending hit to the cerebral cortex of the cable chat-a-thon and Internet meme machine that passes for journalism these days. They generate a lot of heat, far less light.
President Obama. The President has quietly used the primary season as a test run for his general election run, firing up the volunteer network, phone banks and fundraising that are still the bread and butter of Presidential politics and a successful get out the vote effort. While Republicans are elbowing each other on the way to the far right wing of their party, the President's approval ratings have steadily risen as has the economy. With a simple message of "Bin Laden is dead and GM is alive," his sidekick, Vice President Biden, has neatly summed up the President's re-election message - he's kept us safe from foreign threats and made courageous decisions at home to revive our economy. He's gone from a slight underdog to a betting favorite to be re-elected.
Mitt Romney. Congratulations, Mitt. You burned through tens of millions of dollars to trash the shit out of your opponents to win a nomination that everyone agrees is worthless because Obama is going to treat you like bird cage liner. In the meantime, you twisted yourself into so many policy contradictions that no one takes you, a guy who created an enormous amount of wealth for himself through business acumen and cold blooded decision making, seriously. You have re-written the book on shameless pandering and your campaign pretends that there is not something called “the Internet” to expose your every flip flop. You’ve been running for President for 6 years and have gotten worse, not better, at that job. Please leave.
Ron Paul. You’ve raised the model of the crazy uncle who gets drunk at Thanksgiving and starts spouting off about weird conspiracy theories to an art form. No longer must we live in a world where the term “fiat money” is relegated to the flat earth society dead enders who have flocked to your candidacy like the tie-dyed masses once did to Jerry Garcia. The brief boomlet you experienced a few months ago only served to allow oppo researchers to dump a ton of information on your borderline racist newsletters from back in the day and your vaunted grass roots campaign could not draw the (roughly) 2,300 people it would have taken to win the one caucus where you had a half-way decent chance of prevailing (Maine). Your strident pacifism makes you a pariah in your own party and your kooky economic and social theories make you a laughingstock everywhere else. Enjoy your (government funded) pension when you retire from Congress at the end of 2012.
Rick Perry. You were the hero of the most virulent strain of Obama-hating nihilists when you flirted with secessionism until you know, people actually started asking you questions about your policies and politics. At first you defended yourself, and then you succumbed to the inevitable rite of passage where you attempt to moderate your harsher tones because the mean kids in the media think it’s beneath a Presidential candidate to talk about treating our Federal Reserve Chairman “ugly.” Also, probably unwise to run for the position of leader of the free world when you are incapable of maintaining a list of three cabinet agencies in your head at any given time, even if those agencies are ones you wanted to eliminate.
Tim Pawlenty. Who? Exactly.
Michele Bachmann. You ignored the Vietnam axiom to “quit and declare victory,” which, had you done after winning the Iowa straw poll, probably would have landed you a nice paying job on FOX News. You mastered the art of (sometimes) sounding entirely rational at sound bite length (5 seconds) before careening entirely off the tracks. On the plus side, your husband seems very light in his loafers.
Jon Huntsman. Almost forgot about you, but then again, so did the Republican party. Probably not a good sign when your own campaign staff misspells your name on the press credentials for your announcement tour. In fact, your best day was the day before you entered the race and the press was salivating at the idea of a (supposedly) moderate, articulate, Mandarin speaking former governor who had also served as Ambassador to several key countries giving the President a tough time in the general election. You have no chance of ever getting elected President but you might have made a good Secretary of State in Obama's second term had you not fucked him over so blatantly to run against him. Nice going, Jo(h)n.