Rick Santorum captured a couple of victories, but the winner this week is still Mitt Romney. He survived cheesy grits, y'alls, and redneck pandering (has he ever listened to the lyrics of "Sweet Home, Alabama"?). Despite losing in key Southern primaries, he's still considered the inevitable, if undesired, presumptive "eh" nominee. He's proving that he has at least one huge asset as a candidate besides having way more delegates than everyone else: dipped in shellack, Romney is proving impervious to reality.
Confronted on his own network, FOX News, about his onetime support of national health care mandates, he said that he has already explained it hundreds of times before, therefore it's not true despite what the video tape shows. Like Bill Clinton explaining Monica, Richard Nixon explaining Watergate, or Ronald Reagan explaining arms for hostages, he's showing his presidential timbre.
Other winners and losers of the week:
Winner: War. Remember 2008? Pundits predicted that the election issue would be war. Then the economy collapsed and James Carville's Clinton-era truism ("It's the economy, stupid") was reconfirmed. Now, in 2012, this election was also supposed to be about the economy, and still largely is if you count gas prices. But war decision-making looms big and ugly: Afghanistan (how to end it), Iran (when to start it), Iraq (is it really over?). If they don't yet dominate as defining issues, they serve to remind that current and wanna-be presidents have more to think about than basketball brackets, cheesy grits, or the legality of TelePrompters.
Loser: Barack Obama. The poll numbers dip because people care less about the energy policy of tomorrow than prices at the pump today. Obama should be crushing his GOP competitors, but they're all within striking range. Plus, it is never good to be seen paling around at a basketball game with a British Prime Minister. Think ahead a bit. How will Obama look when David Cameron reciprocates by getting Obama to a cricket match? A snob-watch extravaganza.
Loser: Poor Newt Gingrich. He's reduced to whining about his relevance, like a supervillian in his collapsing bunker. He lost the Alabama and Mississippi primaries, what was supposed to be his turf. Some compare him to Lincoln in 1860: He might, just might limp into a brokered convention at number three and win after first-ballot deadlock.
It's a funny comparison since just this week Gingrich was running to be a 21st century Jefferson Davis of the GOP's New Confederacy. Newt assesses the situation like Bill Gates at a Microsoft staff meeting: "The thing I find most disheartening of this campaign is the difficulty of talking about large ideas on a large scale, because the news media can’t cover it and, candidly, my opponents can't comprehend it." Stupid, silly hu-mans.
Winner: Jay Inslee, for quitting Congress to focus full-time on losing the gubernatorial race. Inslee had a tough choice: Quit the House and get tagged a "quitter" by Danny Westneat or campaign part-time againts a tough opponent. An open question: Will Inslee win? Fellow Democratic Congressman Adam Smith warned this week that it would be foolish to under-estimate Inslee, who has won tough underdog races before. But, Smith also contrasted his own "OCD"-style of getting things done with Inslee's tendency to operate under "chaos theory." Chaos theory: Does Olympia need more of that? Or do you need someone who understands it to run it?
Loser: Rob McKenna, whose biased ballot wording on marriage equality was rejected by court order.
Winner: Seattle rain. Mother Nature is sending us a message for the political season: Winter ain't over just because the crocuses are up. Beware early bloomers, late bloomers, and — politically speaking — hold on to your bloomers.