What a month! A lot has happened to the political puzzle since early December. For one thing, the GOP has surely become aggressive internally and towards their ‘arch nemesis’ in Washington. We’ve seen a caucus and two primaries since The Verge’s last update. We’ve also encountered a State of the Union Address and a near boxing match between the front runners. At this point anything goes; candidates are spending more on negative advertising in the states they’re campaigning in and bashing each others’ personal lives to the point of disbelief. After all, as Martin L. Gross said in 1993, we do “live in a world where politics has replaced philosophy.”
On January 3, 2012, the candidates kicked off the primary season with an Iowa Caucus; the traditional start to the primaries. After putting all his efforts in the Iowa campaign trail, Rick Santorum showed positive results. He managed to slightly out-maneuver the front-runner, Mitt Romney. It was first speculated that Romney had won the state, but it was later determined that Santorum took the state by only 34 votes. Romney came in a close second, followed by Paul and Gingrich. After her poor showing, Michele Bachmann knew it was just about her time and suspended her campaign. The remaining candidates then focused on New Hampshire.
Like Santorum in Iowa, Jon Huntsman put his campaign team to the test in New Hampshire, and his spot in the future primaries was to be determined by these results. Ultimately, Massachusetts’ voters stuck with their nearby-neighbor, former Massachusetts governor and front-runner Mitt Romney. He won the state by nearly 17 percentage points…maybe the rest was now his to take!
January 21, 2012, the candidates toured the state of South Carolina. Initially favored to win, Romney lost a bit of momentum after the Iowa vote count became official and it was announced that he was not the winner. Also, Newt Gingrich surged within the state. Rick Perry dropped out of the race prior to the South Carolina vote and endorsed Gingrich. Now polls had Gingrich winning the state in a landslide! The Romney team countered with their fair share of negative ads, and ultimately, the votes were in…Gingrich won the state by 13 percentage points, followed by Romney, Santorum and Paul. The significance of this primary was the fact that we now had a race on our hands.
After three states in the bag, and five nationally televised debates in the new year, the candidates carried on to Florida to do their campaigning. Struck with the feat of participating in two more Florida debates, each candidate had their ups and downs. Gingrich showed his strong debate skills and continued to pledge that he will engage President Obama in seven Lincoln-Douglas style debates. Meanwhile, Romney remained on the offensive about Gingrich’s past and conservative views. In a war of words, personalities were struck, personal tax returns became national issues and the race shaped into a two-way battle between Romney and Gingrich.
Rick Santorum and Ron Paul, both admirable and aggressive in their campaigning, remain in the race, regardless of being nearly ignored in debate time. But they continue to stick to their guns and pledge to be the most consistent candidates. Paul, with his passive outlook to foreign policy, and Santorum, with his deeply conservative morals, both took on the task of playing hardball with the front runners.
All the while this was going on, President Obama managed to sneak in his State of the Union address. Bashing Congress and calling for a variety of bills to be “placed on his desk tomorrow to be signed,” he made steps toward revealing his plan to continue to revive the economy in the next year. In some ways taking a strike at the GOP candidates and Republicans in Congress, including Speaker Boehner, he said that anyone who is claiming the country to be in a downward slope is greatly misinformed.
Union address aside, as we sit a day away from the Florida vote, we come to realize that this and the upcoming primaries will really show where the Republican campaign is being taken. It’s possible that with poor showings a candidate could drop out, and presumably make Romney a further front-runner. Initial polls show the presidential race being quite close with a Romney v. Obama match up. But with a Herman Cain endorsement and South Carolina momentum, Newt Gingrich has pledged to remain in the race and take as many delegates as he can, state by state until the Republican Convention. It’s anyone’s game, but the multimillionaire Romney seems to be carrying the torch so far for the Grand Old Party.