"Did you miss me?" Newt Gingrich asked of reporters during his bizarre press conference after the Nevada caucuses. The event served as a reminder of why I, for one, would miss him if he were to drop out of the race, something he sounds very unlikely to do anytime soon. Let's face it, he's the life of the party.
Romney is evil, sure, but it's Gordon Gekko evil, investment capital financial interest-rate ZZZZZ..... Ron Paul is pretty much your standard libertarian nutjob who thinks raising a millionaire's taxes back to Reagan-era levels is an outrageous infringement of liberty, while forcing a woman to carry an unwanted pregnancy to term is not -- but he's been doing this forever and we're all pretty tired of his act, and the Fed / gold-standard crankery is migraine- caliber boring. Even his newly-revealed racism just reminds us that he's a relic of a bygone era. Santorum is the most out-there sexophobic religious nut since Christine O'Donnell, but it's been hard for such a bland squeaky-clean Mr. Rogers image to get much attention in a field so full of colorful characters as this Republican race has been.
Gingrich is the most colorful character of all, the grand guignol figure in the contest. He's the bloody car wreck you can't look away from. A vicious, bloated megalomaniac whose relations with women and attitude toward them call Henry VIII to mind, he's the pit bullfrog of Republicans. I see him skulking in a high-tech lair built inside an extinct volcano, wearing a monocle and stroking a white cat, cackling maniacally over his latest evil scheme while lightning crashes in the background. He's as fun to hate as Lord Voldemort or Darth Vader. He thinks he's Hari Seldon. What other Presidential candidate could inspire an SF parody?
And he just won't quit. During that weird piece of post-caucus theater (entertaining commentary from rank-and-file Republicans here, starting around comment 140), playing Ahab to Romney's Moby Dick, Gingrich declared "I care very deeply about helping the poorest Americans.....I think one of the great challenges of conservatism is to turn the safety net into a trampoline." Yeah, we all know what he meant, but the mental image conjured by that metaphor is a funny one. If our comedians and bloggers are on the ball, they'll milk that one for almost as much as the Moon-colony thing. God knows what else he'll come up with if he really stays in the race all the way to the end. By Tampa the Republican party is going to look like something Ed Wood came up with on an off day. Enjoy the show.
Update: The bitter fight between Republican rivals is leaving the rank and file divided into hostile camps -- see the comment thread here for examples of acrimony between Mitttards, Newtrons, and Frothies. Meanwhile, two new polls (one from Rasmussen!) show Obama with a growing edge over Romney -- savor the panic.