Here in Canada, national political campaigns are brief: We begin by pretty much ignoring the whole thing for a few weeks—then there’s a debate, a little yelling, maybe some pointing, every leader buys a bunch of Timbits and, boom, suddenly it’s election day.
But in the United States, presidential campaigns last longer than all pregnancies and most wars. Even before the 2008 campaign had ended, candidates were laying the groundwork for 2012, engaging in such unsavory practices as raising money and visiting Iowa.
Perhaps you’ve been following the presidential race closely for the past many months. Good for you. You probably have vague memories of Michele Bachmann, Rick Perry and that weird pizza guy who kept screaming the number “nine” at everyone. You may even have succeeded in banishing all mental images related to Newt Gingrich’s yearning for an open marriage. If that’s true, I feel kind of badly for just having mentioned it. The open marriage, I mean. The one through which Gingrich would have been freed to have intimate relations with various ladies while not wearing any—ah, I see now that I’m only making matters worse.
Anyway, with Republicans preparing to gather for their national convention beginning Aug. 27, this is a good time for the rest of us to get caught up on where things stand in American politics.
As you may recall, the current President is a Democrat by the name of Barack Obama. He killed Osama bin Laden—not personally, but (the way he tells it) pretty much. When not killing bin Laden, which he totally did, by the way, President Obama passed a law that ensures a modicum of health coverage to everyone except Osama bin Laden, who is dead because Barack Obama killed him.
The Republicans have responded by selecting as their nominee one Willard Mitt Romney, who, had he been in office, would have killed Osama bin Laden even deader.
Romney looks like America’s idea of a president. But he often sounds like America’s idea of an eccentric uncle. Travelling in Michigan, Romney repeatedly made reference to his belief that trees in the state are “the right height.” It’s possible Romney was trying to evoke a timeless image from nature to symbolize American exceptionalism in an age of global volatility. He may also have been high.
Or maybe that’s just Mitt Romney. Even when he says normal things they can come out sounding a little unusual. This week, he hailed the success of NASA’s rover by boasting to a rally: “We just landed on Mars and took a good look at what’s going on there!” He made it sound as though Curiosity was scoping out the chicks down at Applebee’s.
Romney has also been prone to the political gaffe. This past weekend, he introduced his running mate—Paul Ryan, a young congressman with the hairline of Count Chocula and the ideological flexibility of Count Dooku—by describing him as “the next president of the United States.” Wolf Blitzer almost wet himself over that one.
History suggests it should be fairly easy to defeat a sitting President who has presided over a country that has endured economic malaise, high unemployment and two new Maroon 5 albums. But Romney is behind in the polls. According to surveys, two-thirds of Americans think he cares more about the rich than the middle class. Which is weird because Romney relates to the middle class: there’s no class he’s fired more of.
There’s still time for Romney-Ryan, of course. The debates are yet to come. The Republican ticket is backed by several super PACs that will raise and spend massive amounts of money. And Romney will likely get a boost from his party’s convention, assuming they find room for him to give a speech amid all the references to Ronald Reagan.
But there are only 11 weeks until Election Day. In America, they call that the home stretch. Emotions are high. At a rally this week in Wisconsin, his home state, Paul Ryan reacted to the enthusiastic welcome by openly crying onstage. At the sight of Ryan weeping, Romney himself began crying. This made his wife, Ann Romney, burst into tears. ALL THIS ACTUALLY HAPPENED.
What is it with Republicans? House Speaker John Boehner: crier. Pundit Glenn Beck: crier. Romney and Ryan: criers. Your country is glad you love her, boys, but come on—you’re soaking America’s freedom blouse.