Republican Challenger Proliferation, Media Enablers and Saturday Night Live

–Richard E. Vatz

Just who are all of the challengers who, according to various press coverage and column support, are clearly going to upend the Mitt Romney applecart? Well, there was Rick Perry, Herman Cain, Newt Gingrich and then Rick Santorum. Some even speculated that the one source of stable and intense support (oh, I’m sorry – the buzz word modifying such support this year is “enthusiastic”) is Ron “Ceiling” Paul, whose national support — guaranteed — will never go very high – mark this down and contact me if I’m wrong.

The majority of the mainstream media is always anti-Republican, of course, but sometimes this can lead to embarrassment. Did anyone see the dud of the opening sketch on Saturday Night Live (SNL) last night, shown subsequent to the unreferenced Romney double primary wins in the Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC) straw poll and the Maine caucuses? They had Romney (Jason Sudeikis) refer to his “inevitable nomination,” no doubt intended to be laughed at as ironic and false self-flattery – no one laughed: check it out, assuming NBC doesn’t enhance the laugh track. They referenced only results of last Tuesday (I thought it was only we old guys who didn’t understand the quick progression of politics), wherein former Pennsylvania Senator Rick Santorum soundly defeated Romney across the board. (Honesty requires me, parenthetically, to give a tip of the hat to SNL’s impersonation of Arianna Huffington and their satire of her hyper-aggregating Huffington Post.)

Make no mistake; Gov. Romney has a problem with convincing right-wing conservatives that he is worth voting for. He is making some headway, but the deal will not be sealed without caveat. No one can completely explain away, for example, the liberal coverage or the expansive coverage of Romneycare by just focusing on its lack of national government requirements. And this conservative believes that while Romney’s position changes do not strain credulity, they do not seem firmly consistent by any explanation either.

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The media excitement over each new burst-of-light, rising star comes from two motives: the desire to have a news-enhancing internecine Republican battle and the clear preference for Barack Obama’s winning a second term in November.

This analysis is not to say that Romney’s nomination is inevitable; it is only to say that each Republican progressive (no pun intended, obviously), flash-in-the-pan has become a falling star and everyone is then inexplicably surprised.

It is one of the oldest stories in political rhetoric: the public gets excited or charmed by a new, unknown candidate, and as each new fact about the candidate gets publicized, he/she loses support.

The lasting candidates maintain strong support without its going way down over time. Let’s try to attenuate overexcitement until at least a couple of months have transpired after we know a candidate.

Mitt Romney is leading and is the favorite to secure the Republican nomination for president. There should be more respect for the Anybody-But-Romney folks than those, especially in the non-disinterested media, who latch onto each new candidate as if he is the Second Coming.

Professor Vatz teaches political rhetoric at Towson University and is author of The Only Authentic Book of Persuasion (Kendall Hunt, 2012)

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