In the end, Mormon money and organization has stopped crusading papism in its tracks. In the crucial state of Ohio, millionaire Mitt Romney beat Rick Santorum. In the nine other Super Tuesday races, Romney won in Massachusetts, Idaho, Alabama, Virginia and Vermont; Santorum in Oklahoma, Tennessee and North Dakota. Newt Gingrich swept his home state of Georgia.
The primaries run until the end of June, concluding in Utah, which will crown Romney's run. Barring an act of God — Santorum's or Gingrich's God in this instance — Romney will be the Republican nominee, however many complicated calculations about delegate counts we have to put up with in the interim and the eagerness of the press to spin the race out profitably for weeks.
Romney has slugged his way through but at serious cost. A recent poll run by NBC News and The Wall Street Journal discloses that 70 percent of all respondents used harsh language to describe the Republican presidential race.
Forty percent said the GOP contest so far had made them feel less favorable about the party, with only 12 percent saying they now have a more favorable impression. Fifty-five percent of respondents — including 35 percent of Republicans — think that the Democratic Party does a better job than the GOP in appealing to those who aren't hard-core supporters. Just 26 percent say the Republican Party does a better job on this front.
Romney's favorable/unfavorable rating was 28 percent favorable and 39 percent unfavorable among all respondents (and 22/38 percent among independents). By contrast, John McCain's at this point in 2008 was 47/27.
The only candidate who did worse in the early spring of a presidential campaign year was Bill Clinton in 1993. His numbers were 32/43, but that was right after it had been disclosed that he spent much of the 1980s in Gennifer Flowers' arms, as fetchingly described in her memoir of their affair. By the summer of 1993, the voters had figured that this was Clinton's way, and they didn't really care.
People don't like Romney that much, and he's given them scant reason to think otherwise. Through the last months, he's devolved into a clumsy, cowardly opportunist who roosts on every quarter of the political compass, as circumstances seem to dictate. Netanyahu's in town? Romney's right there at his side: "Look, one thing you can know and that is if we re-elect Barack Obama, Iran will have a nuclear weapon. And if we elect Mitt Romney, if you elect me as the next president, they will not have a nuclear weapon..."
I thank Rick Santorum for promoting by far the most amusing couple of weeks in recent political memory. Suddenly, the right went truly crazy. It must be sunspots. We're three years into sunspot cycle number 24, and it crests in activity with 59 sunspots in early 2013. If you're into sunspot theory, increased negative ionization during sunspot maximum periods increases human excitability.
The sunspot-sodden American right — in this instance the male right — is imploding under the sheer pressure of its repressions, always nearer the surface than in the more decorous psychic plumbing of the liberal legions. It feels like we're back in 1960, when the pill first came on line and predictions of moral collapse were selling by the gross at every convenience store.
First the Savonarola of Pennsylvania, Rick Santorum, said we're in Satan's toils and will remain so until liberated by the sharp lances of theocracy. Then comes further Republican insanity with an all-male Congressional panel pondering the issue of contraception, and then radio shock jock Rush Limbaugh, whose tastes run to cherubim-daubed ceilings and rococo furniture, cut loose with hysterical denunciations of Georgetown law student Sandra Fluke as a "slut" and a "prostitute" after she testified about contraception before a Pelosi-led informal hearing.
Limbaugh later apologized as a few advertisers — many of them makers of beds and mattresses — peeled away from his show, and Obama called Fluke on the phone and said her parents should be proud of her.
Meanwhile, Santorum fans were riveted by the news that Karen Santorum's first serious lover was a well-known abortionist in Pittsburgh. An obstetrician and abortion provider for some 60 years, he delivered Karen into the world in 1960. She lived with him for six years while she was in 20s, before taking up with Santorum and becoming an anti-abortion zealot. Karen Santorum's abortionist lover is now 92 and discusses their relationship with affection.
If Romney is to have a decent chance of defeating Barack Obama in the fall, he has to make a strong showing among women and middle-of-the-roaders generally. Republicans win by stressing their superior ability in standing tall, defending the United States against its enemies and steering the ship of state in the right direction. They don't win campaigns on social issues, such as contraception or abortion. They don't win by persuading women they're completely crazy and threatening to ban all forms of birth control beyond the rhythm method.
The nomination battle is over. The Republican death march towards November will continue.
Alexander Cockburn is co-editor with Jeffrey St. Clair of the muckraking newsletter CounterPunch. He is also co-author of the new book "Dime's Worth of Difference: Beyond the Lesser of Two Evils," available through www.counterpunch.com. To find out more about Alexander Cockburn and read features by other columnists and cartoonists, visit the Creators Syndicate Web page at www.creators.com.