Jim Newell, at Slate, inserts tongue firmly in cheek — “What If Republican Voters Don’t Value Seriousness Anymore?”:
Republican presidential candidates and their super PACs have begun 2016 by appealing to the primary electorate’s sobriety, despite scant evidence of its existence. Various candidates, with the key exception of Donald Trump, are offering a message of serious leadership, a trait either that too many candidates possess for voters to decide among them or one about which few voters care. The message serves as both a lament over the decidedly unserious nature of the 2015 leg and a hope for a better stretch in 2016: Either voters will come around to valuing seriousness as voting nears, or Trump will be the Republican presidential candidate….
Former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee, like Santorum, is a previous winner of the Iowa caucuses. And Huckabee, like Santorum, is losing pitifully this year as novice candidates like Cruz and Ben Carson suck up Iowa’s social conservative vote. “This has been, of all the election cycles I’ve been involved in, this has been one of the most bewildering,” Huckabee, per the Des Moines Register, said at a Sunday event, “because it’s almost as if the more experience, the more preparation one has had for this job, it’s almost like it’s a detriment than it is an asset.”
Huckabee should feel especially offended, since he has experience as both a longtime governor and a conservative entertainment personality who’s constantly spouting off attention-grabbing nonsense. But his venting of frustration at the oddness of this cycle harkens back to New York magazine’s Jonathan Chait’s description of the process in September, after Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker dropped out: “The Republican presidential race has appeared to take the form of a kind of reverse meritocracy, in which the candidates with real political accomplishments (Walker and, before him, former Texas governor Rick Perry) are driven out, and novices with strong television skills rise to the top.” This remains the dynamic of the race…
The immediate rebuttal, of course: Serious? These guys are friggin’ terminal! But then again, isn’t this the predictable outcome of every Repub campaign since at least Dubya scraped into office with the help of his old man’s SCOTUS appointees? They’ve happily assured their voters that all those complicated consensus-reality issues are not really important (“We create our own reality”), not like performing the proper ritual obeisances to Heartland America God’s Gift Mightiest Military World Leadership FREEDUMB!!! As a result, the (remaining) Republican voter base doesn’t care about “serious” leadership — they want to vote for the loudest, glossiest, most posturing Cheerleader-in-Chief. And gods know, there’s not one GOP candidate this year who isn’t trying to give them just exactly that!
Apart from the usual P&M, what’s on the agenda for the evening?