“Trouble, oh we got trouble. Right here in River City!” So goes the hit Broadway musical, “The Music Man.”
Unfortunately the GOP Establishment is in big trouble, right here in the GOP City pool room.
Its arch nemesis, Newt Gingrich, threatens to run the table in the GOP City pool room. He's like Minnesota Fats taking on all competitors as he remains unbowed and unbroken by the pool-room debates about his ability. The GOP establishment considers Gingrich an untrustworthy pool shark, who carries more immoral baggage than that found in the GOP City pool room. A poor leader with an outsized ego and a serial philanderer to boot is not what the GOP establishment wants to run against Obama.
Their man Mitt Romney, despite his best efforts, lacks pool-room charisma. And Gingrich’s frontal challenge has forced him to abandon his positive campaign and go negative, attacking Gingrich directly and indirectly for his indiscretions and inconsistencies.
Then in the heat of debate he tried to lure Rick Perry into a $10,000 bet in the GOP City pool room. Evangelical Christians, the dominant force in the Iowa caucuses, don't believe in betting. Without a good showing in Iowa, Romney will limp into New Hampshire and crawl into South Carolina. Gingrich should win Iowa, do better than expected in New Hampshire, and cruise to victory in South Carolina.
Ron Paul threatens to come in a close second in the GOP City pool room, edging out Romney, emboldening his Libertarian fans, strengthening his hand in New Hampshire and South Carolina, raising the Libertarian force in the Republican Party, and threatening to run as a third-party candidate, if the GOP does not embrace his strict Libertarian pool-playing rules.
Michele Bachmann has sneaked up on the boys in the pool room by knocking in some unexpected bank shots. Unbeknown to the GOP City pool-room sharks, she has built the most comprehensive campaign organization in Iowa, organizing every precinct in every county.
Rick Perry, the Texas hustler, placed an all-or-nothing bet in the GOP City pool room, comparing himself to America’s new-found, best-known Evangelical Christian, Tim Tebow, and coming out four square against abortion and homosexuality in an effort to appeal to Iowa's dominant Evangelical Christian voice in the GOP primary. If he makes his all-or-nothing, call shot, he won't win the game, but he will reduce Romney's appeal to Evangelicals.
Rick Santorum, despite midnight hours devoted to sharpening his skill in the GOP City pool room, has failed to win a game. He's left watching Gingrich win, Romney falter, Paul rise, Bachmann surprise, and Perry spoil Romney's hopes. He placed his big bet on a game of pool with Donald Trump, and no one wants to play with “The Donald.”
Jon Huntsman just couldn't get a seat in GOP City's crowded pool room.
Yes, We've Got Trouble in the GOP City pool room.
The GOP establishment must roll the dice and hope for a miracle. If the current players in the pool room divide enough of the delegate votes through proportional representation in Iowa, New Hampshire, South Carolina, and Florida, then the Establishment might try to enter Fast Eddy in the pool-room competition. Someone like Mike Daniel or Paul Ryan, who plays pool according to the Establishment Rules of the GOP City pool room.
Dr. Charles Dunn is Distinguished Professor of Government at Regent University and editor of "The Presidency in the Twenty-First Century" (UPK Press, 2011).