Bare your fangs. But Don't Bite Poor Immigrants.
Ugly, noisy primary fights are such a boon to American democracy. The venom, the scrutiny, and the cash, hurled in great big gobs of defamation, finally break down candidates to the point where they can no longer hide who they are. And defeating this beast--The Process--can turn a cyborg into a dragon slayer. In Florida, Robo-Man Romney got so pissed with Newt's freshly funded advertising savageries that he bared some fangs at long last. But winning makes you cocky, and when you're cocky you slip up. Romney's CNN interview that offered the soundbite "I'm not concerned about the very poor. We have a safety net there" nailed him harder to the 1 percent persona than any attack-PAC ad campaign could do.
The volume of Mitt's gaffes is slim compared with his opponent's. Newt Gingrich is so fueled by resentment that self-destruction is part of his roadshow. As the populist vehicle for Tea Party anger, some of Newt's "rage" is fake. Lloyd Grove describes this week how, far from being an enemy of the "elite media," the candidate enjoys sharing a beer and a banter with the hacks at the end of a long campaign day, and once famously said, "If you're not in The Washington Post every day you might as well not exist."
Still, the primary marathon, let alone the modern presidency, is so brutal it's more and more mandatory for only cool temperaments to apply. Obama's evenness is boring but essential. This frustrates the press, which yearns for YouTube emotion. In the 2008 campaign, Hillary Clinton was relentlessly self-disciplined. When she showed the welling of a tiny tear in New Hampshire, it became a national sensation (and gave her a win). …