by Jordan Green


It’s remotely possible that North Carolina could play a role in the Republican presidential primary the way it did in the Democratic nominating contest four years ago. Against expectation that the nomination would be all but decided, Barack Obama, Hillary Clinton and their surrogates ended up barnstorming the state in April 2008. The energy and enthusiasm among Democratic voters carried over to the general election, helping Obama squeak out a victory over McCain here.


It will be interesting to see whether the same dynamic works in the eventual Republican nominee’s favor this year. One key difference: The Republican primary has been relentlessly negative, in comparison to the spirited but civil competition between Obama and Clinton. The negativity appears to be a result of the Supreme Court’s Citizens United decision, allowing superrich donors to funnel unlimited cash into socalled “independent” committee accounts to be spent on TV attack ads.


Illustrating the absurdity of the new campaign finance rules, television satirist Stephen Colbert gloated to the Federal Elections Commission in a Jan. 31 letter announcing his Americans for a Better Tomorrow, Tomorrow PAC had raised more than $1 million: “Yeah, How you like me now, FEC? I’m rolling seven digits deep. I got 99 problems but a non-connected independentexpenditure only committee ain’t one.”


The two leading Republican candidates have opened themselves up to attacks. Fresh off his primary win in Florida, Romney raised eyebrows by telling CNN’s Soledad O’Brien: “I’m not con- cerned about the very poor. We have a safety net there.” Romney already had liabilities in the department of economic distress because of his involvement with Bain Capital, a venture capital firm that bought out failing companies and laid off their workers. STRATOSPHERE Matt Wells, a blogger with the Guardian, itemized a list of gaffes that reinforce Romney’s image as an “out-of-touch rich guy”: “Previous gems include his suggestion that $374,327 is ‘not very much’ money, his offer to make a casual $10,000 bet with Rick Perry, his insistence that ‘corporations are people’ and his off-color joke to a group of out-of-work Americans that, he too, is ‘unemployed.’”


Newt Gingrich, Romney’s chief competition, has also taken a turn toward strange in some of his statements. Campaigning in the backyard of Kennedy Space Center, Gingrich said, “At one point in my career I introduced the Northwest Ordinance for Space. I said, ‘When we have 13,000 Americans living on the moon, they can petition to become a state.’” He added, “By the end of my second term, we will have the first permanent base on the moon, and it will be American.”


Romney defended the healthcare reform plan he signed into law as governor of Massachusetts during a Jan. 26 debate. “For the 8 percent of people who didn’t have insurance, we said to them: ‘If you can afford insurance, buy it yourself [from] any one of the plans out there,’” he said. “There’s no government plan. And if you don’t want to buy insurance, then you have to pay for the cost of the state picking up your bill….’’´


Rick Santorum, who’s like a yappy puppy biting at Romney’s ankles, makes a pretty good point — that if Romney ends up being the nominee, Obama will accuse him of trying to have it both ways on healthcare reform. “Folks, we cannot give this issue away in this election,” he said.


The Republican primary has been rife with unpredictable developments. The fortunes of Michele Bachmann and Rick Perry rose and fell as conservative voters searched in vain for an alternative to Romney. And then, on Feb. 2, would-be candidate Donald Trump endorsed Romney after Gingrich’s campaign hinted it would receive the nod. Ouch.


Mark May 8 on your calendar. That’s the date of the North Carolina primary. Only 10 other states will be left after that. In the mean- time, look for major developments on March 6, known as “Super Tuesday,” because 10 states hold primaries, and April 3, when Texans go to the polls.