No matter how many “cheesy grits” Mitt Romney professed to love, or “y’all”s he threw out, the deep south gave him two custard pies on Tuesday night with third place finishes in Alabama and Mississippi. In neither state was he expected to win. But to come behind a nearly-moribund Newt Gingrich in both was nevertheless a humiliation. 

And so, once again, this tortured Republican race has reminded us what makes it so peculiar: almost everybody still bets on Mr Romney getting the nomination; but the point at which it is likely to pay off keeps getting pushed over the horizon. The slim chance that Mr Romney will in fact fail to win the crown also gets a little less slim with each passing setback.  Read more

This week Ed Luce explores how primary victories in Arizona and Michigan, while having returned Mitt Romney to the front of the GOP pack, may ultimately have cost the party the election in November.

Among political types, Rick Santorum has often jokingly been compared to Ned Flanders – that pious but kindly neighbour of The Simpsons who makes hot cocoa for Bart. On Tuesday the Drudge Report dug up (or was handed) the audio from a speech Mr Santorum delivered in Florida four years ago, which puts that comparison into the shade. It would be hard to imagine Ned Flanders talking quite so apocalyptically.

In his address, which is worth hearing in full, Mr Santorum said Satan was winning his war to take over America’s institutions. Having worked his way through American academia, which was “the first to fall”, the devil used the “domino effect” to topple “mainline Protestantism”, then “popular culture” and now “politics and government” in America. Read more

What is it with Mitt Romney? Having failed in what ought to be the relatively simple task of knocking out Rick Santorum, the decreasingly prohibitive Republican frontrunner now appears in danger of giving away his “home state” of Michigan – the primary that was supposed to be his firewall in the Republican contest.

It is embarrassing enough that Mr Santorum is now running ahead of him in many national polls, as well as Thursday’s latest numbers from Michigan, which votes in less than two weeks. Can it really be that hard to take out Mr Santorum? This is a rival, after all, who wastes few opportunities to disparage contraception, which is in widespread use among all categories of voter. Even the most hardened social conservative knows that Mr Santorum’s prelapsarian social views would make him unelectable against Barack Obama. Poll after poll shows that self-described evangelicals say their highest priority is to deny Mr Obama a second term. Read more

If the Republican presidential candidates were your neighbours, Newt Gingrich would be in a bitter dispute with you about your fence. Ron Paul would keep foisting weird books on your teenagers about Austrians and gold. And the electronic gates to Mitt Romney’s residence would barely be visible through the rhododendrons.

Only Rick Santorum would fit the type who mowed your lawns and dropped off pecan pies. He may preach a bit and wear off-putting V-necked sleeveless sweaters. But it would always be with a cheery smile. Read more

Mercifully for the pollsters, New Hampshire ducked an opportunity to belie expectations on Tuesday night when it handed Mitt Romney a strong victory. Mr Romney’s big win, which he followed with what sounded like a dress rehearsal for a nomination speech, means that he has now won two out of two – even if his first victory in Iowa last week was by a nanometre. If he can pull off a hat trick in South Carolina at the end of next week, it will be hard to see what could stop him.

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My favourite recent cartoon came in the New Yorker. While watching television the husband says to the wife: “He could be psychotic or he could be appealing to the base.” Already ten debates into the Republican season – and another sixteen to go before the Iowa caucus on 3 January – viewers could be forgiven for having forgotten there is another candidate in the race: Barack Obama. Read more


In the next week or two we will find out whether Mitt Romney has the courage to seize the Republican nomination – as opposed to the systematic caution on which he has built his campaign so far. That test hinges on whether he will not only fight to win the Iowa caucus, which takes place on January 3, but on whether he is prepared to be seen fighting to win it. Read more


The best joke at the White House correspondents’ dinner last April came from Saturday Night Live’s Seth Myers: “I’m glad someone told me Donald Trump is running as a Republican,” he said. “Because I thought he was running as a joke.” Read more