GOP Debate Recap: The Clown Show Goes to Tampa

The disgraced former House Speaker campaigns in Florida.

The unending horror that is Campaign 2012 lurches now into Florida, with loathsome space-criminal Newton Leroy Gingrich more-or-less the front runner again after savagely defragging hapless software glitch Willard “10k” Romney in South Carolina. Sweater-fetishist and reproductive-sex enthusiast Dick Santorum is hoping to catch up with the disgraced former House Speaker here in the wretched peninsula where all those Spanish conquistadores got malaria. Romney is just hoping not to get embarrassed again. Ron Paul left hope behind in the sands of his homeland, millennia ago, and he comes here because he cannot stop, until the temple gold is recovered, and his curse is lifted, and dread Horus calls him home.  Monday night, the candidates met in Tampa, near the spot where Hernando de Soto introduced the Calusa people to smallpox, for yet another one of their endless debates. Won’t these people ever shut up? The short answer, of course, is no.

The set is all decked out in red-white-and-blue patriotic claptrap. It looks like Uncle Sam and Liberace decorated the hall for Paul Lynde’s Fourth of July party. Where does all this junk come from? They’ve had about a thousand of these debates, and each time the set is different, so it’s not like they load all this stuff on a semi and take it to the next crappy town hall. I know they don’t do that because if they did, there would be a reality show about it called “Debate Road Truckers,” but there isn’t. I would watch the hell out of that, though–can Rusty get the podiums to Des Moines on time? Will Joey Bob’s feud with the Darrells affect the Charleston job? You would watch that show, too–don’t lie. So, this set business confuses me. Does every civic center in America have a basement full of bright red podiums, on the off-chance that they have to hold a presidential debate some day?

The candidates shamble, gambol, and slither onto the garish stage at Bush v. Gore Auditorium in Tampa. The stakes are high! Dick Santorum blinks under the lights. Christ, he’s wearing another suit from the JC Penney’s Fancy Lad collection, and a tie that appears to be made of candy canes. Willard Romney waves awkwardly at the crowd. His confidence module is shot, and his handlers are desperately trying to disable the Dukakis sub-routines. This will be a long night for the RomneyTech programmers. Ron Paul, meanwhile, is muttering eldritch water-warding incantations. Bush v. Gore Auditorium is right next to the damned bay, and he has a mummy’s superstitious dread of water. And terrifying front-runner Newt Gingrich heaves his bulk up onto the stage! He is refreshed after a quick dip in the waste-rich waters of Tampa Bay. He is surprisingly graceful in the water. Bloated with confidence, he waves his fore-appendages at the crowd! The crowd loves him! Well, “loves” in the sense that they hate him less than Romney. Not-hate is a kind of love, I guess, if you’re a Republican.

The host is NBC’s Brian Williams, wearing a festive orange mask. He explains the rules, which we’ll just ignore. Orange Brian starts off with electability, and pokes Gingrich with a stick, goading him with mean things Romney said about him. Newt doesn’t take the bait, instead deftly fellating Reagan. People thought Reagan was unelectable, too, and look how he clubbed History’s Greatest Monster! Newt bloats with victory!

Then Orange Brian asks Romney the same question. No one likes you. How the hell are you electable? Romney’s programmers had feared this question, because really, he’s not all that electable. They decided to side-step this by upgrading his battle chip. Now, the default answer for any non-pre-programmed question is ATTACK GINGRICH. CRUSH, KILL, DESTROY! In the space of 30 seconds, Romney uses the phrase “resigned in disgrace” TWICE. Hey, that’s my phrase. Call him a vile space-gangster next, Willard! DO IT! Refer to him as porcine! Man, Romney just won’t let go–he calls Gingrich an “influence peddler.”

Gingrich shakes his mighty wattles in sorrow, spraying the stage with a fine sheen of Tampa Bay water. Ron Paul shrieks. The moisture! Gingrich fixes Orange Brian with a steely gaze? Will he explode? Sadly, no. He just calmly announces that he’s not going to spend the evening chasing Romney’s misinformation. He calls Romney a serial liar, and promises some sort of web-based Romney lie-o-pedia. “Romney is the worst kind of politician.” Newt is smoo-oo-th. Romney points out that Newt was a crappy Speaker who was thrown out, and uses “resigned in disgrace” again. Then he calls Gingrich a dirty lobbyist. Freddie Mac! Freddie Mac! Florida hates Freddie Mac! Gingrich responds by calling Romney “a terrible historian.”

Ron Paul longs eternally for the soft warm breezes of his beloved Nile.

Orange Brian remembers Santorum is still there. Hey are you electable, he asks, stifling laughter. Sure, says Santorum humorlessly. We’re back to drone-y dull Santorum, not feisty Santorum of the South Carolina debates. Then Orange Brian asks Ron Paul why he’s even running. Do you really dream of yourself in the White House? Seriously?  The glow of Ron Paul’s eye orbs dims in sorrow. “I dream of the lost green plains of Thebes, the fig trees ripening under the warm beneficence of Ra’s golden sun, the soft breezes off the sacred Nile. But doomed am I, doomed to wander your accursed land until the gold of Osiris is returned. Also, we must audit the Fed. And if my way home comes through repose in your White House, then so be it.”

After that, Ron Paul and Dick Santorum are not getting a lot of face time on this one, the poor dopes.

Then they talk about wealth. Romney is kind of tone deaf on the whole tax thing. Santorum thinks we didn’t let the economy get bad enough, or something. What the hell? Newt denies he was a lobbyist. He and Romney say nyah, nyah at each other for about twenty minutes. Next, it’s on to the long pointless discussion of local issues.

Speaker Gingrich, you like Iowa’s ethanol subsidies. What about sugar? You’re a big fat beast, you like sugar. Do you like Florida’s sugar subsidies? Gingrich nods his great blubbery head. “Cane sugar is delicious! I hate beets!” Everybody sort of looks at each other, then Santorum and Romney shrug and start bad-mouthing beets too. Then, it’s on to the name-checking of random Florida factoids. Mention some random towns! Look, the Everglades! Any minute, somebody’s going to mention The Yearling or Miami Vice. Mitt fellates the Space Coast, but sort of forgets where it is. He had clearly been instructed to mention “Space Coast” as many times as possible.

Since it’s Florida, they get a question about whether or not they will kill old people to save Medicare or something. Newt Gingrich slips in some jabber about death row and Terry Schiavo. Man, he is really clever with the wingnut dog-whistles. Ron Paul tells Orange Brian “how I long for the sweet release that death will bring! Come for me, dread Horus! Bring me to your long dark home! Also, Brian, every one should have a living will.” This makes Orange Brian uncomfortable, so he changes the subject.

Next question: Florida used to have moon rockets and stuff. What about space, Romney? Romney replies robotically, “Space is important! Vague platitudes! Collaborate! Space Coast SPACE! COAST!” Romney clearly knows jack about NASA, or Florida geography. Tampa isn’t on the Space Coast. Romney is at his worst when he gives these smarmy, patronizing answers. Gingrich is ready for this one. He speaks soaringly of building orphanaria on the moon, fighting the Chinese with space-lasers, and renaming Mars “Newtopia” and making it the 51st state. The debate limps to a close, and the candidates wander around aimlessly, like oldsters waiting for the Early Bird Special at Golden Corral. Welcome to Florida, indeed.

The Clown Show goes to Florida’s most charmless city, Jacksonville on January 26th.

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