When Rick Santorum swept Missouri, Minnesota and Colorado in Tuesday night's Republican contests, the former Pennsylvania senator wasn't the only one celebrating. You might have heard champagne corks popping at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue as well.
In that one evening, GOP frontrunner Mitt Romney fell from his position as inevitable nominee into the world of mere mortals. It was almost as if Punxsutawney Phil emerged from his hole and saw his shadow, promising six more grueling weeks of political winter for the Republicans.
That means more money will now be spent on a longer, meaner and more expensive GOP primary race. And we'll see more infighting among the Republican candidates, which leaves less time to attack President Obama.
Romney's stunning collapse Tuesday night revealed his weaknesses and exposed him as a flawed candidate. But there's another side of the story that's also worth discussing. It's not the first time fate has struck one of Barack Obama's political opponents.
Flash back to a few years ago.
With a rich and powerful network of friends and colleagues, the most recognized name in Democratic politics, and a former president as a husband, Hillary Clinton seemed the de facto Democratic frontrunner for the presidency the very moment when George W. Bush won his second term in November 2004. But when Democrats swept back into power in Congress in 2006 on an anti-incumbent message, suddenly things changed. Unexpectedly, Clinton's establishment experience started to weigh against her as weary voters searched for something fresh and different. Against the odds, Obama eventually prevailed over two legendary party icons: Hillary and Bill Clinton.
Onto the general election.
On paper, Vietnam war hero John McCain seemed a formidable adversary as an experienced elder statesman running against a black freshman senator for president. McCain chose Sarah Palin as his running mate in August 2008 and fired up the base. But then something remarkable happened again. The entire financial system collapsed the next month, forcing a $700 billion bailout of the nation's biggest banks. Suddenly, no one cared about McCain's war credentials or his female running mate, and the election focused appropriately on the economy. Advantage Obama.
Obama was even luckier in 2004. First, Sen. Peter Fitzgerald (R-IL) stunned his party by not seeking re-election, and his Democratic predecessor, Carol Moseley Braun, stayed out of the race, leaving a wide open field to the U.S. Senate. Then, suddenly, Republican primary winner Jack Ryan withdrew from the race because of a shocking sex scandal, leaving Alan Keyes, an out-of-state Black Republican, to fill Ryan's shoes. Obama won in a landslide with 70 percent of the vote.
Even when Barack Obama lost his race for Congress to Rep. Bobby Rush in 2000, fate was on his side. If he had won that election, he would have found himself representing a Black congressional district, which would have made it much more difficult for him to transition into a national figure who could be acceptable to all races in a presidential election.
Of course, it's not all luck on Obama's side, but sometimes it does feel as though someone upstairs has been clearing a pathway for him all these years. The guy who beat the odds to defeat Hillary and Bill Clinton, John McCain and Sarah Palin has got something special on his side. I'm not saying he's definitely going to win, but I wouldn't bet against him.
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