Paul Greenberg

Another week, another GOP presidential primary to note before moving on to the next inconclusive one. And so it goes on the long trail a-winding to exhaustion or Tampa or both.

This week congratulations go to Rick Santorum, I guess. He's this week's non-Romney, which is a kind of revolving trophy. Newt Gingrich had it for a fleeting moment after the South Carolina primary and has been hanging around the campaign trail ever since. No matter how many times he's asked to leave. Like a guest at a party who just won't go home. All his presidential campaign has proved to date is that, as South Carolina goes, so goes Georgia. He represented a congressional district there a couple of decades and political ages ago.

Oh, the man's still got a thousand ideas a minute, and there's even a winner in there somewhere, but, unfortunately, you've got to go through the first 999 to get to it. Meanwhile, the whole Gingrich for President enterprise consists of little more than a well-financed ego trip -- a thousand variations on Look at Me! Look at Me! Which is a sure sign not many people are looking.

When I look, all I see is another Harold Stassen. He wouldn't go away, either. A perennial presidential hopeful long after any such hope had faded, Mr. Stassen seemed to have taken up running for president as a kind of retirement activity. And, at that stage, he was about as convincing as his bad red wig. At least he stayed busy.

George H.W. Bush, aka Bush 41, had this way of stringing cliches together in telegraphic succession ("the vision thing"). He also used to talk about the Big Mo, meaning political momentum. Rick Santorum now has emerged from two Southern primaries -- in deepest Mississippi and Heart-of-Dixie Alabama -- with what might be dubbed the Little Mo. Whatever little it consists of, the odds are somebody else will have it next week.

This year The Little Mo tends to be passed around like a bottle of Crown as the GOP's presidential race more and more comes to resemble a 1920s-style marathon dance contest. It seems to be run on the same theory: The prize goes to the last couple of contestants standing, who'll be left to hold each other up, maybe on the same disjointed ticket, a la Reagan-Bush or Kennedy-Johnson.

But how sustain interest in this nigh-endless contest till then? Another name for those old dance marathons was walkathons -- for obvious reasons. At the end, the final contestants weren't so much dancing as dragging each other around the floor, like the last survivors crawling out of some disaster that refuses to end.


Paul Greenberg

Pulitzer Prize-winning Paul Greenberg, one of the most respected and honored commentators in America, is the editorial page editor of the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette.