The Republican nomination thing may not be as complicated as the media is making it out to be, but it sure is fun.
The prospect of a gang of Republicans acting like Democrats and beating the bejesus out of each other is good news — not only for President Barack Obama, but also for Stephen Colbert, Jon Stewart, and the cast of Saturday Night Live.
But beneath the anticipated mirth, there is cause for concern.
Despite encouraging developments, the economy is still seriously dysfunctional.
Europe is playing cat-and-mouse with financial collapse — and that would have a punishing effect on America.
Iran's mullahs continue to behave provocatively. Obama's former chief advisor on Iran recently said that the president might consider a pre-emptive military strike against that nation.
And while voters were preoccupied with the results from the New Hampshire primary, the Union of Concerned Scientists moved its doomsday clock, which measures the likelihood of global annihilation, up a minute.
Still, the gang of GOP White House hopefuls continues to act as meth-crazed inhabitants from the Island of Misfit Toys.
Here is the state of the Republican race going into South Carolina's January 21 primary:
• No matter what you may think of him, former Massachusetts governor Mitt Romney is comfortably the leader of the pack. Romney's Iowa win may have been only by eight votes — and it was six votes shy of his performance there four years ago — but a win is a win is a victory.
• Romney trumped the New Hampshire field, finishing one point shy of the mystical 40-percent mark, and right where the average non-incumbent winning performance normally sits. More significantly, he is the first Republican other than a sitting president to win both early contests.
• Romney's money and organizational strength, amassed over the past four years, propelled him to victory in Iowa and New Hampshire. There is no reason to think it will not give him a formidable edge in South Carolina.
• All the talk of South Carolina being a political wildcard is largely misinformed. The image of the state being populated by Confederate yahoos dancing around with snakes while biting the heads off chickens is overstated. Politics in South Carolina may be dirty, but they are orchestrated by the GOP establishment, which values raw power far more than ideological purity. Romney is their boy, bought and paid for many times over.
• Even if the nutcase Republicans — Newt Gingrich, Rick Santorum, and the even more pathetic Rick Perry — manage to clip Romney's wings a tad, there is still Florida, which votes 10 days after the Palmetto State. This week, Romney's Super PAC made a $3.6 million ad buy in Florida. There is plenty more where that came from.
• What of gay-bashing, race-baiting Ron Paul? His anti-military, small-government message played well in Iowa and even better in New Hampshire, especially among independents and young voters. But mitten-man is unlikely to find the same traction in the next two contests. And if by some fluke he did, his message is at odds with the Republican establishment. Obama can thank his lucky stars that the GOP does not know what to do with this potentially sizeable pool of Libertarians.