The contest for the Republican presidential nomination took an interesting twist today when a surprise conservative candidate immediately shot to the top of national polls.
Within hours of declaring, Ebenezer Scrooge, a Boston investment banker, eclipsed both former House Speaker Newt Gingrich of Georgia and former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney, thanks largely to support from the tea party movement.
His unprecedented meteoric rise is attributed to Scrooge's ability to woo Republicans who previously had supported Herman Cain.
In an interview on CNN, Scrooge said he was proud to take over the fight to enact Cain's 9-9-9 Plan.
"I ran the numbers on Herman's tax reform plan and was surprised to see that under it, my clerk, Bob Cratchit, would pay higher income taxes than I would, and he makes only 15 shillings a week.
"I love this party!" proclaimed the reputed billionaire.
Scrooge hasn't paid himself a salary in years, being content to accumulate an investment portfolio that has made him one of the richest men in America while avoiding taxes through a complex web of tax shelters and overseas investments.
When asked whether he wouldn't pay more in sales taxes under the 9-9-9 scenario, Scrooge quipped, "When your only expense is a few chunks of coal and a bowl of porridge for supper, you don't have to pay much in sales taxes either."
Scrooge, senior partner in the Boston-based firm, Scrooge, Marley and Romney, is seen by many observers as posing the greatest threat to Romney, formerly a junior partner in the investment firm.
"Who do you think taught little Mitt how to get rich by gutting a company and shipping all the jobs to Asia?" Scrooge asked. "I'm sick of him pretending to be a change agent. He couldn't change a light bulb."
He saved his strongest venom for Romney's action as governor of Massachusetts to force every citizen to obtain health insurance. When asked in a televised debate whether the government had an obligation to pay for health care for impoverished people, Scrooge minced no words.
"Are there no prisons?" he asked, pounding the lectern. "And the Union work houses?... Are they in operation?... The Treadmill and the Poor Law are in full vigor, then?"
One possible cloud to Scrooge's otherwise sunny political horizon could come from the Christian right. When asked by a Fox News reporter whether he thought Christmas Day should continue to be a federal holiday, Scrooge said he thought the observance was "a poor excuse for picking a man's pocket every Dec. 25."
On the up side, Scrooge may be immune to accusations of sexual harassment and adultery, such as those that have plagued the candidacies of Cain and Gingrich. Several people who have known him verified that Scrooge is a confirmed bachelor.
"I understand that as a young man, he had a fiancé," said one source, "but she broke it off after figuring out that he would rather count his money than court her."
Scrooge could face a challenge from right-wing bloggers and commentators, however. Rush Limbaugh already has leaked what purports to be notes made by a Boston psychiatrist after a session in which Scrooge described a dream he had the previous night.
"He said he was visited by three ghosts - Richard Nixon, Ronald Reagan and George W. Bush," Limbaugh told his audience.
"He said he was so frightened by the apparitions that for a moment he considered paying higher taxes in order to keep orphans and widows from being thrown into the street. ... We certainly can't risk someone that unstable occupying the White House!"
Donald Trump, himself an erstwhile contender for the nation's highest elective office, raised doubts about Scrooge's citizenship.
"He may have been born in Manchester like he claims," said The Donald, "but I'll wager it was Manchester, England, not New Hampshire.
"He's no more a citizen than Barack Obama."
Surprisingly, the only high-ranking Republican to welcome Scrooge into the race was Ron Paul, the Texas congressman whose poll numbers have been stuck in single digits for weeks.
"It's refreshing to have someone up there who's older than me," Paul said.