Commentary: For S.C. GOP primary, forget Romney and bring on Ric Flair

The Myrtle Beach SunJanuary 16, 2012 

After watching Newt Gingrich’s concession speech in Iowa, I can’t wait for the GOP presidential debate that will be held at the Myrtle Beach Convention Center on Jan. 16.

Gingrich came in fourth after floating to the top then being bombarded by negative ads designed to propel Mitt Romney.

He tore into Romney, who won the Iowa caucuses by eight votes over Rick Santorum in the closest race there ever, as all of the cable news networks carried his remarks live.

It suggests we’ll see a reprisal of the Democratic debate held here four years ago at The Palace Theater when then-Sen. Barack Obama slammed then-Sen. Hillary Clinton as a fat cat who sits on the board of Wal-Mart only to have Clinton say Obama’s campaign was being underwritten by a slum lord in Chicago.

It was good stuff, so much so that the back-and-forth barbs between the two frontrunners did the impossible. It made S.C. native John Edwards look like a grownup.

My, how times have changed, as Obama and Clinton are now figuring out the best way to squeeze Iran’s nuclear program while not harming the global economy as Edwards readies for a trial that will detail how he impregnated another woman while his wife was dying from cancer.

And my, how times remain the same. Gingrich has been complaining for the past few weeks about the negative ad onslaught unleashed by the Romney campaign and others supporting the former Massachusetts governor. On Tuesday night, Gingrich seemed to take it personally and set out after Romney and even called him a liar the prior day.

There’s no reason to believe Gingrich, or his ego, will be in a better mood at the convention center.

In 2008 during the Myrtle Beach presidential debate, fur flew about fat cats and slum lords. On Jan. 16, maybe there will be talk of flip flops and extramarital affairs. If that happens, former Sen. Rick Santorum will probably benefit in the same way Edwards did.

Hopefully, Santorum hasn’t secretly taken on a mistress and be found out weeks after the debate by a reporter from the upstanding National Enquirer.

In the run up to the debate at the convention center, South Carolina, and Myrtle Beach in particular, will be bombarded with ads touting each candidate’s credentials, an onslaught that began in earnest in my house Tuesday night as my wife and I were watching the Iowa returns.

Late that night, we received a call begging us to join Gov. Nikki Haley and Romney at the Peanut Warehouse Friday morning in Conway.

Earlier that day, we got a long letter from my new pal Rep. Ron Paul through snail mail.

We haven’t heard yet from Santorum and Gingrich. They better get with the program soon or my ticket will be punched by another candidate.

As an S.C. voter, I want to be pampered for the next few weeks. I want to be told that I’m the cat’s meow, the most important person in the world, someone who deserves personal invites from the biggest names in Hollywood and Washington, D.C.

Four years ago, I got to interact with actors Chris Tucker and Kerry Washington who had come to the Palace Theatre to sell me on Obama, and I took an imaginary karate chop to the throat from Chuck Norris at the airport as he was trying to sell us on Mike Huckabee.

This time, I’d like to shake paws with Donald Trump’s hair skunk.

Sure, we are supposed to want to hear their ideas about the economy and Afghanistan, but we can get that from the debates and their endless speeches and their websites and checking their records.

Sure, we are supposed to pretend that the 2012 elections will determine the entire fate of the republic, even though we make that claim during every election cycle.

Sure, we are supposed to put our best foot forward and look stout and sound serious when a camera from one of the national news outlets pans our way.

But come on, the next few weeks are really about the outsized attention, not policy.

Ric Flair came to Myrtle Beach in 2008. I want to see him again.

I want to be his BFF. Whooo!!!

Besides that, when we had a chance in this state to make a statement about the economy during the 2010 election cycle and punish the folks who were in charge when it tittered on the brink of another great depression, we simply put them all back into office even while knowing they promised to double down on the same priorities and ideology that took us to the economic brink.

So for a few shining weeks, as S.C. voters we should let our hair down, put up our feet and enjoy the show, because come Jan. 22, the circus will have left town and won’t be back for at least another four years.

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