Today it's Santorum, who has staked out positions to the right of the Pope, where there isn't all that much room. Yesterday it was Gingrich. Before that, in their turn, Perry, Cain, Bachmann. Each month brings a new anti-Romney and just as inevitably, his/her decline.
The extremists who control the Republican party want a candidate who is strictly, or extremely, or "severely" conservative and who can still appear sane enough to be elected.
But it can't be done. It's a hunt that's doomed to come up empty.
The "base," whether fundamentalist or libertarian or drown-the-government-in-the-bathtub, has established a series of tests which make it impossible for their candidate to be both sane and sincere. There can be no such animal.
The candidate must reject evolution and profess to believe in some variety of creationism.
He must believe, or profess to believe, that global warming is a hoax -- a conspiracy theory devised by geologists and meteorologists and climate historians. The candidate must be profoundly anti-science and anti-rational.
He must believe in some variety of "trickle-down economics," even though several rounds of tax cuts have benefited the rich at the expense of everyone else. (It hasn't been trickle down, it's been gush up.) He must believe that any attempt to remedy the situation is "class warfare." And he must also believe that it's no problem that the richer are getting out-of-control richer and the poor are becoming poorer and more numerous.
He must believe that the mortgage crisis and the recession was caused by quasi-government entities like Fannie and Freddie and not by the speculations and peculations of de-regulated banks and brokers.
He must believe that the solution to the problem of illegal immigration is to build a larger, taller wall, even though for every wall there's a ladder and that there's not a leaf of lettuce that would be harvested or a roof patched in all of America without undocumented labor.
He must believe that gay people are gay by choice and aren't entitled to equal status under the law. How do they know? The bible tells them so.
They must profess to believe that the invasion of Iraq, the worst foreign policy blunder in our history, was a good idea.
And they must believe that Barack Obama fronts a socialist-secular conspiracy, other members of which are the press, the universities, and the "elite," who want more than anything else to take away their guns.
Does this sorry bunch of Republican candidates believe all this nonsense, or do they pander to the base? Are they idiots or are they liars? Fools or knaves? We report, you decide.