Gingrich and Mitt Romney at the debate in Jacksonville, Fla., on Jan. 26, 2012. (Matt Rourke/AP)
Like most people, I hate the mundane. I like to do interesting things, watch interesting shows and read interesting books. As a Floridian, it's not hard to find things that interest me at this time of year. The Super Bowl. Watching a Miami Heat play a team like the Chicago Bulls. Not so interesting? The Republican primary.
I felt a mixture of excitement and dread when I learned the Florida primary was being moved months ahead of its traditional timeslot. I wasn't sure we, as Floridians, were ready to take the pressure of another national election where all eyes would be on us and our choices.
Yet I enjoyed watching the debates in the early states. As candidates rose and fell, sometimes in the course of a week or less, Mitt Romney, the poster boy for bland, practical politicians, maintained a mediocre but steady lead, never attaining the level of support that made the primary process a slam dunk. Along the way we lost the likes of Michele Bachmann, Rick Perry and Herman Cain. All interesting in their own ways.
Now when I settle down to watch TV, I'm bombarded with commercials from only two candidates. It's Romney versus Gingrich, Newt against Mitt. Wild-eyed interesting against steely-eyed practical. It's as if no one else is left in the race. From the nightly news coverage to late-night comedians, it's all Mitt and all Newt, all the time. And it couldn't be more boring. The onslaught of Romney commercials, which are more ubiquitous than promos for the Oscars, have blurred into one long, negative rant against the former speaker of the House. At this point all anyone can say is, "Thank God for DVR." I'd rather sit through the musical acts on Saturday Night Live than watch another commercial by either of these candidates.
My friends have virtually stopped following politics. I hear the same old excuses from, "It's all so negative" to "All the candidates are alike." But I think the simple answer is: it's just plain boring. What I wouldn't give to hear a lullaby from Herman Cain or have Rick Perry waste another coyote on a jog. I'd like to hear more of Michele Bachmann's views on what products or shows can turn people gay. I wouldn't even mind another look at Jon Huntsman's insanely hot wife. Instead, I have Newt Gingrich complaining that Mitt Romney is a moderate who makes too much money. Or I see an unending stream of Romney commercials reminding me of all the personal issues Gingrich has had in the past. None of it as interesting as the most boring idea Ron Paul ever expressed.
With Romney leading in the polls and sounding so confident, it feels like the fight might already be over here in Florida. Although Gingrich has typically had a good command of the debates (last week's Jacksonville performance notwithstanding), his day-to-day comments seem like they're putting the average voter off. Meanwhile, Romney gives the impression that he's coasting towards the end like the Packers in the fourth quarter against a team like Indianapolis. That sort of confidence reassures people that they don't need someone who's necessarily exciting or riveting to listen to. His message of financial responsibility is not nearly as inspiring as Barack Obama's 2008 message of hope. Romney has no stories about wartime heroics to fall back on or tales of digging himself out of poverty. Even with the handicap of being educated, prepared, wealthy and handsome, he has somehow managed to maintain his lead here in Florida.
Flair, style and personality do not determine a candidate's ability to govern. But they definitely keep people's attention on the important issue of who will lead the country and determine our policies. The deficit isn't as deeply a philosophical issue as debating whether evolution is a fact, or a myth created by scientists, but it is an issue that more directly affects my day-to-day life. So I guess we'd all be better off if morons like me would quit complaining about boring, cookie-cutter politicians and focused on who might be best to fill the job of president--even if the process is like watching soccer to an American: long, slow and not that interesting until the last minute.
Read more coverage of the 2012 Florida primary at Yahoo News.
James O. Born is a novelist who lives in Florida.
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