The PJ Tatler

South Carolina: Will the Fat Lady Sing Early?

They say it ain’t over until the Fat Lady sings (an old saw, I just read, that, ironically, references Gotterdammerung, an opera about the end of the world).

But forget Wagner and his endless arias. If current polls are correct, the Fat Lady is going to sing somewhere in the middle of the first act of the Republican presidential nominating process, making it one of the shortest operas on record.

And that may be a good thing. Jon Huntsman apparently thought so when he bowed out Monday before the South Carolina primary voting and endorsed Romney:

“This race has degenerated into an onslaught of negative and personal attacks not worthy of the American people and not worthy of this critical time in our nation’s history,” he said in an address before a packed room of television cameras and reporters at the Convention Center here.

“I call on each campaign to cease attacking each other and instead talk directly to the American people about how our conservative ideas will create jobs, reduce our nation’s debt, stabilize energy prices and provide a brighter future for our children and our grandchildren.’’

Part of the reason a Romney consensus may be emerging so quickly is that there were so many debates before the actual voting began. We’re all suffering from debate fatigue and want to get this over with. Indeed, Sunday night’s questioning of the candidates on an individual basis by South Carolina voters, moderated by Mike Huckabee, was a welcome relief from the debate format. It was also considerably more revealing, not to mention offering evidence — once again — that the people are more intelligent (and less biased) than the media.

But perhaps the most important thing it revealed (or confirmed, to anyone paying attention) is that there is not very much difference between the candidates. With the exception of Ron Paul, who did not participate in the Huckabee event, they are in pretty much total agreement on all issues.

No wonder the nominating process has degenerated into a juvenile snark session not dissimilar to a blog war. And, with Romney the clear frontrunner, what the whole campaign boils down to is this: Is Mitt secretly a “dreaded moderate”?

Let’s leave aside the dubious nature of political terminology — everyone has their own definitions of moderate and conservative — and turn to the Tenth Amendment, which has been frequently referenced in the campaign by Rick Perry, among others. If we are believers in the Tenth Amendment, it would seem we should also believe that the governor of a state should, at least to a reasonable degree, be responsible to the electorate of the state that elected him. It goes without saying that the electorates of Texas and Massachusetts, for example, are not the same. A governor in each of those states is only working within certain parameters.

Working within that general framework of being responsible to the voters of his state that elected him, Romney’s claim to have been conservative would seem to be justified. Furthermore, if and when he is elected by the voters of the United States, his responsibilities would be different and, in all likelihood, he would be responsible to all the people. In specific, the voters of Massachusetts probably wanted Romneycare or something similar. The voters of the USA did NOT want Obamacare. So when Romney says he will repeal Obamacare, he is being consistent. He is following the will of the people in a democratic republic.

Now I realize there are times when a leader should not follow the will of the people. But in general it’s not a bad idea. At least he should be able to communicate well enough to bring the people around to his view. Obama has obviously failed at this.

If the Fat Lady sings early in South Carolina, it’s Mitt Romney’s turn to start addressing the people of America, a bigger and yet more important test than the internecine rivalries of the Republican Party.

Bryan Preston and I will be down in South Carolina following the story.