It wasn’t so many weeks ago that Tuesday’s Texas Republican presidential primary was looming as one of the highlights of a hotly contested but largely imaginary battle for the nomination. Hotly contested, because Rick Santorum and Newt Gingrich had enough credibility to get some press coverage and some money, and Ron Paul had enough love from his devoted band of followers to get some votes. Imaginary, because Romney possessed an ever-building delegate lead, a huge financial advantage and a disciplined campaign.
Plus, it was Romney’s turn to head up a Republican Party that always picks the next guy in line.
Americans, Democrats and Republicans both, wanted a blockbuster nominating process. Democrats took in the debates as if witnessing horror movies from which they could not turn away, and Republicans basked in hearing their own convictions trumpeted as obvious truths on the national stage.
But the actual competition began to fall apart after Super Tuesday, when Gingrich couldn’t win anything past his home state of Georgia, Santorum couldn’t break through in any of the midwestern swing states he needed to legitimize his campaign, and Ron Paul couldn’t be anybody other than a beloved, professorial gentleman from Texas whom many like to listen to but few want their nation led by.
Just before New Yorkers got their say on April 24, Santorum bowed out, even though his home primary, Pennsylvania, was set for that same day. Gingrich followed less than a week later.
So Romney clinched the nomination Tuesday by dominating in a very quiet Texas primary many once hoped would be bombastic, and a truth emerged, or reemerged from the whole process: Americans, for all our disclaimers, love fierce political battles. This time, we wanted a contest so much we invented one.
Even so, we’ll likely have had all we can take by the time November rolls around.