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Red-meat slam dance - Will Durst

Will Durst

Will Durst

A full complement of Republican presidential candidates gathered for the battle royale at the Ronald Reagan Library in Seamy (Simi) Valley, Calif. And though he was only there in spirit, the Great Communicator could easily have supplied the power for the entire proceedings, had the networks harnessed him spinning in his grave like a rotisserie chicken in the middle of a power surge.

The eight challengers for his mantle didn't just break the Gipper's 11th Commandment, "Thou shall not speak ill of other Republicans," they stomped on it with football cleats and shoved it down a sewer grate with a broken rake handle.

It was a red-meat, power-tie slam dance with operatic overtones.

Anticipation ran higher than Charlie Sheen on New Year's Eve that a hockey match would break out and the bloodthirsty audience was not going to be satisfied until lecterns dripped with copious spillage.

Before Rick Perry could answer Brian Williams' question about the execution of 234 inmates on his watch, they erupted into applause like an emeritus alumni crowd at Assassins State University during homecoming. Creeping the moderator out more than pinworms in the bottom of his footie pajamas.

Eyes on the prize, Newt Gingrich cautioned panel mates to keep the attacks focused on Obama, while castigating the media for trapping them in this internecine warfare.

The rest of the contingent affectionately dismissed his admonition the way a group of Oakland Raider tailgaters would an elderly aunt wandering into a discussion on blitz protection. Newt Gingrich –– the soul of reason. Something has gone horribly awry.

We did learn that Michele Bachmann believes in $2-a-gallon gasoline, and "a strong, bold leader... who will lead," and that she spent the last three weekends going to restaurants, and thinks drilling for oil in the Everglades is a good idea.

So, apparently she's planning an electoral strategy that disincludes Florida's mighty 27.

Rick Perry hates cancer and called Social Security "a Ponzi scheme," not once, but three times. So Florida is obviously not on his front burner either.

Arch-enemy to all things science, Perry supported his "climate change, what climate change" philosophy by comparing himself to Galileo. You can't make stuff up like this.

Ron Paul has been mauled by the TSA and is not happy about it, or much of anything else. Second time through, it is virtually impossible for Willard Mitt Romney to be out-smugged by anybody, even an unctuous Texan.

Herman Cain likes Chile. The country, not the food. And the major difference between Elvis Presley and Rick Santorum's candidacy is ... there is none, they're both rock-salt, shaved-dust, dead.

Jon Huntsman may be running for the wrong party's nomination. Trying to steer the group from the edge of various abysses, he and Newt shared the big-boy babysitter role, while Bachmann lost more momentum than a dark matter anvil hitting a freeway sound wall.

Big winner ... Sarah Palin. For being prescient enough not to have made up her mind yet.

But there's plenty of time. This was just the premier stop for the traveling abattoir. There are dozens of chances for continued bloodletting until either Perry or Romney drops from the death of 1,000 cuts, or they take each other out in a murder-suicide pact.

While Team Obama roots for Perry from the sidelines the same way Jimmy Carter cheered on Bonzo's sidekick back in '80. Be careful what you wish for.

The New York Times says Emmy-nominated comedian and writer Will Durst "is quite possibly the best political satirist working in the country today." Durst is a political comedian, who has performed around the world, and is a familiar pundit on television and radio. E-mail Will at durst@caglecartoons.com. Check out willandwillie.com for the latest podcast. Will Durst's book, "The All American Sport of Bipartisan Bashing," is available from Amazon and bookstores across the country.