Peter Funt is a writer and public speaker, and can be reached at www.CandidCamera.com. His column is distributed exclusively by Cagle Cartoons, Inc., newspaper syndicate.
It's a two-man race now, Newt Gingrich vs. Mitt Romney. Here's the betting line on key categories that seem to matter most in debates and on the stump.
In the category of Falsely Characterizing Obama, Romney uses "European Socialist," which is powerful and connects well with xenophobic voters.
Gingrich relies on "Saul Alinsky Radical." Alinsky, the Chicago populist who died in 1972, was best known for fighting on behalf of the poor and middle class — so drumming away at this obscure reference isn't helping Gingrich. Edge: Romney.
In the What's My Fake Line? category, most registered Republicans are counting on the fact that anything beats "community organizer." So, Gingrich calls himself an "historian," while Romney professes to be a "businessman."
Neither candidate cares for "politician," although that's what they've each been for most of their adult lives. Edge: Romney.
In the all-important Wives category, Gingrich's total of three is hard to top. Romney has only been married once, although his great grandfather did flee to Mexico with at least five wives to escape U.S. monogamy laws. Edge: Gingrich.
When it comes to Exaggerated Job Creation Claims, Gingrich boasts that he helped create an astounding 27 million jobs during the Reagan and Clinton administrations.
The math and politics are fuzzy, but who wouldn't vote for 27 million new jobs? Romney can only claim 120,000 jobs — most coming at places like Staples and Sports Authority long after his tenure. Unfortunately for Gingrich, GOP voters believe that government can't create jobs, thus negating his 27 million. Edge: Romney.
Gingrich easily wins the Who I Want You to Think of When You Think of Me competition. Gingrich deftly cites Ronald Reagan in his answers to all questions.
Romney, on the other hand, doesn't seem to relate to anyone in his past — although he does, oddly, have a large photo of his father, George, on his campaign bus. He also used to mention his Irish Setter Seamus, until word got out that he once strapped Seamus to the roof of the family car for a 12-hour drive to Canada. Edge: Gingrich.
Fawning Over Hispanics is an important category in Florida, and Gingrich has hired former advisors to Sen. Marco Rubio along with several other local Hispanic leaders.
But Romney trumps that by having his son, Craig, narrate campaign ads in Spanish. Edge: Romney.
There's keen competition in the category of Personal Attacks, even though both men claim they'd rather not stoop to such things. Romney calls Gingrich a "failed leader;" Gingrich says Romney is "timid" and "confused;" Romney labels Gingrich "highly erratic;" Gingrich says Romney is full of "pious baloney." Edge: even.
In the Wackiest Idea category, Gingrich appeared to have it wrapped up when he declared that students should be hired as school janitors. Then, in a stunning move, Romney bested him by announcing that he favors "self-deportation" of illegal immigrants. Edge: Romney.
In the Whose Tax Returns are More Damning category, Gingrich has a lot of splainin' to do about the $1.6 million he was paid by Freddie Mac to teach history.
But Romney's return not only revealed bank accounts in Switzerland, Bermuda and the Cayman Islands, it put the lie to a fundamental GOP claim. If low tax rates for the wealthy — Romney paid about 15 percent — are supposed to spur job creation, then how many jobs did Romney create with over $40 million that he earned the last two years? None. Edge: Romney.
It's a tight one. The best Romney and Gingrich backers can hope for is that it never comes down to the category all pageant hopefuls dread most: Congeniality.
Peter Funt is a writer and public speaker. He is also the long-time host of “Candid Camera.” He can be reached at www.CandidCamera.com. His columns are distributed exclusively by Cagle Cartoons, Inc., newspaper syndicate.