A POCKET GUIDE TO THE US ELECTION
The best way to endure the marathon that is the race for the American presidency, believed the legendary gonzo journalist Hunter S. Thompson, was to rely on powerful, hallucinogenic narcotics.
All those early morning starts and late-night deadlines; all those cheap motels and trans-continental, “red-eye” flights; all those speeches, press conferences and debates; all that hair gel and peroxide; all those red, white, and blue balloons and, well, hoopla.
Take it from a veteran of the campaign trail – albeit one who relied on the stimulative powers of coffee and donuts – it is not just a gruelling process but a bewildering one as well.
What are we doing in arctic-cold New Hampshire in the middle of winter, we would often mutter darkly, as we tried to prize our frost-bitten fingers from our semi-functioning laptops? Or traipsing around a farm in Iowa, with our cameras trained on a smiling candidate manhandling the udders of an unsuspecting cow.
So here, from someone who has journeyed the road to the White House from start to finish with pen and notepad in hand, is a pocket guide to the 2012 race.
*First to the Republican wannabes, of whom you are no doubt familiar. There’s the front-runner Mitt Romney (left), the former Governor of Massachusetts and proud venture capitalist, with looks so presidential that his profile seems almost destined to be carved into the side of Mount Rushmore.
There’s his main rival, Newt Gingrich, now on his third wife, whose marital past has attracted just as many headlines as his plans for America’s future – the joke doing the rounds is that Romney is the Mormon and that Gingrich is the polygamist.
Then there are a couple of candidates who are not so well known: Ron Paul, a 76-year-old libertarian who looks like an avuncular grandfather; and Rick Santorum, a former Senator from the evangelical wing of the Republican party who boasts that the only woman he has ever shared a couch with is his wife. Currently, they are battling it out for the chance to take on President Barack Obama in November’s presidential election.
*The race starts with a series of popularity contests – or primaries and caucuses, as they are known – held in individual American states. They begin small, which explains Iowa and New Hampshire in January, and then get bigger, taking in more populous states like Florida, California and New York. All 50 States will eventually hold contests over the coming months, but a few early victories are often all that it takes for the winning candidate to see off his rivals.
Running for the presidency is a hugely expensive business, and losers in these early contests usually can’t see much point in throwing good money after bad, and tend to drop out. Successful candidates, on the other hand, build unstoppable momentum, and start getting what reporters like to call “the aura of inevitability.”
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