It was ‘game on’ in U.S. politics this week.
Rick Santorum’s exit from the Republican leadership race meant the presidential election showdown between Barack Obama and Mitt Romney could begin in earnest.
But the truth is that the last five days produced a stream of examples showing how U.S. politics can surprise, shock and entertain.
In case you missed them, here are the top five – from the Mommy Wars to the killer chickens and everything in between:
Who ‘dissed’ Mother Romney?
A Democratic party strategist managed to achieve the impossible this week: rallying the Romney and Obama campaigns to the defence of Mitt Romney’s wife, Ann Romney.
Over what? The important and hard work of stay-at-home moms.
Hilary Rosen’s comment on CNN on Wednesday night that Ms. Romney, a stay-at-home mother who raised five boys, had “never worked a day in her life” produced 2012’s first major Twitter skirmish and the remarkable feat of making Ms. Romney more popular on social media than Justin Bieber. (For one day, at least.)
“The shift from a 24-hour news cycle to a 140-character one has dramatically reshaped the rapid response game,” said Adam Sharp, Twitter’s senior manager of government, news and social innovation.
“The whole action-reaction-response cycle is compressed to mere minutes, and Twitter users have a front-row seat to a back-and-forth that used to be witnessed only by the ‘boys on the bus.’”
Obama campaign senior strategists were first out of the gate tweeting that the comment was offensive and that the families of candidates should be off limits.
Michelle Obama also tweeted: “Every mother works hard, and every woman deserves to be respected.”
The Romney campaign, sure-footed and nimble, set-up an Ann Romney Twitter account and quickly produced her first tweet: “I made a choice to stay home and raise five boys. Believe me, it was hard work.” In her second tweet: “All moms are entitled to choose their path.”
Twenty-four hours after the original comment, for which the strategist eventually apologized, the story landed with President Obama: “There’s no tougher job than being a mom,” the president told an Iowa TV station on Thursday.
The general election is over 200 days away.
Mr. Optimist or Mr. Delusional?
Remember how this week effectively meant that Mr. Romney won the Republican party nomination? Try telling that to Newt Gingrich.
The candidate who dramatically scaled-back his campaign even before Rick Santorum dropped out is now billing himself as the ”last conservative standing” who is looking forward to a one-on-one contest with Mr. Romney.
Communists in the House
Mr. Romney has often criticized Mr. Obama for taking inspiration from the “capitals of Europe” – code for the capitals of socialism – and for his proposal to raise taxes on the wealthy as a “tool for social justice.”
It is a common criticism levelled at Democrats by their opponents.
But Republican Congressman Allen West took it one step further on Tuesday. In answer to a Florida audience member’s question, he said: “I believe there’s about 78 to 81 members of the Democratic Party that are members of the Communist Party.”
“They actually don’t hide it,” he explained. “It’s called the Congressional Progressive Caucus.”
The group was not happy.
“Calling fellow members of Congress ‘communists’ is reminiscent of the days when Joe McCarthy divided Americans with name-calling and modern-day witch hunts that don’t advance policies to benefit people’s lives,” Congressmen and caucus co-chairs Raul Grijalva and Keith Ellison said.
It is worth mentioning before saying anything about ‘killer chickens’ that Herman Cain was a Republican leadership candidate who soared in the polls last autumn as a challenger to front-runner Mr. Romney before dropping out of the race.
What is he doing lately?
Well, among other things, he is releasing provocative web-based ads that are meant to really grab and shake people up. The latest instalment aims to capture how the ordinary taxpayer is feeding big government.
The taxpayer is the farmer carrying the feed bucket, and the chickens represent big government. What follows is too graphic to describe, but let’s just say the chickens triumph.
Please do not view the ad if you are still haunted by Alfred Hitchcock’s The Birds. Take my word for it: it is bizarre.
The mole is exposed
The inaugural post of the anonymous Fox News employee – or the ‘Fox News mole’, as he came to be known – was published on the Gawker site on Tuesday, and it was the voice of an employee fed-up with the channel’s “non sequitur, ad hominem attacks on the president; gleeful race baiting; a willful disregard for facts.”
The author also posted behind the scene video of host Sean Hannity and Republican contender Mr. Romney talking about horseback riding.
“Now there’s nothing wrong with Mitt and his wife loving horseback riding,” the mole wrote.
“But remember this video next time Romney attacks Obama for golfing. The inherent elitism and snootiness of golf is NOTHING compared to competitive horseback riding. And I think Mitt loses points with the GOP base for his correct pronunciation of dressage.”
Rather than quitting his job, the mole decided to have some fun – comparing his situation to that of Die Hard character John McClane, played by Bruce Willis: “I’m inside the building, crawling through the air vents, gathering intel, and passing it along ...”
The mole was smoked out on Wednesday: “They nailed me,” wrote Joe Muto.
“I am a weasel, a traitor, a sell-out and every bad word you can throw at me... but as of today, I am free, and I am ready to tell my story, which I wasn’t able to fully do for the previous 36 hours.”