The race for the presidency has been one of the dirtiest we’ve seen, and the battle against the incumbent, between the two power parties, has not even begun. Not above the obvious mudslinging and endorsement power plays, the underlying platform of each of the now more than distinguishable politicians on the roster of potential GOP candidates has ridden upon proving to voters that they are the strongest Republican candidate.

The most ‘Merican, he (Bachmann’s been out for a while, and Newt and Paul are on their way, though we’ll all miss them) with the most restorative presence, will bring the U.S. back up from the ruin that has befallen a nation under the Obama administration, the Democrat and standard-breaker. By strongest Republican, I mean the most Republican, in politics and in life, and with great emphasis, the candidates have been consistent in pointing out all the ways that the others are not.

In an admittedly endearing feature, the New York Times penned a portrait of the family man that is, purportedly, Mitt Romney, putting great focus on his 42-year marriage with his wife and “essential touchstone,” Ann, with whom he has five children. A highlight of the piece was a description of Romney “walking into a crowded room and seeming unsettled until he can locate his wife.” “Where’s Ann?” he asks. Where one of Newt Gingrich’s major vulnerabilities, and major point of criticism, lies in his marital history, Romney’s commitment to this wife, who has long suffered from multiple sclerosis and had converted to Mormonism to marry him at age 20, resonates as a point in his favor.

At a campaign stop in Iowa last year, Ann Romney addressed a group of women with this message of traditional family values as evidence of his ability to commit to the responsibility that is the presidency: “He is there, he is steadfast, you can count on him. He won’t abandon you in the hardest times.” Elegantly played. But just because he might have this display of commitment on his side, it doesn’t do anything to convey his consistency.

Rick Santorum’s favorite thing to criticize Romney for, besides being wishy-washy on nearly every other subject of contention, is his stance on healthcare, and it is not without grounds. The implementation of Obamacare, the glowing target of assault for Republicans (and everyone else who can’t perceive immediate or potential positives for the ailing structure), has flourished in Massachusetts. The state is now regarded as the pinnacle model for the provision’s success, and it’s not because the Affordable Healthcare Act is a perfect plan.

It is because the then-governor, the state executive, had a hand in approving statewide legislative and delegating the process. And that, my friends, would be Mitt. No amount of debate from either side can obscure the main point of Santorum’s argument, which is the fact that while the unwavering rebuttal from the Romney camp chirps that he does not actually support this brand of healthcare reform, he still managed to back it in the practical sense of literally signing off on the legislation and allowing it to take root in the first place. Not to mention Santorum’s recent invigoration of his contest with Romney’s stance which calls the latter’s judgment into question by focusing on the pending Supreme Court reviews on the mere constitutionality of it.

Besides being his only real threat for the nomination, this type of criticism, volleyed from the beginning, makes Rick Santorum Romney’s greatest enemy (except for Barack Obama), and not without retaliation. Romney has expressed concern bordering on petulance regarding Santorum’s recent campaign strategy, which entails setting up automated phone calls to the homes of registered Democrats urging them to vote Obama out of office, and for Santorum in the general election.

“Look, we don’t want Democrats deciding who our nominee is going to be; we want Republicans deciding who our nominee is going to be,” Romney stated in an interview for Fox News. The Romney camp had used similar tactics for a time, but whatev. Fraternizing with the other party is a no-no, for they are less American.

The latest sprinkle, but by no means the cherry, comes in the form of Jeb Bush’s endorsement of Mitt Romney. Representative of as solid a Republican dynasty as there could be at this juncture, especially for the name attached to the last Republican president, Bush’s decision to endorse the candidate is supposedly based on Romney’s understanding of the economy and his embodiment of the party’s stance of fiscal conservatism and job creation. Which was nice, until one of Romney’s advisers made that “Etch-a-Sketch” comment about the switch that occurs at the general elections and poked more holes in what could have been a solid thing.

The GOP is scared. This election is being viewed as the last chance to refurbish the party’s legitimacy, and they way they have gone about trying to narrow down the best candidate is looking for the most contrasting photo figure to the current president. Torn apart by the divisiveness of the race for the Republican nomination, the most Republican Republican will be the one that survives.

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