As I noted here, the Republicans who show up at Iowa's quadrennial straw polls and caucuses are about as representative of American voters in general as two-headed cows are representative of cows in general. Furthermore, only two of the six candidates who have won the straw poll in the last 20 years have become the Republican nominee, and the record of caucus winners is similarly scanty.
And so after two weeks of campaigning and debating in the Hawkeye State, Tim Pawlenty goes home with his too-moderate tail between his legs, Michele Bachmann and Rick Perry, their tails intact, Bible thump fearlessly ahead, while Mitt Romney, the one man with a decent chance of toppling Barack Obama, proves yet again that he has no tail.
As I have written many times since the landmark 2008 election, the Republicans' penchant for self destruction seems boundless, and I saw nothing in Iowa to indicate that they have a clue about how to take back the White House when they have the best opportunity to do so since 1980. This is because today's GOP is more interested in tearing down America than rebuilding it.
That, in so many words, will be Obama's message as he heads out into the hustings for a series of town hall meetings in the coming weeks, and there are five questions he will ask over the over than the Republican's can't answer:
First, how can you stimulate a moribund economy by spending less?
Second, how can you create jobs without providing the stimulus to do so?
Third, how can you ask middle-class taxpayers to do their fair share when the wealthiest Americans aren't doing theirs?
Fourth, how can you assure future generations that the federal safety net will be reasonably intact when the GOP keeps trying to dismantle it?
And fifth, how can America became great again not by uniting but by dividing?
These questions spell trouble for the GOP congressional leadership and for Bachmann and Perry.
Whatever answers that the Republicans might cobble together will not be reassuring to the tens of millions of voters who don't happen to be Iowa Republicans. And while depressed about the economy and disenchanted with Obama are not about to lip lock with a congressional leadership whose tool of choice is dynamite and front-running president wannables who ask us to believe in miracles, or in the case of Romney hope that they'll ignore the fact that he hasn't taken a stand on anything of substance in the last five years.
Photograph by Doug Mills/The New York Times