From Bachmann to Santorum, the 2012 primary season was riveting reality TV

With the announcement that Newt Gingrich will soon suspend his presidential campaign, Mitt Romney now officially stands alone among the field of GOP candidates. (Yes, I know Ron Paul is still “officially” in the mix, but he’s more like one of those Japanese soldiers who sat in a spider hole eating boiled fingernail clippings and mice until the start of the Carter administration, unaware that the war was over, so he doesn’t really count. Plus, he’s not really a Republican.)

From the beginning, it was a battle between the crazies and the non-crazies, and thankfully for the nation, sanity won. Sure, Mitt Romney may have gone through a phase wherein he occasionally baptized a dead non-Mormon (hey, who hasn’t?), but compared to Rick Santorum, he’s the picture of mental health.

Whatever you want to say about the 2012 primary season, it was an entertaining one. Here’s the timeline, as best I can cobble it together:

Aug. 14, 2011: The primary season sees its first major casualty when Minnesota’s Tim Pawlenty withdraws from the race after finishing third in the Ames Straw Poll, two places behind Michele Bachmann, whose signature issues include fighting for the right of citizens to use energy-wasting light bulbs, making sure destitute homeless people pay taxes, and trying not to look like she could leap off the dais at any moment and implant dozens of alien embryos into the fecund beard of Wolf Blitzer.

October 26, 2011: Herman Cain briefly flirts with frontrunner status after outlining a tax plan so simple even he could understand it. A Fox News poll reveals he has the support of 24% of Republicans, compared to Mitt Romney’s 20%. A rash of controversies – including several accusations of sexual harassment – later dog his campaign, and in a gesture of uncommon patriotism, he drops out of the race to spare the country from further exposure to Gloria Allred.

Nov. 9, 2011: In a televised debate, Texas Gov. Rick Perry forgets one of the three federal agencies he would eliminate if he were elected president. A Texas governor who struts around like a half-drunk emu and appears not to have any idea what he’s talking about or why he’s running for president? What could possibly go wrong? (Perry would later drop out of the race and endorse Newt Gingrich, which is a little like hoping Americans will one day grow to love the unique and surprising flavor of circus peanuts.)

Jan. 3, 2012: Mitt Romney and Rick Santorum battle to a statistical dead heat in the Iowa caucuses, which is seen as a victory for Santorum. Michele Bachmann comes in sixth and soon after suspends her campaign, allowing her to relax her facial muscles for the first time in nearly two decades, at which point she immediately bursts into spores, shocking the electorate, who naturally assumed she was an entirely different kind of space alien.

Jan. 21, 2012:
Newt Gingrich becomes the new “it” candidate after winning the South Carolina primary with 40% of the vote. His campaign later fizzles after vicious rumors circulate that he’s the same Newt Gingrich everyone hates.

Feb. 7, 2012: Rick Santorum becomes the Romney-haters’ next great hope after winning big in Minnesota, Colorado, and Missouri. FEMA is immediately dispatched to Minnesota to quietly remove all sharp objects from the state.

Feb. 28, 2012: Ron Paul calls a press conference to announce that he hasn’t dropped out of the race or anything, just in case anyone was wondering.

April 3, 2012: Just two months after resuscitating his campaign in the Land of 10,000 Flakes, Rick Santorum faces his Waterloo right next door in Wisconsin. A week later, he suspends his campaign, delivering a crushing blow to the growing segment of Americans who love accidentally having 13 kids. Badgers delight in knowing they threw the last shovelful of dirt on Santorum’s campaign, which takes some of the sting out of losing the Rose Bowl and missing out on the World Series and Super Bowl. Somewhere, Tim Pawlenty kicks himself.

April 4, 2012: Just a day after God finishes smiting Rick Santorum’s campaign, Mitt Romney prepares for life as the Republicans’ sole remaining suitor, thankful that no one asked him why, if he drives a Mustang and a Chevy pickup and his wife drives a couple of Cadillacs, there was no room in any of them for the family dog.

May 2, 2012: Newt Gingrich announces he has officially suspended his campaign; hisses menacingly at the press corps; plucks a pale, eyeless fish from a nearby stream; and retreats to his subterranean palace to run for supreme chancellor of the netherworld. He gets 3% of the vote.

May 2-Aug. 27, 2012: Ron Paul stays in the race until the convention. Only time will tell if he wins.

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