Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Vander Meer Redux? In South Carolina?

A rookie pitcher for the Cincinnati Reds named Johnny Vander
Meer pitched a no-hitter against the Boston Braves in Boston on
June 11, 1938. A no-hitter in baseball is a rare feat, and it occurs
usually only once or twice a season in both major leagues. It must
have been exciting therefore for the young pitcher, but on his next
outing, four days later at Ebbets Field in Brooklyn, he did something
no major leaguer has done, before or since, he pitched a second
consecutive no-hitter. This is a record that will probably not ever be
equaled, and almost certainly not ever be exceeded as long as the
major leagues exist.

Last Monday, in the first South Carolina presidential debate, Newt
Gingrich scored another of his successes in the format, the very
vehicle which has propelled him from the near bottom of the pack
of challengers to frontrunner Mitt Romney to be the last person
standing between the former Massachusetts governor and the
Republican nomination. A lot of the baseball analogies used by
commentators said that Mr Gingrich hit a home run or even a
grand slam in his performance, and that is fair and apt, but there is
a second and final South Carolina debate scheduled three days later.
At least one poll taken after the first debate has Mr. Gingrich closing
the double-digit gap between Mr. Romney and himself, but he still
trails. The Romney campaign has now turned on the former speaker
ferociously, and the sparks are sure to fly at the second debate.

But can Gingrich, the master of modern political debate, pull it off
again, and pitch himself to a totally unexpected upset win in the
Palmetto State primary? Unlike Johnny Vander Meer (who pitched
for fourteen years with a mediocre record and did not make the
Hall of Fame), Newt Gingrich is already assured of a berth in the U.S.
political history Hall of Fame. He has also already made one
dramatic comeback in the 2012 presidential nominating contest, but
faded again through his own missteps. Twice the punditocracy has
written him off. His egotism and apparent arrogance have made him
an easy target.

Yet if he accomplishes in the second debate what he accomplished in
the first, the equivalent not of home runs but of two consecutive no
hitters, and thus somehow wins the South Carolina primary, the GOP
contest is not over and proceeds to Florida and beyond.

I am not predicting this. In fact, I have consistently written for most
of the past year that Mitt Romney will be his party's nominee. Being a
baseball fan as well as political observer, however, I could not help but
bring that now forgotten Cincinnati hurler to mind as the dramatic and
critical South Carolina voting is only days away, and perhaps the most
extraordinary candidate debate of all will be before us in only a few

Copyright (c) 2012 by Barry Casselman
All right reserved.

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