"One by one," goes the morbid mantra to CBS' murder mystery series, Harper's Island.
It could just as well be the same theme for potential Republican presidential contenders . Over the last three weeks, Senator John Ensign and Gov. Mark Sanford have knocked themselves out via extramarital affairs (Sanford turning his into a Peyton Place-esque soap opera) and Sarah Palin has quit as Alaska governor.
It's a bit too early to say whether Palin's quitting irreparably ruins her for 2012, but three days after the bombshell, let's just say that it doesn't immediately enhance her chances. (Perhaps she thinks that the road to the White House is via a reality show -- "Sarah & Todd Plus Five"?).
So three contenders up; three contenders down.
Agatha Christie's Ten Little Indians for the political set. "One by one."
Don't want to entertain too many conspiracy theories here, but ya think Mike Huckabee's sweating yet? Does he have skeletons in his closet? Will rumors break out that -- after triumphantly losing 105 pounds over a year and writing a book about it -- the Huckster has been caught scarfing Twinkies when he thought no one was looking? Will he be able to withstand the caloric backlash sure to arise?
Because right now, everything is coming up roses for a certain former Winter Olympics CEO, financial executive and governor of Massachusetts named Mitt Romney. In fact, it's looking almost too good for Romney.
A couple of years ago, when the next presidential election was some 18 months away-- in a field that either included or still had under speculation Newt Gingrich, Rudy Giuliani and John McCain -- National Review writer Kate O'Beirne quipped that, "Isn't it funny that the one Republican in the field still married to his first wife is Mitt Romney, the Mormon."
Well, two years later, Romney's also the one -- along with Mike Huckabee -- who hasn't had any personal (i.e., romantic) scandal imputed to him. And somehow, his one term as Massachusetts governor makes him look like a grizzled veteran after Palin's abortive 30-month term in the Alaskan state house. Huckabee seems to be playing it safe hosting a Fox News Channel weekend show (word of advice, Governor, that strategy didn't exactly raise John Kasich's profile; he eventually had to go back to Ohio, where he's finally getting around to running for governor).
Romney, meanwhile, plugs away in the background, occasionally doing one of the Sunday talk shows, but staying regularly in the mix to comment on the key issue of the moment -- the economy. Indeed, it's almost as if Romney is borrowing the Bill Clinton '92 mantra of "It's the economy, stupid!" and staying focused on that while the Obama team scatters itself over all parts of an ambitious agenda. Romney also looks rather timely when Vice President Biden admits the administration "misread" the economy.
So, things are breaking Romney's way. We sure that he's not nudging them a little bit? Maybe he has agents in Argentina? After all, he does have lots of pals on the International Olympic Committee! And John Ensign's home state of Nevada is right next to Utah where Romney ran the Winter Games?
Oh, well, keep an eye on that guy anyway...