When it comes to tenacity, you have to hand it to Republicans Rick Santorum, Ron Paul and Newt Gingrich. Despite unfavorable odds, polls, delegate counts and an entrenched media consensus that Mitt Romney will be their party’s candidate, they remain in the race.
If all those sources of doubt were not enough to discourage the underdog GOP candidates, perhaps the most disheartening sign that they are no longer serious contenders came this week from their would-be Democratic rival, US President Barack Obama. For the first time, Obama went after Mitt Romney by name in a speech, after which his team began a social media confrontation against the former Massachusetts governor, signalling their belief that Romney is the inevitable candidate.
Viral Video of the Week:
But if the Republican candidates were upset when Obama overlooked them, they may have taken some joy when his anti-Romney attacks all but backfired on Twitter.
Following a Washington Post report that Romney, the former CEO of Bain Capital, was using loopholes in ethics rules to avoid disclosing the entirety of his wealth, Obama turned to his nearly 14 million Twitter followers to ask: #WhatsRomneyHiding.
Tweet of the Week:
While there was certainly the anticipated follow-through from Obama supporters and Democratic operatives, the backlash from Republicans turned the line of attack back at the US president with the hashtag #WhatsObamaHiding, bringing up a few inevitable references to his birth certificate.
But as Buzzfeed pointed out, many of the responses took on a more humorous approach, debunking the US president’s attack with mockery:
Amid the Obama-Romney spat, the other candidates faded further into the background. Santorum, who is staking his last bet on winning the April 24 primary in his home state of Pennsylvania, saw Romney take the lead there. Even Gingrich, while maintaining that “nothing” could make him drop out of the race, began to see the writing on the wall, admitting to Fox News that Romney by "far and away the most likely" nominee. Analysts began discussing possible vice presidential picks for Romney.
But the Democrats, too, had a surprise resurgence of intra-party competition in the form of US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton. Two candid photos of her wearing designer sunglasses while coolly checking her Blackberry aboard a military C-17 aircraft gave birth to a tumblr blog, portraying the former-Obama rival as the Queen of Cool. On the blog, Clinton upstages celebrities and politicians far and wide - including her boss - with sassy text messages.
Yahoo! News called the viral blog, which garnered over 200,000 Facebook likes in a matter of days, “the best political meme of 2012 thus far,” as it reignited excited chatter that the secretary of state might replace Joe Biden on the Democratic ticket, or make another run for the top office in 2016.
The first lady-turned-senator-turned-chief diplomat has thus far maintained that she intends to take a break from political life after she completes her current post. If she decides to throw her hat in for the next election cycle, however, Republicans will have no choice but to continue bolstering their already-proven tenacity.
#USelections2012 offers weekly insight into the US Presidential election through a social media lens, tracking candidates as they try to reach 270 electoral votes in 140 characters or less.
The writer is a Breaking News editor and blogger at The Jerusalem Post. Read his blog ‘The Bottom Line’ here.