Independent’s Eye by Joe Gandelman
CORBIN, Kentucky — It’s a birthplace of Americana. A shrine. A place where a game of chicken began. Corporate chicken. Literally.
At 688 U.S. Highway 25 West you find Col. Harland Sanders’ Cafe and Museum — the world’s first Kentucky Fried Chicken restaurant. Complete with restored original kitchen and the Colonel’s restored office. People eat in the cafe and ooh and ahh at its simple displays. It’s where Sanders perfected his famous recipe, which he took on the road and sold out of necessity, once I-75 opened and hurt his local business. His recipe, business, and persona then took off: chicken became a hot commodity for emerging fast-food mega-corporations. The game of corporate chicken fully came to fruition in 1964 when he sold his company to former Kentucky Gov. John Y. Brown Jr. and Jack Massey for $2 million.
Fast forward to 2011, and America is now watching a new game of chicken: political chicken.
Who will conservatives pick as the new “anti-Romney” to stop former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney, a conservative in his present incarnation but once a moderate and therefore not trusted by conservatives? Several conservative heavyweights, including George Will and Erick Erickson, suggest a Romney nomination would defile what conservatism has achieved and perhaps destroy it if Romney “goes moderate” again in the Oval Office.
And so we get the question: amid a recession and an overexposed Democratic President unable to make significant dent in it, are conservatives really willing to nix Romney, the one GOPer who polls show has the best chance of defeating Barack Obama and attracting think-for-themselves Americans who don’t idolize Rush Limbaugh? Would they really snatch defeat from the jaws of a likely 2012 victory?
Until recently, their hopes in this high-stakes ideological game rested with former Godfathers’ Pizza CEO Herman Cain until Cain got enmeshed in a sexual harassment scandal, delivered some tepid debate performances, and blamed everyone but SpongeBob SquarePants for being behind the allegations aimed at him.
Their hopes in this game of political chicken now center on a man who would look like Col. Sanders if he wore a mustache and goatee and donned white suit and string tie: former House Speaker Newt Gingrich.
Gingrich is a polarizing figure who has so much personal and political baggage that TSA may soon inspect him. Gingrich is smart, brimming with ideas, a solid debater, a generator of lively bomb-throwing quotes, tough, a flip-flopper, vain, arrogant, and not a poster-boy for marriage as a sacred vow. If he turns off moderates, non-liberal Democrats and some independents, conservatives love him. He throws more red meat than tiger feeders at the San Diego Zoo.
Col. Sanders hit upon 11 herbs and spices that made his chicken sell. The GOP is now testing seven candidates — and Republican voters sampling them seem unable to find one they like. It increasingly seems like they may not like these offerings and will have to hold their nose and choose one.
As Cain has started to tumble in polls, Gingrich has risen. A CNN poll puts Cain in third place. Another poll put Gingrich in first place. One poll shows Gingrich making gains among independent voters while others show he has a problem.
You could imagine that if Gingrich ran KFC, he’d only sell right wings. If Cain ran it, his menu would include breasts and thighs.
Copyright 2011 Joe Gandelman, distributed exclusively by Cagle Cartoons newspaper syndicate.
Joe Gandelman is a veteran journalist who wrote for newspapers overseas and in the United States. He has appeared on cable news show political panels and is Editor-in-Chief of The Moderate Voice, an Internet hub for independents, centrists and moderates. CNN’s John Avlon named him as one of the top 25 Centrists Columnists and Commentators. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org and can be booked to speak at your event at www.mavenproductions.com.