Many of the calls I've been getting on my cell phone lately are tagged "Blocked" on my caller ID. I answered a few before I realized they were all coming from one political candidate or another. Now I just ignore them.
But none of us will be able to ignore the big money that will be flooding Tennessee from SuperPacs and campaign organizations for the GOP presidential candidates over the next few days. Millions of dollars will be spent in the state, mostly on television commercials, all designed to convince us that Mitt Romney or Newt Gingrich or Rick Santorum or Ron Paul is the answer to our problems.
I expect Romney to tell us our trees are a perfect height and that he loves NASCAR and country music (or at least that he knows some music label executives). Santorum has already let us know that President Obama is a "snob" because he "wants everyone to go to college." Obama never said that, but that didn't stop Santorum, whose primary message seemed to be that the president is uppity and thinks he's better than working-class folks. (This from a man with a B.A., an M.B.A., and a law degree.) Santorum has spent much of the last week carving a niche for himself as the candidate who is against the separation of church and state, against contraception, and against women having control of their vaginas.
Gingrich has pretty much been Newt-ered into irrelevance, and Paul will continue to get his 15 percent of the vote, hoping to gain leverage at the GOP convention.
That leaves the Republicans with two real possibilities: a sexually repressed, homophobic, Opus Dei Christianist and a talking suit who makes Thurston Howell III look like a man of the people.
If Santorum gets the nomination, he will carry Utah, Idaho, Oklahoma, and maybe some of the Old South. It will be a rout of Goldwater-esque dimensions. If Romney wins, the race will be closer, but he's basically the GOP version of John Kerry — a man whose every public appearance, from his pressed blue jeans to his forced folksiness ("My wife drives a couple of Cadillacs") reinforces the fact that he's rich and out of touch. I think Obama beats him handily, especially if the economy continues to rebound.
But in any event, the Republicans will be here in Tennessee all week, folks — or at least their ads will. Enjoy the show. Enjoy Jackson Baker's take on the contest (page 19). Just don't answer any blocked calls.