Before two boxers pound each other into bloody meat, they tap their gloves. Football team captains shake hands at the coin toss, just before the players deliberately try to break each other's bones. Barack Obama and Mitt Romney did the presidential campaign version of that this week, and must have enjoyed it about as much.
The president telephoned the GOP's man from Massachusetts on Wednesday and congratulated him for finally snagging enough delegates to officially become the Republican Party's nominee. It was "brief and cordial," according to a Romney campaign spokesman.
That "cordiality" may have shown that the president is, at heart, a gentleman. But it came less than 24 hours after Obama's deputy campaign manager slammed Romney for his "complete lack of moral leadership" and missing "backbone."
The statement from Stephanie Cutter came after Mitt said nothing to contradict his new BFF, Donald Trump, as the megalomaniac multimillionaire with the preternatural comb-over repeated his now discredited doubts about the president's birth certificate at a Las Vegas fundraiser.
"Now he's even standing by silently as Trump assails John McCain's courage in standing up to the most extreme and hateful voices in the Republican Party -- all in order to raise money for himself," Cutter wrote. "If Mitt Romney lacks the backbone to stand up to a charlatan like Donald Trump because he's so concerned about lining his campaign's pockets, what does that say about the kind of president he would be?"
It is, in its way, a gimme for the Obama folks. Nobody credible clings to the silly "birther" thing anymore. Only Donald Trump knows if he really believes -- or ever did -- that the president was actually born in Kenya and his parents conspired in some elaborate plan to fake his birth certificate and show he was born in Hawaii, apparently because they expected him to run for president forty years later. With Trump, who knows? It could just be another way to flit into the spotlight, even if it's in the role of the buffoon.
Still, the president ignored Trump and the nastiness from his proxies as he dialed his rival. "President Obama said that he looked forward to an important and healthy debate about America's future," Obama's campaign said in an emailed statement, "and wished Governor Romney and his family well throughout the upcoming campaign."
Romney responded similarly, and the boys hung up.
Of course, Romney may have had more than the whole Trump debacle on his mind.
The call also came after what might be considered a somewhat disappointing Texas primary victory for Romney. Yeah, it clinched the nomination for him. But, really, 69 percent of the vote? Republicans are supposed to be rallying around Romney. He's their man. He's their knight in shining armor, who will vanquish the dreaded Democrat who has seized the White House.
All that, and he still lost three out of every 10 votes?
Yep, Rick Santorum's diehard supporters still gave him 8 percent for the night, even though he's been out of the race for nearly two months. Newt Gingrich, who quit a month ago, captured almost 5 percent of the total in Texas.
Ron Paul clocked in with almost 12 percent. That's about average for the perennially bottom-rung competitor, despite Texas being his home state.
Heck, even write-ins and a pack of "others" including Michele Bachmann, Buddy Roemer and Jon Huntsman (remember them?) hauled in almost half that ¿ 5.7 percent.
What the heck is going on here? What does it take for Republican voters to get that Mitt is their candidate and stop voting for people who aren't even in the race, and haven't been for months?
What's happening is that hard core conservatives and delusional youthful fringe voters are announcing their dissatisfaction. Romney is too "too" for too many of the GOP's rank-and-file. He's too moderate for the ultra-conservatives, and too traditional for members of Ron Paul's "Revolution."
On the bright side for Romney, as much as people in his own party are proving they don't really like him, people in general are liking him more. Or, at least, not liking him less.
A new ABC News/Washington Post poll shows Romney's popularity is rising, although more people still have an unfavorable view of him. According to the latest, 41 percent of the folks polled view him favorably, while 45 percent don't. The good news for him is that that's up significantly from what it was in April. Then, barely 35 percent had a favorable view and 47 percent didn't.
The same poll shows 52 percent have a favorable view of Obama, and 45 percent unfavorable. That's a slip from the 56 percent favorable, 40 percent unfavorable he got last month.
So both sides may have been a bit testy during the phone call. But it had to be done. They are both, after all, gentlemen.
And now that it's over, they can get back to the name-calling and mud-slinging we've come to expect in our presidential races.
Source: Terra/Carlos Harrison