If nothing else, the Iowa caucuses kicked off the year with an inadvertently entertaining bang. After months of a rotating circus of second-tier candidates taking their spotlight turns as ''not Mitt Romney,'' we ended up with Santorum coming from behind.
And, yes, hardly any writers in the free world at this point can restrain themselves from puns based on Rick Santorum's frothy ''Google problem.'' As someone noted on Twitter — where Santorum one-liners ran fast and free throughout Tuesday night's caucuses — you simply can't write anything about Santorum anymore without it sounding dirty.
So all this augurs, if not a fascinating year, at least a fascinating first month. A few thoughts on what happened out in the great American Midwest in the somewhat-democratic, not-quite-secret-ballot caucus process of choosing a Republican presidential nominee:
• As the product of a rural, blue-collar, lower-middle-class upbringing, I often have issues with over-privileged offspring whose inherited wealth give them more than a leg up in the pursuit of the American dream. So, you can imagine what I'm likely thinking when I see Mitt Romney and his chorus line of sons onstage talking about personal responsibility, reducing government to encourage people to succeed on their own, and so on.
As a friend tweeted to me with an implied eye-roll, ''Romey's boys, who have never known want, applaud his 'merit society' riff.''
Overall, I'm tired of rich people telling me that the solution to our nation's problems is, as ever, to make them more rich. Anyway, watching Romney squeak out a ''win'' by just eight votes made me think that this November may not be as nail-biting as I'd feared. Check in with me in a couple of months to see just how wishful that thinking may be.
• Even though I'm on record as wanting the Republicans to nominate the best candidate possible -- if Obama loses, we do need to hope for the least-bad option, even if that means Romney -- it's hard to resist the lure of Rick Santorum as a candidate who would be both angrily entertaining and pretty much a slam-dunk win for Democrats. It's very, very hard for me to imagine a candidate who would support the re-criminalization of birth control as someone who's going to pick up a lot of swing voters. I mean, the economy's bad, but not that bad. Santorum is enough of a target-rich environment that I don't think we'd have to get to his odious anti-gay positions before he flamed out.
Still, it would be interesting to see if eight months or so of Santorum puns would be sustainable. But God doesn't love me enough to give me Rick Santorum as a candidate, so again, I'll be preparing for Romney.
• If I were still 29 and strongly libertarian, I'd likely be enamored of the Ron Paul campaign, which would drive progressives crazy just as it's doing now. I've lost much of my enthusiasm for libertarianism over the past decade — selfishness as an organizing principle just doesn't cut it for an interdependent society, even if libertarians have some important insights and critiques of overreaching government power. But it is a powerful and attractive message for those disillusioned with the left v. right dichotomy. Progressives and liberal LGBT politicos need to figure this one out, because Paul is building up quite the nice campaign apparatus to pass on to his son, and I'm guessing Rand Paul is going to be a better salesman for the family brand than his father.
Perhaps it's a little too soon to worry about that. We do still have 2012 to get through, and it's going to take a while.