For months the Republican presidential campaign has been a sleepy affair. The biggest news was that one supposedly top candidate had refused to criticize the frontrunner. Riveting.

The last week changed all of that. Michele Bachmann, once regarded as a sideshow candidate, won the Iowa straw poll, narrowly beating Ron Paul, still regarded as a sideshow candidate. Then would-be contender Tim Pawlenty dropped out. And whatever momentum Bachmann might have gained was halted by the announcement of Texas governor Rick Perry, who not only emerged as a first-tier candidate but is leading in at least one national poll.

Images from the campaign suddenly dominated television newscasts. Perry demonstrated his considerable skills in retail politics. Frontrunner Mitt Romney, whose team had anticipated just such a conservative surge, kept his attention on Barack Obama, whose own campaign swing through the all-important Midwest was all politics, despite the laughable claims of the White House to the contrary.

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