Here it was the day after Thanksgiving, and I was stuffed to the gills with turkey.

Wild Turkey, that is, because the liquor store was sold out of my favorite beverage, Olde Frothingslosh, “the Pale, Stale Ale with the Foam on the Bottom.”

At least, that’s what the advertising used to say before any public mention of the Steel City’s most legendary brew was banned by the Food and Drug Administration (along with the Department of Homeland Security, the Consumer Product Safety Commission, the U.S. Coast Guard and the National Park Service, among many others).

So I had given my secretary, Suzi, the day off, and I was alone in the office, playing solitaire with a stack of unpaid bills, when there was a knock at the door.

Actually, there were three rapid knocks, then a nervous male voice said, “Dick Richards, P.I.”, then three more knocks, and “Dick Richards, P.I.” again, and then the sequence was repeated a third time.

OK, Dr. Cooper, I said, it’s open, c’mon in.


In he charged, with his normally excitable mood raised to an unusually high pitch: “Richards, you need to help me prove my theory is correct!”

Hey, Doc, you know that unless you’re talking yo-yos or kites, I’m no expert on string theory.

“This isn’t theoretical physics, Dick, it’s politics, and your expertise as a licensed political instigator is just what the doctor ordered – or this one did! I’m here because I’ve discovered a way to determine how a political party will choose its presidential nominee. If you can verify it, we’ll make millions by winning bets left and right.”

Well, left and right is kind of the issue. If it’s the Democrats you’re discussing, there isn’t anyone right now who’s willing to bet against Hillary – except for me, and I don’t have any money. It’s just like 2006, when she was the presumptive nominee. That lasted right up to the point where all her presumptiveness bit her in the – well, the party’s ample base, you could say.

“Oh, don’t rule out Hillary. Democrats will end up picking the person farthest to the left who hides it the best. The progressives are playing up Granny Warren from Massachusetts, but she doesn’t bother to try to fool people about her portside leanings. Hillary’s much better at dissembling, and that puts her at the head of a very small pack.”

OK, so it’s the Republicans you’ve got nailed. Give me the goods, then.


“Well, the formula begins by determining 3X to the tenth power multiplied by 4Y to the eighth, where X is the number of Congregationalists in Teaneck, New Jersey, and Y is Louisiana Cajuns who own neutered Great Danes…”

I’ve told you a hundred times, Doc, no equations. You might as well be speaking in Klingon.

“Ideally, the party would pick someone who could reach out both to the party’s base and to independent voters, along with capturing enough blue-collar union Democrats upset with the rejection of the Keystone pipeline, and women worried about educational decline, along with men who are tired of watching other nations treat us like dirt.”

In other words, everybody but major media moguls, college professors, environmental activists, professional grievance-mongers and feminist ideologues, right?

“You know those are natural Democratic constituencies anyway. They’ll never vote for a Republican even if he or she offered to commit suicide live on PBS. Well, maybe then, but not for any other reason.”

So, who is it, Doc? Marco Rubio, for the Hispanic vote? Chris Christie, because he can deal with Democrats? Rand Paul, because he appeals to small-government tea party types? Paul Ryan, because a policy wonk knows how to fix our out-of-control entitlements? Scott Walker, because, as somebody said after he trounced Wisconsin’s liberals for the third time in four years, “He may not be very charismatic, but he sits on a throne made of the skulls of his enemies”?


“No, you have forgotten the work of a great Irish poet and prophet, William Butler Yeats, whose theorems form the foundation of my work.”

Yeats? Isn’t he the guy who wrote a poem called “The Second Coming” that included the verse, “The best lack all conviction, while the worst are full of passionate intensity”? And “what rough beast, its hour come round at last, slouches towards Bethlehem to be born?”

“Yes, exactly.”

You can’t mean it. No sane party would do that.

“Again, exactly. Who said Republicans were sane?”

So you think it will be …

“Yes. It will be Mitt Romney. I wasn’t kidding about the suicide.”

M.D. Harmon, a retired journalist and military officer, is a freelance writer and speaker. He can be contacted at:

[email protected]

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