We have a year of this - great for genuine aficionados of the drama of American politics, potentially wearing for the less committed. Nevertheless, the US Presidential election is well under way, as the Republican candidates seek to position themselves for the right to challenge Barack Obama. The Republican field has been subject to more shifts than the San Andreas fault as each would-be saviour of the right flies high then falls to earth, to be replaced by the next political meteorite.
Michelle Bachman was once the Tea Party darling who would carry all before her. A couple of poor debate showings later, she was supplanted by the glamorous Democrat convert who governs Texas, Rick Perry. Now he too is struggling to re-gain momentum as pizza millionaire Herman Cain seizes the day, and the light. Through all of this the plodding, well funded campaign of Mitt Romney continues to keep its head above water, and while Sarah Palin may have decided not to enter the race, there remains a host of other Republican candidates still waiting their moment. Even Newt Gingrich is keeping up his poll numbers in Iowa, the first state to hold a caucus at the end of the year.
Cain is an extraordinary candidate. A rare black Republican (no mixed race parentage here either) and an anti-politician, he has sent his campaign adsa viral on the internet. the most controversial is the one below, where campaign manager Mark Block takes a lazy draft of his cigarette just as the picture morphs into a gradually grinning Cain, top the upbeat strains of Krista Branch's evangelical, Tea Party supporting song "I Am America".
With over a year to go, we can rest assured that the drama of American presidential politics will be far more extraordinary, gripping, and even weird, than anything thrown up by X-Factor.
I remain an enthusiastic Obama-ite. Nonetheless, it is the Republicans who are currently trying to define the message, as TRG's Nik Darlington acknowledges in this post on the Egremont blog.
Now - here's that Cain ad: