I am loving the Republican presidential nominating process and the Roman Coliseum (complete with lions) theatrics of their nightly debates. OK, they’re not on every night. Maybe someday. Leading the den is the only red-blooded Newt under the big-top, Mr. Gingrich. Last night in Charleston, South Carolina, with sordid tales from an ex-wife just whetting the news cycle, the former Speaker of the House thundered indignation from one of four podiums and blew the audience out of their seats and into his corner. As the roused crowd called for more red meat, Newt’s anger rose as he buried the “open marriage” question and the man who chose to ask it, CNN moderator, John King. Gingrich was brilliant.

In the “not so much” category was Mitt Romney, a “suit” if there ever was one. Romney’s news of the day was that he actually didn’t win the Iowa Caucus. Rick Santorum did. Mitt’s problem is twofold. One, he doesn’t have any passion; and two, he can’t even act like he does. The poor stiff is tone deaf, too. Last night as he tried to differentiate himself from his “Washington insider” opponents, he said the American people want someone “who’s lived in the real streets of America.” Um, your dad ran a car company. Yeah, it was in Detroit, but you weren’t hanging out on 8 Mile. Romney’s undoing will be his 1040’s. If he evaded taxes the way he’s evading questions about them, he’s done. It looks like he wanted to stonewall the issue until he won a quick early nomination. With Newt raging, that scenario looks unlikely.

Flanking Newt and Mitt on stage were Rick Santorum, former Senator from PA, and everybody’s favorite Libertarian, Texas congressman Ron Paul. Paul is “Bill Nye the Science Guy” of Republicans, but he’s simply not taken seriously by the GOP. Still, with 21.4% in Iowa and 22.9% in NH, he may stick around awhile.

Since almost winning Iowa (before we knew he actually did win Iowa) and getting some attention at the debates, Rick Santorum has impressed me. Of course I don’t agree with any of his policy positions, but he has a good grasp of the issues and makes a solid case for where he stands. He also seems more like a real person than the robotic, stuttering Mitt and the caricature that is Ron Paul. Once the Republicans figure out that Newt’s 3 marriages, House ethics violations, lobbyist baggage and sweaty hypocrisy (he led impeachment of Bill Clinton while having an affair of his own) make him unelectable, maybe Rick Santorum will be their guy.

Meanwhile, in Harlem, President Obama was addressing a crowd at the Apollo Theatre and sang a little Al Green. Pretty well, too. He’s a real guy who’s going to be tough to beat. Send in the clowns.