Breathe easy. There are no weird caucus rules in New Hampshire, only the individual persuasive power of the candidates.
Chris Christie will holler at voters until they support him. Marco Rubio will repeat soothing mantras at them. Donald Trump will fly them to the polls in his helicopter. John Kasich, the newly elected president of Dixville Notch, has the most potent weapon of all: the endorsement of the New York Times.
Imagine the jealousy and hand-wringing in the rest of the Republican field when, on the eve of the Iowa coin flips, the Grey Lady urged its readers -- those rabid conservatives who follow Paul Krugman and devour "T: The New York Times Style Magazine" -- to support Kasich.
The Times editorial board noted Kasich "has been capable of compromise" and "believes in the ability of government to improve lives" -- two clauses guaranteed to excite the pro-life, pro-gun, anti-Obama members of the party.
Throughout 2015, Kasich's opponents didn't exactly outdo each other in sucking up to the Times in search of its endorsement. "I don't read The New York Times, to be honest with you," Jeb Bush gushed. "I'm giving the New York Times up for Lent," lauded Christie. The Times is "always wrong," extolled Trump. Ted Cruz got the opportunity to show his affection, sparring with the Times over its bestseller list.
Kasich? He's embracing it.
"When people like the New York Times say, `This is the guy who can bring people together and solve problems,' how is that not helpful?" Kasich reasoned, shortly after celebrating his triumph on Twitter.
It's not just the Times he has charmed. As the choice of seven New Hampshire newspapers, plus the Times and the Boston Globe, Kasich may be unique in realizing the awesome influence that print newspapers still yield in this country.
Call it the wisdom of experience.
Even though Kasich, at 63, is younger than Trump, Ben Carson and either Democrat he might face in the fall, he's the relic in the race.
Back when Cruz was still creeping out his classmates at Princeton and Rubio was doing the Gator Chomp at the University of Florida, Kasich was red-lining federal budgets in Congress in a way that got Time magazine to label him a "radical."
Then, as now, the Times editorial board took notice.
In a series of editorials that can't be mistaken for mash notes, the Times called Kasich's budget ideas "dangerous," "punishing and arbitrary," stacked with "imprudent" numbers and capable of inflicting "grave damage." It would have been a reach, way back in the 1980s, to imagine Kasich ever being the Times' choice in a Republican presidential field.
So what changed? Kasich, as governor of Ohio, has recognized the reality of climate change and accepted federal money when it was offered, which passes for a maverick these days. But he still wants to undo Obamacare, defund Planned Parenthood and let bar-goers carry concealed handguns.
As Kasich demonstrates, a conservative Congressman Rip Van Winkle who fell asleep in the 1980s could wake up today and find himself categorized as a squishy moderate. And, perhaps, endorsed by the New York Times.
Even in the blizzard of campaign accusations, this one was hard to ignore: President Obama and his wife "are spending hundreds of thousands of our tax dollars to fund their own ridiculously lavish lifestyles."
Specifically, reported GOPtheDailyDose.com, "Obama is spending a total of $75,500 tax dollars PER YEAR to send his daughters to school," for a total of $604,000 during his eight years in office.
That Malia and Sasha Obama attend Sidwell Friends School, one of Washington's best private schools, is hardly news. But the notion that taxpayers pick up their tuition is borderline shocking.
Fleece alert! Somebody call William Proxmire.
To back its account, GOPTheDailyDose linked to another site, MrConservative.com, which offered the same report, word for word, along with 96 comments from mostly outraged readers:
"Why can't they pay for their own kids schooling? I don't think that should be the tax-payers responsibility!!"
"They LOVE spending money, as long as it's not their money!!!"
As its source for the report, MrConservative linked to TellMeNow.com, where the same story was followed by 43 more outraged comments. ("Their so called childrens private schools should not have been paid for with tax dollars. It should have come out of their own salary. Those people need to be held accountable and pay back every dime.")
There, on Jan. 11, an Amazon user named amazon2015 wrote, "Daddy's sure spending a lot of money to educate his little girls," followed by a breakdown of tuition and fees at Sidwell Friends.
There's no mention of taxpayers, or of tax dollars, because -- and this would be a good time to pay careful attention -- Obama, like presidents before him, uses his own money to pay for his children's schooling.
This might not be the best example of citizen journalism.
(Read My Lips is a column dedicated to the proposition that men and women in a position of power, or the pursuit of it, will say or do things for which they might be sorry.)