Romney’s stump speech includes a patriotic reading of stanzas from “America, the Beautiful,” ostensibly to prove that no one (certainly not that Europe-emulating president named Obama) can match his star-spangled patriotism. Listening to Romney, though, I was mostly inspired to recall the great Senate filibusters of yore, when exhausted legislators would read aloud fragments of poetry and pot-liquor recipes to run out the clock.

The sad thing—for those of us who love the spirited competition and hairpin turns of traditional New Hampshire primaries—is that Romney almost certainly will get away with his evasiveness. As a reporter chronicling his ninth New Hampshire primary (dating back to the days when George Bush boasted that he was “up for the Eighties”), I can recall no contested race in either party this devoid of energy. It feels like the primary is being conducted underwater, with every movement slow and exaggerated.