TAPPED

Being Wicked Smaht Not Sufficient to Win in Massachusetts

Ben Smith shares this clue that the 2012 elections will be as high-minded as ever: Byron emailed over a press release from the Massachusetts GOP, which points out that Elizabeth Warren couldn't name a Red Sox player when she was asked yesterday. The release goes on to compare Warren's comments to Martha Coakley's "infamous gaffe" in 2010, and calls it a sign that Warren "comes from a world of Harvard elitism and is far removed from the middle-class values she claims to represent." This didn't start with Martha Coakley, of course -- there's a long and storied history of candidates trying and failing to demonstrate their jus' folks bona fides by demonstrating their knowledge of and affection for the foods and sports and music and culture enjoyed by regular people. But it's good to remind ourselves of what exactly it's supposed to symbolize when a candidate struggles to remember the price of a gallon of milk, or how to spell "Youkilis." Those things are supposed to give us insight into...

Why a Battle of the Budget is Looking Unlikely

While Obama's jobs proposal and the Super Committee have dominated Beltway chatter this week, the more urgent issue of the moment is the looming threat of a government shutdown. Here's where things stand: The House and Senate have yet to pass the 12 appropriations bills that will fund the government's 2012 budget, and current spending is set to expire on October 1. When the same problem arose at the beginning of the year, John Boehner and House Republicans used the threat of a shutdown to get additional cuts. This time around, because Congress and the administration already came to a deal on 2012 spending as part of the debt ceiling deal passed in August, we aren't supposed to go through that again. Unless, of course, House Republicans renege on the deal. TPM 's Brian Beutler explains where there could be grounds for a fight: That leaves open the possibility that Republicans will try to husband some of that money -- a few billion dollars worth -- to pressure Democrats to deal with...

Pennsylvania GOP Abuses Constitution and Disenfranchises Black Voters for Fun and Profit!

As far as the Constitution is concerned, each state is allowed to determine how it allocates its Electoral College votes. Most states hew to a winner-take-all system, but a few – Maine and Nebraska – allocate theirs by congressional district: your electoral vote total depends on the number of congressional districts you win, not your total vote share. As Mother Jones ’ Nick Baumann reports , Pennsylvania Republicans want to join the club as part of a partisan effort to add another obstacle to Barack Obama’s reelection efforts. Baumann covers the basics of the plan: Because of their hold on the governorship and the state legislature, Pennsylvania Republicans have complete control of redistricting. As a result, Pennsylvania will likely enter 2012 with 12 safe Republican congressional seats. Barring a pro-Democratic electoral wave, this would almost guarantee 12 electoral votes for the Republican nominee, regardless of actual performance during the election. And because the Constitution...

What Lobbying Isn't

In the other night's Republican debate, Michele Bachmann charged that the reason Rick Perry tried to mandate that girls in Texas get a nefarious "government injection" of Gardasil to prevent infection with HPV, which causes cervical cancer, was that Merck, the company that makes the drug, gave Perry political donations. Perry responded that the company only gave him $5,000, and he was offended at the idea that he could be bought for so little. It turns out that over his whole career Perry has gotten a total of $23,500, but Matt Yglesias makes the relevant observation, which is that the fact that Perry's former chief of staff was the lobbyist for Merck is what made the difference: I'd say there are two main factors behind Perry's decision. One is that the call is very defensible on the merits, so when the aide-turned-lobbyist shows up with $5,000 and an argument on behalf of his client he actually has a strong argument. The other is that the argument is being made by a former chief of...

Haven't We Seen This Movie Before?

Hilarious/depressing headline of the day, from Politico : On Jobs Bill, White House Bets On Boehner's Support President Barack Obama needs House Speaker John Boehner’s help to muscle a jobs bill through Congress, but he’s betting that Boehner needs the win just as badly. The White House strategy rests on the risky assumption that Obama can sell Boehner on a new political reality: With voters desperate for jobs, neither leader can afford to do nothing. They can't actually be serious. Look, maybe sending out this message is part of the White House's strategy. Maybe they understand that there is no way anything meaningful on jobs passes the Congress, so once again they're going through the motions of seeking Republican support for the American Jobs Act, and when that fails, they'll use it as one more piece of evidence that Republicans are mindless obstructionists willing to sabotage the economy to serve their political ends. Republicans, on the other hand, are never going to agree to...

Special Elections are "Special" for a Reason

If the economy were a little stronger, and unemployment a little lower, there’s a good chance that New York’s 9th District would have remained in Democratic hands despite the indiscretions of its former congressman, Anthony Weiner. But the economy is weak, unemployment is high, and voters are unhappy with President Barack Obama. In yesterday’s special election, Republican Bob Turner capitalized on that discontent to score a decisive win in the New York 9th, a heavily Democratic district that hasn’t had a Republican representative since 1922 . Naturally, this electoral upset has led to mountains of spin from both Republican and Democratic leaders. Texas Republican Pete Sessions, who chairs the National Republican Congressional Committee, called the election “a rebuke of President Obama’s policies,” and declared that “an unpopular President Obama is now a liability for Democrats nationwide in a 2012 election that is a referendum on his economic policies.” Does the election represent...

Too Much Hat, Not Enough Cattle?

In responding to a post by Ross Douthat comparing Rick Perry to Howard Dean ("who many Democratic primary voters wanted to support, because he was speaking their language and gleefully throwing insults in the teeth of a president they hated, but also a candidate whose weaknesses were obvious enough that he couldn't finally make the sale"), Jonathan Bernstein makes a good point : Here's the thing. What Dean meant for the Democrats in 2004 wasn't just that, as Douthat says, his public persona on the campaign trail...seemed to embody all the stereotypes associated with blue state liberals. What mattered a lot more was that he was pure and clean on the one issue that passionate Democratic activists cared the most about that year: Iraq. Many liberals that year -- well, not that year, but 2003 -- were basically very willing to overlook the plain and obvious fact that Dean wasn't really much of a liberal. Perry's situation is a bit different. The thing about Republican primary voters and...

Obama Returns to Large Leads Over All Republicans

Texas Governor Rick Perry is still the front-runner in the Republican presidential contest, but according to the latest Public Policy Polling survey , his standing has slipped in head-to-head matchups with President Obama. As of this week, Obama’s lead over Perry has grown from 6 points in the August national survey to the current spread of 52–41 -- an 11-point difference. And while you can attribute some of this to Obama’s stronger standing with Democratic voters -- a result of his pitch for the American Jobs Act -- the size of the shift points to Perry’s worsening standing with swing voters as a result of his attacks on Social Security. Of the Republican presidential hopefuls, former Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney is the only candidate to bring Obama below the 50 percent threshold. Even then, he trails the president, 45–49. For Obama, this is a nice improvement over his August performance, when Romney tied him with 45 percent of the vote. As for the rest of the field, Obama...

Giving Away the Show

I think Jamelle's post below perfectly captures the flavor of last night's GOP debate, in which what was generally a contest to see who could be more wingnutty was occasionally interrupted by a candidate put on the defensive because they had done or said something reasonable. I'm not surprised, given this, that one challenge Michele Bachmann made to Mitt Romney has gotten less attention. Bachmann asserted not only that Romney couldn't be trusted to repeal the ACA but that the Massachusetts health bill he signed was unconstitutional: "No state has the constitutional right to force a person as a condition of citizenship to buy a product or service against their will. It's unconstitutional." She has made similar claims before. Officially, Bachmann is going off the reservation when she says that Romney's health-care bill is unconstitutional. Legal challenges to to the Affordable Care Act have generally argued that the bill exceeds Congress's powers under the Commerce Clause, an argument...

The Real Story from Last Night's GOP Debate

When it comes to Republican presidential debates, we’re reaching a point where the behavior of the audience overshadows the rhetoric of the candidates. At last week’s debate in California, for example, audience members cheered when Texas Governor Rick Perry defended his frequent use of the death penalty. It’s hard to believe, but that paled in comparison to the bloodlust and callousness on display at last night’s Tea Party debate in Florida. There, the audience moved the bar for outrageous behavior up a notch. Indeed, it wouldn’t be an exaggeration to describe last night’s audience as the id of the Republican Party. To wit, here are the moments that generated either the most applause -- or the most disdain -- at last night’s event. At the midpoint of the debate, moderator Wolf Blitzer pressed Rick Perry on his decision to mandate the HPV vaccine for 12-year-old girls. Perry defended his choice, and in response, Minnesota Congresswoman Michele Bachmann declared that it was “flat out...

Put Me In, Coach...

I don't mean to mock, but here's what George W. Bush told HBO, according to Gawker , about his most nervous moment as president. Turns out it was when he threw out the first ball at a Yankee game after 9/11: The adrenaline was coursing through my veins, and the ball felt like a shotput. And Todd Greene, the catcher, looked really small. Sixty feet and six inches seemed like a half-mile. And anyway, I took a deep breath and threw it, and thankfully it went over the plate. The response was overwhelming. It was the most nervous I had ever been. It was the most nervous moment of my entire presidency, it turns out. You could say "What about starting the Iraq War?", but that creates anxiety of a different kind. What Bush is talking about here is the anxiety associated with performance. Am I going to do OK, or will I screw it up? But I would have said his debates with John Kerry -- on which his entire presidency could have hinged, with tens of millions of Americans watching -- would have...

Today in SAT Prep: Romney Is to Clinton as Perry Is to Obama

Today, still 14 months out from the Republican National Convention, some journalists remain wary of thinking the race could be over so soon despite Rick Perry's impressive polling. Amy Gardner at the Washington Post wrote yesterday that "Republicans are still shopping for a presidential nominee" and Ken Rudin argued on his NPR blog that the 1972 primaries provide historical evidence that all candidates should be considered viable nominees, especially this early in the game. However, we don’t need to go back decades to show that predictions of Perry winning the nomination are not necessarily premature; we only need to go back to the last presidential election. At first glance, it seems the 2008 Democratic primaries prove exactly the opposite: Clinton was a frontrunner, and Perry is the current frontrunner, so isn’t it logical to assume that Romney or a new candidate could still win the primaries? Not exactly. Rick Perry is polling ahead for the same reason Obama eventually won his...

The Problem of a Romney Presidency

A decade ago, political scientists Lawrence Jacobs and Robert Shapiro wrote an excellent book called Politicians Don't Pander , in which they argued convincingly that the popular image of politicians slavishly following public opinion to determine where they should change their positions was bunk. That, however, was before Mitt Romney emerged on the scene. Yes, Mitt has a pandering problem, but if you're a Republican, it's really two problems. The first is that Mitt's reputation for pandering is so firmly entrenched that it would make it easy for the Obama campaign to paint him as, well, an untrustworthy panderer who'll say anything to get elected. And since this has been widely viewed as Romney's principle character flaw for some time, it will be the topic of extensive press discussion during a general election. He won't be able to escape it. The second problem for Republicans is that if Romney wins, he might not be reliably conservative in his policies. The reason is that once he...

Will the White House Welcome GOP Hatred of the Jobs Act?

If I were tasked with crafting the Republican Party’s legislative strategy in the wake of President Obama’s jobs speech, here’s what I would suggest: Instead of mindless opposition to the president’s proposal, craft a small-bore plan and pass it as the American Jobs Act. When this neutered bill fails to produce the benefits promised by Obama, attack him as hapless and ineffectual. It’s foolproof! That is, unless your party is dominated by lawmakers and activists with a categorical opposition to anything that looks like compromise, even if it yields political advantage. Here’s Politico with an inside look at the GOP’s response to President Obama’s jobs pitch: “Obama is on the ropes; why do we appear ready to hand him a win?” said one senior House Republican aide who requested anonymity to discuss the matter freely. Republicans are committed to winning the presidency in 2012, and as a result, they are uninterested in any legislation that might give the president a “victory,” even if it...

Tim Pawlenty Goes Back on a Year of Campaigning, Endorses Mitt Romney

Throughout his failed campaign for the Republican presidential nomination, Tim Pawlenty positioned himself as the anti-Mitt Romney. In campaign ads and speeches, Pawlenty defined his campaign in opposition to Romney’s: Where Romney was once pro-choice, Pawlenty was always against abortion; where Romney pioneered the individual mandate for his Massachusetts, Pawlenty always stood against universal health care; and where Romney was the candidate of the Republican establishment, Pawlenty sought to represent the right-wing base. Of course, none of this worked. With his two terms as governor of Minnesota and his blue-collar appeal, Pawlenty seemed like a great choice on paper , but in practice, he was lackluster and disappointing -- qualities exemplified during the second Republican presidential debate, when he walked back his attacks on Romney and shied away from a confrontation with the then-front-runner. With all of that said, it comes as a big surprise to see that Tim Pawlenty has...

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