NORTHWOOD, IOWA—The Welcome Center rest stop on Iowa's northern border lives up to every stereotype associated with the Hawkeye State. The barn-styled building has a cowhide pattern in every corner, and the coffee shop serves delicious apple pie and cheap drip coffee. Brochures tout a range of local attractions, from the American Gothic House to a Maize Maze, Matchstick Marvels (a museum of matchstick art), and the World's Largest Truckstop (one of my personal favorites).
For its panel on “mak[ing] Congress work” this morning, No Labels—a group that bills itself as “a voice” for the “silent majority”—assembled a group of current and former lawmakers to solve the problems of partisanship and polarization. Among the members present were Senators Joe Lieberman, Joe Manchin, Bill Nelson, and Dean Heller; Congressman Jim Cooper; former Senator Evan Bayh; former Congressman Micky Edwards; and David Walker, the former comptroller general. There was a standard issue list of bipartisan reforms: an end to negative campaigning against fellow members, filibuster reform, pay for performance, and nonpartisan primaries.
Imagine you had told Republicans in December 2008 that three years from then, when Barack Obama would be running for re-election, the country would still be mired in the economic doldrums, with unemployment at 8.6 percent and job creation barely keeping up with increases in population. "Great!" they'd say. "There's no way we could lose the 2012 election!" Yet here we are, with the party about to choose between one terribly flawed, unlikeable candidate and a second terribly flawed, unlikeable candidate. No matter which one gets the nomination, you'll be hard-pressed to find a Republican who thinks they've got this election in the bag.
Voters in most states have little recourse to combat the onslaught of restrictive voter-ID laws Republican majorities have passed in 2011. For the most part, they'll have to wait until the 2012 election to replace their legislators and hope that these laws (such as photo-ID requirements and repeals to same-day registration) can be taken off the books. But a number of states will tackle voter suppression directly via ballot referendums.
One law of politics (and I use that term loosely; the laws of politics are a lot more mutable than those of, say, thermodynamics or North Dakota) is that when a presidential primary process looks essentially decided, the party establishment steps in to endorse the presumptive nominee and pressures the other candidate, or candidates, to drop out of the race. It’s never in the party’s interest to drag the contest on, particularly when it means that said presumptive nominee will continue to be subjected to more criticism from his intraparty rival or rivals.
Ding! Welcome to "Ringside Seat," The American Prospect’s daily guide to Election 2012. Each afternoon we'll send an end-of-the-day compendium of the campaign news you might have missed—but shouldn’t. Please send tips to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Rick Perry finally found a sense of vigor and cowboy swagger when he took the debate stage at Drake University this weekend. In previous debates, the Texas governor either stumbled his way through inept and forgetful answers, or would just assume a sleepy gaze during the second half with nothing to add to the proceedings. But in the latest contest, he ripped into Mitt Romney, instigating the night's most memorable moment when Romney reached his hand over and offered a $10,000 bet against Perry.
I missed this last week, but a recent Gallup survey shows the public’s disdain for the current Congress and its members:
A whopping 76 percent of Americans do not believe that most members of Congress deserve to be reelected. This is in addition to Congress’ historically low approval ratings — 13 percent approval in the last Gallup survey — and the public’s intense dislike of Congress; 64 percent of Americans rate the ethics and honesty of congressmembers at low or very low.
If you can get past the attacks on President Obama, the disregard for actual economic conditions, and the assertion of “philosophical decreptitude” in American liberalism, you’ll find a smart point about the GOP presidential debates in Fred Barnes’s latest op-ed for The Weekly Standard. For your sake, I’ll just post it here:
Besides aiding Obama, Republicans have hurt themselves in numerous ways by letting the debates be the organizing events of the campaign. The stronger candidates have been diminished by appearing, debate after debate, on equal footing with also-rans whose chances of winning the party’s presidential nomination are nil.
The US Supreme Court issued a surprise stay late Friday evening that in effect could decide which party controls the US House majority after the 2012 election. A little over two weeks ago, a three-judge panel in San Antonio threw out new congressional maps drawn by the Texas legislature earlier this year. One of the fastest growing states in the country, Texas gained four additional US House seats after the 2010 census. Most of that growth can be attributed to the state's booming Hispanic population, which now represents almost 40 percent of the state.
Our conservative readers (and yes, there are some) might be interested to know how liberals view the rise of Newt Gingrich to a clear lead in the race for president, and the answer is, we're gobsmacked. We just can't believe the Republican Party would be foolish enough to nominate a man who has so many weaknesses and is so plainly (from our perspective, anyway) repellent.
By and large, this year, the Republican presidential debates have been great for Mitt Romney. For the most part, they’ve played to his strengths—his command of policy, his “presidential” appearance, and his skill as a debater—and haven’t brought much attention to his weaknesses. What’s more, thanks to their outsized influence on the nomination contest, they’ve been the place where Romney’s rivals have collapsed on themselves, from former Minnesota Governor Tim Pawlenty’s “Obamaneycare” miss, to nearly everything said by Texas Governor Rick Perry.
There are plenty of reasons to remain skeptical of Newt Gingrich's surge over the past few weeks. Sure, he's ahead in recent polls out of Iowa, South Carolina, and Florida. But Republican voters have proved fickle this election, bouncing from one candidate to the next gaffe after gaffe. After his campaign almost ran out of money and his staff fled over the summer, Gingrich had one of the thinnest field operations of any candidate—it was so disorganized that he won't even be on the primary ballot in Missouri after missing the filing deadline.
Herman Cain isn't the only candidate who dropped out this fall. Dozens of Mitt Romney doppelgangers who've outlived their usefulness have, too. Some of the Romneys haven't even dared to show their faces again—pro-choice, pro-health-care Romney, for instance, hasn't dared go out in public this primary season. We've compiled a list of many of the different Romneys that have popped up over the years below in the hope that it will help voters, not in a quest to find the real Romney—we doubt his existence—but to help you discover which one you could vote for.