Election 2012

Should Rick Perry Drop Out of the Debates?

By and large, debates aren’t a huge deal for candidates in a presidential primary. Because most Americans don’t watch them, their relevance is limited to primary voters and other party actors, and even then, an acceptable candidate doesn’t need to have good debate skills – middling skills are okay , provided candidates run an otherwise strong campaign. Texas Governor Rick Perry might be the exception that proves the rule. His campaign has not been bad, but his debate performances have been terrible. Even at his best, he is a disaster , flubbing basic facts, botching attacks on his competitors, and chastising the audience for disagreement . Perry’s debate skills are so bad that they’ve actually taken a toll on his campaign. Two months ago, Perry was the frontrunner in the Republican nomination contest. Today, he’s at the bottom of the pack, trailing with just 6 percent support from GOP voters. With that in mind, it’s not a surprise to learn that his campaign is rethinking its choice to...

Marco Rubio Won't Win Hispanics for the GOP

Everything about Senator Marco Rubio screams “vice presidential pick.” He’s young, charismatic, and ideologically acceptable to large swaths of the Republican Party. What’s more, he hails from an important swing state – Florida – and could help the GOP repair its fractured image with Hispanic voters. However, as The Washington Post notes , all is not well in the land of Rubio. Between his right-wing views on immigration, his opposition to the nomination of Sonia Sotomayor, and several small-scale scandals – including the recent controversy over his family history – Rubio isn’t as well placed as he initially seemed. In addition, the fact that Rubio is Hispanic doesn’t mean as much as it sounds, given the multiple Latino communities in the United States. As pollster Simon Rosenberg notes for The Post : “Despite being Hispanic, looking at his overall record . . . he seems remarkably ill-suited to be the one reaching out to the largely Mexican migrant community in the key battleground...

The Impermanent Majority

President Bush, left, puts his arm around White House Deputy Chief of Staff Karl Rove as they appear before reporters during a news conference announcing Rove's resignation, Monday, Aug. 13, 2007, on the South Lawn of the White House in Washington. (AP Photo/Haraz N. Ghanbari)
After George W. Bush was elected in 2000, his advisers and allies set about solidifying their control of Congress. In short order, the phrase "permanent Republican majority" started to get bandied about ( here is a reference to it in a Time magazine article from April 2001). That idea partly concerned efforts by Bush and Karl Rove to expand the Republican base to include groups like Latinos, but mostly referred to the House of Representatives. With the right mix of money, targeted legislation, and clever redistricting (the cocktail that landed Tom DeLay in jail), Republicans could make their grip on the House all but impossible to break. For a while, it seemed to be working. Republicans gained seats in 2002, then Bush won re-election in 2004, and a spate of books arrived explaining how Republicans were redrawing the American political map for a generation to come (see here , here , and here ). But it turned out to be anything but permanent. Democrats won back both houses of Congress...

Why Do Liberals Dislike Herman Cain?

Writing for Reason , Cathy Young tries to understand liberal hostility to Herman Cain: Whatever his merits or electability, Cain has inevitably drawn attention as the only African-American in the field. And, as a black Republican linked to the Tea Party—a movement often accused of racial animosity toward Barack Obama—he has become a magnet for a peculiar left-wing brand of race-baiting. To prove her point, Young plucks examples from “The Last Word” – where host Lawrence O’Donnell attacked Cain for his non-participation in the civil rights movement – and various internet forums. The problem, of course, is that neither of those are actually representative of liberals writ large. And I’m sure that if this were a discussion of the Tea Party, Young – who has written in defense of the movement on several occasions – would agree that it’s ridiculous to draw broad conclusions about a political movement from the conduct of a few actors. That’s not to say that there isn’t liberal hostility...

The Big Switcheroo of 2012

Americans really don’t like Congress, according to the latest The New York Times and CBS News survey : I’ve said this before , but extremely low congressional approval ratings tend to coincide with massive electoral shifts, as voters “throw the bums out.” It’s possible – and given President Obama’s current unpopularity, likely – that next year will see a complete switcheroo, as Democrats win the House of Representatives, but lose the Senate and the White House.

Getting the Details Right

The political corner of the Internet shared a nice laugh yesterday about Herman Cain's latest campaign ad. Cain's chief of smoking chief of staff Mark Block went on Fox News to explain the video. Megan Kelly asked if it was directed at farmers or workers in Detroit, rather than the West- and East-coast liberals in the media (contra the newsrooms staffed by chain smokers where I've worked). "I tell you, you walk into a veterans' bar in Iowa and they're sitting around smoking, and we are resonating with them," Block said. As National Journal notes , in 2008 Iowa banned indoor smoking for most venues, even bars frequented by veterans. I lived in Iowa at that time and my memories are full of disgruntled friends leaving their drinks to go shiver outside the bar doorway as they railed against the new law. It's a silly, immaterial flub for Block, though it is yet another sign that Cain is not running a real presidential campaign. Walk through most Iowa small towns and you'd spot the crowd of...

Rick Perry Revives Zombie Tax Lie

Aaaaarrrrrrgh! Family farms! Aaaaarrrrrrgh!
Let's be honest: the tax plan Rick Perry unveiled the other day is a bushel of bamboozlement inside a cartload of crap. That may not surprise anyone, but I have to point out Perry's embrace of an old zombie lie that should have been shot in the head with a crossbow (have I been watching too much Walking Dead ?) a long time ago. Says Perry's web site: In the case of family business owners and farmers, the [estate] tax often exceeds the ability of the family to pay. These heirs are consequently forced to sell off part, if not all, of their enterprise in order to pay the tax. Eliminating the death tax is necessary to protect family businesses, farms and jobs. No, no, no. I realize that it's a lot more appealing to say you want to eliminate the tax to help struggling family farmers than to say you want to eliminate it so Paris Hilton won't have to pay taxes, unlike people who work for a living. But the family farm myth has been debunked again and again. As a report from the Center on...

Do You Remember the Time?

Speaking of people who were supposed to be Republican stars, David Frum made a good point about former South Carolina governor Mark Sanford earlier today: This whole GOP race would have been radically different if Mark Sanford had been happier in his marriage. As far as ambitious conservative governors go, Sanford was the more intelligent alternative to Rick Perry. He married the Perry’s right-wing conservativism with competence and a more serious concern for policy. His career was centered on social conservatism and rock-ribbed opposition to government spending – to wit, he was one of the handful of GOP governors who loudly opposed the stimulus bill. Yes, he was untested on the national stage, but something tells me that he would have been a little more disciplined – and a lot more serious – than the Texas governor. And in a world where Sanford was the conservative choice, I’m not sure than Mitt Romney would be doing as well as he is now.

The Greatest Campaign Ad of 2011

In case you missed it, Georgia businessman Herman Cain has dropped a new campaign ad, and it’s terrible . In a good way. I’m not sure which is more hilarious: the terrible production values, the fantastic background soundtrack, or Cain’s knowing look at the end. Regardless, it’s safe to say that this is a classic on par with Carly Fiorina’s “ Demon Sheep ”. I should also say that this settles for good the question of whether or not Cain is a serious candidate for president. In short? No, he isn't.

The Return of Bobby Jindal

It wasn’t that long ago that Louisiana Governor Bobby Jindal was touted as the Republican answer to Barack Obama. Intelligent and charismatic, he had a compelling biography (as the child of Indian immigrants), and an abundance of raw political skill – no one becomes the country’s youngest serving governor by accident. With his string of conservative victories in the Louisiana statehouse and a large national fan base, he was poised to become a Republican superstar. But then this happened: Jindal’s attempt to offer the Republican response to President Obama fell flat on its face, with Jindal presenting himself as something akin to the real-life version of Kenneth the Page . Jindal’s post-speech career has been low-key. Despite his continued popularity within the GOP, he’s kept away from the national stage, and focused on his job as governor of Louisiana. If yesterday’s Louisiana Republican primary was any indication, it has paid dividends. As The Washington Post reports , Jindal won 66...

Herman Cain's Unlucky Strike

You must watch Herman Cain's latest campaign ad, via James Fallows. It starts off as a typical dry commercial with Cain's chief of staff hyping his candidate, but gets great right at the 40-second mark: Fallows questioned if this was an Onion parody, but that is in fact Cain's Chief of Staff, Mark Block. If memory serves me right, I've noticed him (or else it was some other dapper mustachioed man) taking cigarrette puffs around Cain's bus at stops this fall. I won't begrudge a political staffer who needs a boost to help him through his time in small town Iowa, but the way the last shot lingers over the smoke is just too much. Though as Tim Murphy points out at Mother Jones , this isn't Cain's first foray into bizarre campaign ads.

Rick Perry Drops a New Tax Plan

By and large, Texas Governor Rick Perry’s “new” tax plan – outlined on the Wall Street Journal editorial page – is a retread of the “Cut, Cap, and Balance” plan favored by House Republicans in the summer’s negotations over the debt ceiling. The difference is that instead of a massive round of tax cuts for the wealthy, Perry goes with a hugely regressive reform of the income tax system. Perry explains, “The plan starts with giving Americans a choice between a new, flat tax rate of 20% or their current income tax rate.” The new tax preserves exemptions for mortgage interest and charitable donations, and increases the standard deduction for individuals and dependents. In addition, Perry’s plan contains a whole host of tax cuts for corporations: under Perry’s plan, the corporate income tax rate is lowered to 20 percent, and corporate income can be repatriated at a rate of 5.25 percent. Finally, Perry takes a page from the House Republican Study Committe with a budget plan that would slash...

The Most Inconsequential Debate

Yesterday I detailed how the leading figures of Iowa's evangelical community have all dilly-dallied about picking a favorite presidential candidate. As if on cue, one of those major players announced that he would be moderating one of the more bizarrely formatted debates of a modern presidential campaign. Rep. Steve King will referee a “modified Lincoln–Douglas debate” between Newt Gingrich and Herman Cain in Texas on November 5. It should be a bizarre exchange. Gingrich has been expressing an interest of late in a Lincoln-Douglas-style debate where he would no longer face pesky questions from journalists, but it was always in the context of facing Barack Obama in the general election. Where those candidates would readily hammer away at their differences, a Cain-Gingrich matchup should be a dull affair. The two have appeared personally friendly throughout the campaign and won't diverge too substantially on policy. About the only thing the debate proves is that—despite his rise in...

A Tale of Three Profiles

In the last few days, both the New York Times and the Washington Post have done long articles profiling Mitt Romney. What do they teach us? Well, let me give you what ink-stained wretches call the "nut graf" from each piece. Here's the Times : This time, he has shed much of the operational and psychological baggage that weighed down, and ultimately doomed, his maiden campaign. Gone are the extensive debate rehearsals, the bickering consultants, the corporate dress code and the urge to explain everything. That may explain why, for all his ups and downs, Mr. Romney’s public presentation and debate appearances have been far more consistent this time. And here's the Post : Ever since he stepped onto the national stage, Romney has been criticized as being unable to connect with voters — partly because of past positions out of step with many in his party and partly because of what some say is a wooden, detached personality. Although he has sharpened his campaign operation and mostly aced a...

Too Much of a Terrible Thing

Between the barrage of debates and parade of activity, it feels like we’re close to finished with the Republican presidential primary. Of course, not only are we more than two months away from the first contest in Iowa, but the large majority of Republican primary voters remain uncommitted to either of the candidates. According to the most recent survey from The New York Times and CBS News, “About eight in 10 Republican primary voters say it is still too early to tell whom they will support, and just four in 10 say they have been paying a lot of attention to the 2012 presidential campaign.” Moreover, about 10 percent of voters say they want someone other than the available choices nominated. Of the Republicans polled, 25 percent say they support Georgia businessman Herman Cain; Mitt Romney garners 21 percent support, and Texas Governor Rick Perry has weakened to 6 percent support. That said, with 80 percent of Republican voters undecided, now is too early to discount Rick Perry, or...

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