It was the most annoying and insulting refrain of the 1988 Democratic primaries: “What does Jesse want?” What the Reverend Jackson wanted, of course, was the nomination—which he came closer to winning than anybody seems to remember. And now it’s back, Ron Paul-style. “His goal is to make himself leader of the opposition—within the Republican Party,” writes Charles Krauthammer. “He is Jesse Jackson of the 1980s.” (Unless he’s the Pat Buchanan of 1992, that is.) The Hill was a bit less subtle, asking in a headline: “What does Ron Paul want?” Jackson probably likes this version no better than the original, particularly with more racist passages from Paul’s 1990s newsletters being unearthed all the time. But we’re sure to keep hearing the question repeated for months, as Paul piles up delegates. Does he want a big speech at the convention where he can espouse his contrarian views in prime time, a la Buchanan’s infamous culture-war speech? Does he hope to have enough delegates to influence the foreign-policy platform, particularly on Israel? Does he want to run a third-party candidacy that destroys Mitt Romney’s chance to beat Obama? Maybe, maybe not, but that’s all small potatoes for a man on an ideological mission.
What Paul wants is ultimately not very mysterious: He wants to spread his libertarian economic gospel, which has already planted deep roots in the GOP, and he wants to popularize his non-interventionist ideas, which challenge the party’s orthodoxy even more. As Mark Steyn writes at National Review, “Ron Paul represents a view of America’s role in the world, and one for which there are more and more takers after a decade of expensive but inconclusive war.” Speculation aside, the plain fact is that Paul’s already getting what he wants.
So They Say
“You know, I—I looked at what has been done in—in campaigns in the past, with Senator McCain and President George W. Bush and others. They've tended to release tax records in April, or tax season. I hadn't planned on releasing tax records, because the law requires us to release all of our assets, all the things we own. That I've already released; it's a pretty full disclosure. But—but, you know, if—if that's been the tradition, then I'm not opposed to doing that. Time will tell. But I anticipate that most likely I'm going to get asked to do that around the April time period, and I'll keep that open.”
—Mitt Romney, clarifying whether he’ll release his tax records in last night’s South Carolina debate.
Daily Meme: Newt’s Big Night
- As Romney floundered, his command performance gave him a lifeline … or did it?
- His defense of calling Obama a “food-stamp president” got 'em on their feet…
- … but also highlighted the GOP’s inability to appeal to blacks.
- He reminded folks why he was once the front-runner.
- So, could a “second surge” be in the offing?
What We're Writing
- Paul Waldman writes that despite his pattern of “cringe-worthy comments,” Romney is still the Republicans’ best chance to beat Obama.
- Abby Rapoport looks at what the messy Texas redistricting battle will mean for minority representation.
What We're Reading
- Oops: Romney admits to his low tax rate.
- Awkward: Obama will give his acceptance speech in Bank of America stadium.
- One million Wisconsonites want to recall Governor Scott Walker.
- He’s baaack! Herman Cain resurfaces, with a PR boost from Steven Colbert’s super PAC.
- He who laughs last will be President Obama, argues Andrew Sullivan.
- Nancy Pelosi is clearly enjoying the Republican primaries.
- Twitter fight! Obama vs. Romney.
Poll of the Day
According to national polls, Romney is the overwhelming favorite to get the nomination. Out of 16 competitive primary races since 1972, the candidate ahead in the polls after New Hampshire became the nominee 13 times. The only outliers? Hillary Clinton, Edmund Muskie, and Gary Hart.