Patrick Caldwell

Patrick Caldwell is a writing fellow at The American Prospect.

Recent Articles

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...

Bob the Builder Bails on Perry

He dropped precipitously in recent polls after conservatives began to question his stance on illegal immigration, but most political pundits still think Rick Perry has a strong chance at winning the GOP presidential nomination. Perry's still in the running in part because of the relative weakness of the rest of the field. Mitt Romney, who looks like the consensus candidate, has made a career of straying from conservative dogma, including passing universal health care as governor of Massachusetts. And the candidates who have stuck close to the Tea Party line, Michele Bachmann specifically, are mostly unserious contenders, whose campaigns appear predicated on book sales rather than governance. With Perry, conservative Republicans were supposed to have a serious candidate who, most importantly of all, brought a fundraising infrastructure to the game. He tallied over $17 million during his first month and a half as a candidate. Super PACs sprung up to tout his campaign before Perry had...

Bachmann’s Staff Revolt

For a time it looked as though Michele Bachmann would be Mitt Romney’s main opponent for the GOP presidential nomination. She launched her campaign in June to significant fanfare, gracing the covers of national magazines and rising to the top of polls in Iowa. She was expected to be a fundraising juggernaut based on her high-dollar US House campaigns. In August she finished first at the Iowa Straw Poll, pushing fellow Minnesotan Tim Pawlenty out of the race in the process. It turned out to be a short-lived streak. Rick Perry stole her thunder when he announced his campaign on the very same day Bachmann won the straw poll, replacing her as the front-runner. Her presence began to recede in the debates, only getting noticed when she made far-out statements scaring parents from vaccinating children. At Florida P5 in September—the next major straw poll after Iowa—Bachmann finished dead last, getting only 1.5% of the 2,600 votes. Now her campaign is officially in tatters. Late last week,...

Twisting the System

North Carolina was once among states with the lowest voter turnout in the country. But with new early-voting and same-day registration laws, the state had the nation’s largest increase in voter participation from 2004 to 2008. Bob Hall is the executive director of Democracy North Carolina, a group that lobbied for the laws and is fighting to keep them on the books. What’s been the impact of same-day registration and early voting in North Carolina? More than 100,000 first-time voters used same-day registration in 2008, and another 150,000 used it to update their addresses or names. We’re actually the largest state, population-wise, to have same-day registration, and the most diverse. North Carolina is a state that is suffering from the legacy of Jim Crow segregation, slavery, and forced disenfranchisement—a culture that teaches people that “politics is not for you,” and that’s what we’re trying to overcome. Early voting jumped to over a majority of votes in 2008, 2.4 million out of 4.2...

Iowa Conservatives Still Searching for a Candidate

Photo credit: Flickr/Gage Skidmore
Six of the Republican presidential wannabes traveled to Iowa this past Saturday to try to win over a crowd of over 1,000 evangelicals at the Iowa Faith & Freedom Coalition's banquet dinner in Des Moines. All of the major contenders (except Mitt Romney) spoke, playing up their social conservative bona fides for a crowd that could play a deciding role in the "first in the nation" state. Iowa Faith & Freedom Coalition—headed by president Steve Scheffler—is one of the state's most powerful conservative organizations thanks to the voter guides they hand out during elections and the lobbying they do in the state legislature, most often pushing anti-LGBT rights legislation. Scheffler was instrumental in building the coalition of Christian activists that tilted the state's GOP further to the right over the past decade. He spearheaded the Iowa branch of Pat Robertson's Christian Coalition in the 1990s, but bolted to form his own group called the Iowa Christian Alliance in the mid-2000s...

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