Paul Waldman

Paul Waldman is the Prospect's daily blogger and senior writer. He also blogs for the Plum Line at the Washington Post, and is the author of Being Right is Not Enough: What Progressives Must Learn From Conservative Success.

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Marco Rubio Moves Ahead With Campaign for Vice President

For the last couple of months, I've been skeptical about whether Marco Rubio is actually going to run for president. The most important reason is that he's up for re-election in 2016, and in Florida you aren't allowed to run for two offices at the same time. (Rand Paul is facing the same problem, but he's hoping he can convince the Kentucky legislature to pass a law that would enable him to do it, just because they like him.) So for Rubio it's a huge risk. If he gives up his seat to run but doesn't get the GOP nomination, his career would take a huge hit. It wouldn't necessarily be over, but he would have suffered a major setback, and getting back on track would require something like becoming Florida governor. And since he's only 43, he has plenty of time. He could run in 2024 if Hillary Clinton wins, or in 2024, or really any time between now and 2040.

But perhaps Rubio has concluded that fortune favors the bold, much as it did an ambitious first-term senator from Illinois eight years ago:

Sen. Marco Rubio has begun taking concrete steps toward launching a presidential bid, asking his top advisors to prepare for a campaign, signing on a leading Republican fundraiser, and planning extensive travel to early-voting states in the coming weeks, ABC News has learned.

"He has told us to proceed as if he is running for president," a senior Rubio advisor tells ABC News.

Leading the effort to raise the $50 million or more he’ll need to run in the Republican primaries will be Anna Rogers, currently the finance director for American Crossroads, the conservative group started by Karl Rove that raised more than $200 million to help elect Republicans over the past two elections.

Rubio is certainly a talented politician, but he's no once-in-a-generation talent. And unlike Obama in 2008, who knew there was really only one person he had to beat, Rubio is facing a huge field with some serious candidates in it (mixed in with a dozen nutballs). He has a better shot than some, but it's still going to be a tough slog.

However, what if the whole idea is for Rubio to be this election's John Edwards? He runs a respectable presidential campaign, being careful not to be too mean to the guy who wins, and then he gets chosen as that person's running mate. After all, he must know that he'd be a terrific VP pick. Youthful, Hispanic, from a key swing state—it's hard to think of a Republican who checks more boxes. So while he may have only a 20 percent chance of getting the nomination, he's probably got a 50 percent chance of being the running mate.

Of course, he doesn't have to run for president in order to be put on the ticket. So maybe he's just bored in the Senate. 


Photo of the Day, Bipartisan Outreach Edition

White House photo by Pete Souza

"OK, here's how this is going to work. I'm going to do a bunch of stuff that not only will you hate but will also make you look bad, while you whine and complain. But I'm going to do it anyway, because I'm the guy with the big office. Then I'll pass that office off to Hillary Clinton, who as I understand it is really looking forward to kicking your ass around town some more. How's that sound?" 

I'm just guessing that's what he said, judging by the grimace on McConnell's face. This photo was actually taken just after the 2014 election, but things haven't changed that much in the intervening two and a half months.

Let's Stop Pretending On Israel

So John Boehner knew how he could get back at Barack Obama: by inviting Benjamin Netanyahu to come before Congress and unload on the administration over its negotiations with Iran, which both Republicans and Likudniks find insufficiently belligerent. In my Plum Line post today, I suggest that maybe this is a good thing, if it finally gets us to all admit that Israel is a partisan issue, and American and Israeli politicians are partisan participants in each other's politics. Here are some excerpts:

For years we've had one party (the Republicans) that is fervently committed to the right-wing Likud's vision for Israel, and another party (the Democrats) that is much more committed to the Israeli Labor party's vision. When each holds the White House, they put those beliefs into policy. But both will say only that we all have a bipartisan commitment to "support" the Jewish state, as though what "support" means is always simple and clear….

Benjamin Netanyahu is the leader of his country, but he's also the leader of that faction, and at the moment he's in the midst of an election campaign (one the Obama administration would be all too happy to see him lose). If Congressional Republicans want him to come be a spokesperson for the Republican position in the debate over Iran, that's fine. But we should use the occasion to allow ourselves a little honestly. Yes, the United States and Israel are close allies whose core interests are aligned. But in neither country is there agreement about how to serve those interests. There's no such thing as a "pro-Israel" position on this issue, because Israelis themselves have a profound dispute about it, just as there's no such thing as one "pro-America" position on anything we argue about.

So we can call this speech what it is: an effort by one conservative politician to help a bunch of other conservative politicians achieve their preferred policy. Maybe afterward, John Boehner can return the favor and cut some ads advocating Netanyahu's reelection.

Here's the rest. And if you haven't had enough of me today, here's my first column for The Week, about "American Sniper" and the latest wave of political arguments over pop culture. Also, very soon I'll be doing leash reviews for Dog Fancy and bunsen burner analysis for the Journal of Fluid Dynamics

Santorum '16 Will Be Neither Kinder Nor Gentler

Flickr/Gage Skidmore

Mike Huckabee used to say "I'm a conservative, but I'm not mad about it," a line that always got a knowing chuckle. But let's say you like Huckabee's uncompromising social conservatism, but you aren't so keen on supporting a candidate for president in 2016 who's personally friendly and affable. Is there someone out there advocating cultural revanchism who also hasn't smiled since Ronald Reagan left office? Whose vision of the future is built on disgruntlement and disgust? Why yes there is:

Rick Santorum met today with advisors to map out a possible new presidential bid aiming to avoid some of the mistakes that doomed his last candidacy.

A socially conservative former senator who was one of Mitt Romney's biggest rivals for the 2012 Republican presidential nomination, Santorum is taking more steps toward another run, meeting Wednesday with a group of advisers who would join a possible campaign, planning some of the details and laying out what a bid might look like.

The four-plus hour meeting was described to ABC News by an aide who attended as a discussion of "lessons learned" from the 2012 campaign that they could use to improve their operation if he "makes the leap." The group also got into more detailed planning that never happened before his last run, the aide said.

Among the topics discussed were Santorum's potential timeline for a decision and possible roll-out, finance and fundraising plans, possible staff additions, early-state movements, communications strategy, political discussions, and putting the experiences and lessons from 2012 "into practice." The goal would be to turn some of the "roadblocks" they faced into "speed bumps."

The biggest roadblock is that Santorum is a deeply unpleasant person, which would be a problem even if his views were acceptable to a majority of the electorate, which they aren't. But he apparently wants to change. Benjy Sarlin reported the other day that Santorum's 2016 message "puts less stock in bashing gay marriage and more in bashing immigration," which could reflect an evolution among Santorum's potential voters. That great-uncle of yours who listens to Limbaugh, watches O'Reilly, and is in a perpetual state of near-rage over how the America of his youth is gone? Maybe he's starting to accommodate himself, just a little, to the march of the gays.

Not that he's any less repulsed by them and their desire for domestic tranquility, mind you, but he's come to understand that that particular battle is just about over. Immigration, on the other hand, has more urgency than ever. He sees it all around him—people speaking Spanish everywhere he goes, cowardly Republicans talking about "reaching out" to voters who aren't even real Americans, and if he hears "Para español, oprima dos" one more time he's going to blow his top.

Rick Santorum hears those voters, and wants to be the vessel for their outrage. Nevertheless, the idea that he could go through an entire campaign without talking about sex and sin is absurd. It's his thing. People are going to ask him about it, and he's going to answer. And that will no doubt be entertaining.

I think having Santorum in the race is quite salutary. Even if his chances of winning the nomination are miniscule, he represents a significant portion of the GOP electorate (don't forget, he won the Iowa caucus in 2012). His is a perspective that should be heard and understood, even if most party leaders would rather he disappeared.

Photo of the Day

First Lady Michelle Obama indoctrinates innocent children in some kind of bizarre communist-inflected cult; you can tell by the fact that the hats, which one assumes are used for the purpose of breaking the children's spirits through humiliation, are in fact red. The liberal media will continue to ignore this story.