Rick Santorum came up short in Michigan on Tuesday night, but it was of no matter. After months of turmoil he'd achieved a primary goal of his presidential campaign: his Google problem. That's right. When normal, God-loving Americans direct their web browsers to Google and type in the former Pennsylvania senator's last name they are no longer greeted by spreadingsantorum.com as the first result.
Senate Democrats think they have Republicans backed into a corner. In response to the hullabaloo around the Obama administration's decision on covering contraception in health-care plans, Missouri Senator Roy Blunt has offered an amendment to allow any employer—not just religiously affiliated organizations—to refuse to cover any health-care service—not just contraception—based on "religious beliefs or moral convictions." The battle over reproductive rights has already allowed Democrats to paint Republicans as antagonistic to women and, needless to say, Senate Dems are gleefully forcing a vote on the measure tomorrow to get their opponents' extremist take on the record.
The implications of Mitt Romney's Michigan win are still being parsed, but the calendar leaves little time for the campaigns to rest. Super Tuesday is in less than a week, and a total of 437 delegates in 10 states is at stake. The media have coalesced around the idea that Ohio is the only race that matters. The candidates have followed their lead—this morning Romney was campaigning in Toledo, and Rick Santorum called in to a Dayton radio station.
According to the most recent survey by Middle Tennessee State University, Rick Santorum is leading the pack among Republican voters in the Volunteer State. 40 percent of voters say that they favor the former Pennsylvania senator, compared to the 19 percent who prefer Romney. Another 13 percent back former House Speaker Newt Gingrich, while Ron Paul takes 11 percent. Because Tennessee’s 58 delegates are handed out proportionally, however, Santorum will have to win big in order to close his 80-delegate gap with Romney.
The Nate Silvering of election analysis—the endless and addictive parsing of exit polls and demographics and historical precedents and outliers and predictive models and Intrade odds—has made campaigns increasingly look, to politicos at least, more like science than art. But there is one “predictive model” that matters more than any other—and it’s entirely the province of unmeasurable, flesh-and-blood, gloriously subjective intangibles. It’s also refreshingly simple: In general elections, the best campaigner wins.
Greg Sargent outlines one “nightmare” scenario should Republicans win the White House and take the Senate:
If Republicans regain the Senate, will they seek to reform the filibuster, sweeping away an obstacle that bedeviled Dems and making it far easier for them to enact their own agenda with a simple Senate majority? […]
For all the Sturm und Drang of the last few weeks, Mitt Romney will begin March in the same way that he began February—as the front-runner for the Republican presidential nomination. Rick Santorum is at his heels as the latest avatar of the conservative movement, Ron Paul is the libertarian gadfly of the race, and Newt Gingrich has receded to the background as a virtual non-factor. Except that he isn’t.
Eight years ago, following his Democratic primary defeat, Howard Dean and some of his supporters formed Democracy for America (DFA). Among them was Howard’s brother Jim Dean, who now serves as chair of the million-member activist group. The Prospect sat down with Jim Dean to discuss the left’s lack of leverage in Washington, Occupy’s lessons for activists, and why—with a presidential election looming—DFA has shifted its focus to the states.
New York's Jon Chait has speculated, with his characteristic perspicacity, that Olympia Snowe’s statement of non-candidacy for the Senate may have also been a statement of candidacy for the Americans Elect presidential slot. He further noted that the endorsement yesterday of Wall Street’s favorite third party by former Oklahoma Senator David Boren (D-Exxon Mobil) sets up a proper Americans Elect ticket, since the group stipulates that its ticket must be made up of one Democrat and one Republican (or two independents).
There's a time-tested formula in advertising sometimes called "Get 'em sick, then get 'em well." You show viewers a terrible problem, getting them worried and uneasy ("Do you have eyelid fungus? Probably!"), then introduce the product that solves the problem ("Thanks to EyeFungAway, I'm fungus-free!"). It works for politicians too—or at least it can. This new ad from Ron Paul is a great example of getting 'em sick without quite having the product that gets 'em well:
The music is intense, the visuals are fast and kinetic, and as everything swells to its climax, we await the warrior-hero who will run through these awful men with his broadsword and save us all...and here comes a tiny 76-year-old man in a suit two sizes too big for his wee frame. Most of the ad's remaining shots barely bother to show him, though he's in there somewhere if you squint. The best part is when after all that intensity, Paul's chirpy little voice comes on at the end to tell you he approved this message.
It may not be the best ad of this cycle (that would have to be this 86 seconds of pure awesome from Tim Pawlenty), but it does mark the first time that Paul has gone after Romney directly. I guess those back-room talks to get his son Rand on the ticket have broken down.
The only way Michigan could not have hurt Mitt Romney's bid for the GOP nomination was if he surpassed expectations and won big. An eight- or nine-point margin would have shown that Romney wasn't as weak as he looked; as with his win in Florida, in which the former Massachusetts governor won by 14.5 percentage points, it would have assured GOP leaders that despite weeks of bad news and worse performance, Romney can still turn himself around.
When Michigan Democrat Crystal Larson voted today in Dearborn Heights, she told CNN it “felt like I made a deal with the devil.” The devil, in this case, is Rick Santorum, whose quest to upset Mitt Romney in his native state is getting a boost from Operation Hilarity, the Daily Kos effort to convince Democrats like Larson to throw a wrench into the GOP campaign.
Mother Jones’ Andy Kroll reports that top Republican continue to “whisper” about a campaign to draft a new candidate into the presidential race, should Mitt Romney falter in Michigan:
On CNN Tuesday morning, Rep. Peter King (R-N.Y.), chair of the House homeland security committee, hinted at a whisper campaign among “top Republicans” who want a GOP favorite such as New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie or Rep. Paul Ryan (R-Wisc.) to enter the race if Romney loses the Michigan or Arizona primaries or struggles on Super Tuesday, when ten states controlling 437 delegates hold GOP primaries on March 6.
Rick Santorum's newfound frontrunner status can primarily be attributed to the weakness of Mitt Romney's candidacy. The former frontrunner has bobbled away his advantage through unforced errors and an inability to convince Republican voters that he truly is one of them. Santorum was just in the lucky position of being the last plausible Romney alternative. Though most of the credit lies on Romney's shoulders, the shift in political rhetoric over the past month has helped Santorum. The resurgence of culture-war issues like birth control arrived at a prime moment for a candidate whose career has been predicated on appealing to the social values of the religious right.
You know the parable of the scorpion and the frog: The scorpion asks the frog to carry him across the river, and the frog says, "But what if you sting me?" The scorpion replies, "Why would I sting you? If I do that we'll both drown." Then midway across the river, the scorpion stings the frog. "Why?" the frog cries, as they begin to sink to their doom. "It's my nature," replies the scorpion.
I keep thinking of this as in one election after another Republicans lash out at one large group of American voters after another in the hopes of holding on to the affections of the older white men who form the party's base. The people who run the party know that their continual efforts to stir up resentment, bitterness, and at times outright hatred at people who are not older white men do profound long-term damage to the party. But as a collectivity, the GOP just can't help itself. It's their nature...