In a surprising change of heart, House Republicans agreed yesterday to extend the $100 billion payroll tax cuts through the end of 2012 without spending cuts to offset the cost. However, the concession may signal a shift in strategy, rather than a cave, on the issue.
As recently as last month, I couldn’t have predicted that Rick Santorum would be leading national polls for the Republican presidential nomination. That’s not to say that I didn’t think about it, but it seemed unfathomable. Not only does Santorum have the dubious distinction of having lost a re-election race by 17 points, but he’s been synonymous with extreme social conservatism for at least a decade.
Marriage-equality advocates notched a major win yesterday when Washington became the seventh state—and just the second west of the Mississippi River—to legalize same-sex marriage. There was less jubilation when, on the same day, the New Jersey Senate passed a marriage-equality bill by a 24-to-16 margin. The legislation is expected to pass the state Assembly when it comes up for a vote later this week, but Governor Chris Christie has promised to veto the bill when it comes across his desk.
The presidential campaign has given Republicans quite the reputation for fickleness. What’s with these people, flitting like moths from one conservative flame—Trump, Bachmann, Perry, Cain, Gingrich, Santorum—to the next? Why don’t they just settle on their one “electable” candidate and give us all a breather until the fall campaign? Perhaps it’s because they’re not fickle, but doggedly unconvinced that Mitt Romney has what it takes to win. This is a party, after all, that has suffered in recent election cycles with past-sale-date versions of Bob Dole and John McCain as its standard-bearers. Both were “electable” on paper, moderately conservative and presentable, but they stirred no hearts or minds among the rank-and-file of their party (or among independents).
Now that there's a lull in the Republican primaries (no contests between now and February 28, when Michigan and Arizona vote), journalists have a chance to do some of the think pieces that have been gestating in their brains over the past few months. One of the big topics, as Erica Fry of the Columbia Journalism Reviewexplains, is the search for Mitt Romney's soul. Who is he, really, and why? From whence did his inimitable Mittness spring? Many journalists and commentators are hard at work trying to figure it out.
The Obama campaign announced Monday morning that it would launch a new initiative termed Truth Team designed to combat Republican misrepresentation of the president's record. It's the successor to the 2008 campaign's Fight the Smears website, which corrected the common myths—such as his birth certificate or secret Muslim faith—through e-mail chains that year. "The GOP candidates are spending a huge amount of time attacking President Obama—no surprise," Deputy Campaign Manager Stephanie Cutter wrote in an e-mail to supporters. "But instead of basing their attacks on our differences of opinion, they've chosen to run on claims about his record that just aren't true."
For as much as the Beltway is focused on the Republican nomination fight—and whether Mitt Romney prevails through conservative hostility—the other story of this year, so far, is President Barack Obama’s growing popularity with the public. Last week, in the latest poll from TheWashington Post and ABC News, Obama broke 50 percent for the first time since last spring. Of course, you need more than a single survey to establish a trend, and the numbers for Obama were so positive that last week’s poll could have been an outlier.
Social issues were low on the agenda when organizers constructed the schedule for this year's Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC).
The three-day schedule featured only a few main stage panels on the culture wars that have motivated the movement for the last two decades. It was obvious the social conservatives were on the defensive: The most star-studded group discussion—featuring anti-ERA leader Phyllis Schlafly and moderated by National Organization for Marriage co-founder Maggie Gallagher—on "The Phony Divide Between Fiscal & Social Conservatives" focused on explaining why social issues weren't irrelevant in a time of economic turmoil. The few side-room panels on abortion and same-sex marriage drew few big names, resulting in sparse attendance. The take-away was clear: Conservatives concerned with the culture wars were expected to sit back this year and let the anti-tax, anti-government regulation zealots take the stage.
For a while now, I’ve been convinced of Mitt Romney’s eventual triumph in the Republican presidential primary. It’s not that he was the most well-liked or conservative candidate—we have years of evidence to show that neither are true—but that he was the only candidate with a campaign that could win. So far, however, Republicans have done everything they can to avoid the Romney coronation; they made Rick Santorum a viable player with a win in Iowa, they elevated Newt Gingrich with South Carolina—and after a stop in Florida, where Romney pummeled his opponents with negative advertising—they have returned to Santorum with wins in Minnesota, Missouri, and Colorado.
You have to imagine that Mitt Romney gave himself quite the pep talk this morning before his big Conservative Political Action Conference speech in Washington. Where his address at the 2008 CPAC signaled the end of his campaign, this afternoon he needed to jumpstart his 2012 run, especially since the people in the audience have been the hardest for him to woo. But, true to form, he did far more resume-waving than rabble-rousing.
CPAC, DC—The Citizens United case is back in the news this week with the Obama campaign's announcement that they would coordinate to help raise funds with the super PAC Priorities USA. As the presidential campaign ramps up, it's easy to forget what the actual Citizens United organization is: a mini-film studio with a conservative bent.
The group is all over CPAC this week, airing their films in the CPAC Theatre, hosting a blogger briefing Wednesday, and sponsoring a panel Thursday morning titled "Advancing the Pro-Life Movement through Media.” And of course, they also have a booth selling DVDs of their various films in the CPAC vendor basement.
REPUBLICAN CENTRAL, DC—Every Republican presidential nominee is speaking in CPAC's main ballroom today except Rep. Ron Paul. He sent his son, Sen. Rand Paul, in his stead last night and the libertarian's message is being spread—if not always explicitly—down in the CPAC dungeon of booths.
Unless there’s a psychic shift in the Republican Party soon, this past Tuesday evening the campaign for its presidential nomination became sui generis. On its face, the race conforms to the establishment-versus-insurgency template that’s characterized past contests, such as the 1976 GOP race in which Ronald Reagan nearly took the nomination from sitting incumbent Gerald Ford, and the 1980 race in which Edward Kennedy couldn’t liberate Jimmy Carter of the Democratic nomination, so he stole the party’s heart instead. The dynamic in both cases was that once the party dutifully resolved to remain in its marriage to the dour Gerald Ford or Carter, it had one last doomed fling with heartthrobs Reagan and Kennedy in order not to forget who it really yearned for.
If you spend your time amongst politically-involved liberals these days, you've probably participated in a lot of head-shaking conversations, along the lines of, "Wow, is this Republican race awesome, or what?" It is, without doubt. And one of the things it has showed us is that, what political scientists call "candidate quality" is a more complicated factor than we usually think. And Mitt Romney turns out to be the most complicated candidate of all.