JACKSONVILLE, FLORIDA—I'm an avowed space nerd who would love nothing more than to see a human land on Mars during my lifetime. So last night's debate was the most entertaining for me of the unending series in this year's election. Thanks to vapid moderation from CNN's Wolf Blitzer, the majority of the debate was devoted to personal life questions better suited for Oprah's couch than a debate stage. He ended the night by asking the candidates why they were the most electable candidate, essentially requesting each of them to offer a shorter version of their usual stump speeches.
If there was a single moment in this campaign in which a candidate declared, "Here's a position that almost every American will find completely insane, but I'm taking it because Barack Obama sucks," it would have to be the time in one of the debates when Rick Perry declared that not only was he bummed that the Iraq war was over, but "I would send troops back to Iraq." Even his Republican opponents obviously thought that was crazy.
JACKSONVILLE, FLORIDA—The candidates declined easy chances to attack one another with a surprising frequency during last night's debate. "This is a nonsense question," Newt Gingrich said when moderator Wolf Blitzer provided a prime opportunity to attack Romney's tax returns. "Look, how about if the four of us agree for the rest of the evening, we'll actually talk about issues that relate to governing America?" Romney didn't buy the truce-talk. "Wouldn't it be nice if people didn't make accusations somewhere else that they weren't willing to defend here? " he said.
JACKSONVILLE, FLORIDA—Last night's GOP debate was a smashing success for Mitt Romney. For once, he had been properly coached on answers to rebut Newt Gingrich. He turned the tables on the former speaker, using the same confrontational tone that Gingrich had in past debates to great success.
We learned so many things during Thursday night’s GOP debate in Jacksonville. Callista Gingrich would be a swell first lady because she plays the French horn and loves the arts. If you’re a Palestinian-American, don’t bother asking a Republican candidate in Florida to acknowledge your humanity, or even your existence. Immigration policy is really all about undocumented grandmothers. Rick Santorum used to go to church with the governor of Puerto Rico. And Ron Paul is itching to take on the other candidates in a 25-mile bike ride in the heat of Texas.
Those who felt let down by Newt Gingrich’s muted performance at Monday night’s debate—and, really, who among us did not?—should expect to get their money’s worth tonight. Live from Jacksonville at 8 p.m., it’s Wolf Blitzer’s turn to be Newt’s media-elite piñata (and, happily, audience reactions will not be discouraged this time). But the former house speaker will have many more targets at which to aim his barbs—especially after a furious two-day bombardment by Mitt Romney and the right-wing media elite. Matt Drudge, Ann Coulter, R. Emmett Tyrrell Jr., and the editors of The National Review—to name a few—have declared all-out war on Gingrich.
COCOA, FLORIDA—Newt Gingrich took to the stage with an extra spring in his step yesterday. The presidential candidate has drawn many large crowds in Florida since his shocking South Carolina victory, but it was clear that this was something different from his standard stump speech. "What I'd like to do is a little different than most of the gatherings like this we've done," he said, hardly able to contain his excitement. "I'd like to use this as an opportunity to talk seriously about space."
Survey a room of Newt Gingrich supporters and one main common theme always arises; they eagerly await the general election when Gingrich will easily waltz past Barack Obama in every debate. Newt has always thought highly of his skill at the podium. Throughout the fall and winter his stump speech has included a promise that, should he gain the nomination, he will challenge Obama to a series of seven Lincoln-Douglas style debates with no moderator. He took that pledge a step further on Thursday, stating that he would bypass the normal debate commissions. "I would reject the so-called debate commission this fall," he said," because we have had enough of newsmen deciding what the topics are going to be."
As it turns out, Mitt Romney’s donations in 2010 and 2011 include a non-trivial gift to several organizations that could be charitably described as viciously anti-gay:
The Human Rights Campaign points out a report by CNN that says Romney’s charitable foundation gave at least $35,000 to antigay groups in 2010, with $10,000 going to the Massachusetts Family Institute, which ran radio ads last year warning parents that a transgender civil rights bill could lead to all manner of danger in bathrooms.
Despite the fact that Newt Gingrich has been in Washington since 1979 and makes his living as the head of an only-in-DC network of "think" tanks, media production companies, and influence-peddling operations that together form what I like to call GloboNewtCorp, he is now running as the enemy of the elite Washington establishment. Sure, it's because it's always fashionable to present yourself as an outsider, and Newt has no identity unless he's somebody's enemy. But there's also an element of truth beneath all that posturing. The Republican establishment really does want him to lose. It isn't because they fear his transformative vision of transformative transformation, as Newt would have people believe.
If this most recent poll from NBC News and the Wall Street Journal is any indication, the public is feeling a little better about our economic situation:
[R]esults from the poll, released Wednesday, found voters feeling more positively about the economy and of Mr. Obama’s handling of it. Some 30% believed the country was headed in the right direction, up eight percentage points from a month ago. Some 60% said the country was on the wrong track, down from 69% in December and from 74% in October. […]
COCOA, FLORIDA—In the Republican nomination contest, where evangelicals represent a broader segment of the voting population than the general election, it's widely accepted that Mitt Romney's Mormon faith could cost him. Romney's tax returns brought his faith back into the limelight when it was revealed that he does in fact tithe around 10 percent of his earnings to the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, as dictated by church rules.
The competition is stiff, but there may be no more abused word in political discourse than “populism.” (“pop·u·lism. A political philosophy supporting the rights and power of the people in their struggle against the privileged elite.”) It came in for a special flogging today, as pundits groped for ways to describe President Obama’s eloquent-but-mishmashy State of the Union address. Even The Hollywood Gossip was asking, “Will Populist Message Help Obama?” The answer is that it certainly could—if he had one.
Obama gave his 2012 State of the Union address last night, and all the eyes in the media and political world were tuned in. During the address, 766,681 SOTU-centric tweets were fired off, with 548 coming from inside the chamber. Despite the frenzy that takes over news rooms and congressional offices, the rest of the nation was more likely watching TheReal Housewives of Atlanta or Wizards of Waverly Place.