As Jamelle noted, a new Washington Post/ABC News poll reinforces what other polls have shown, that folks haven't really taken a cotton to Mitt Romney. Most worrying for him is that only 35 percent of independent voters view him favorably. The good news for him is that voters, having already been disappointed with him, won't go through that inevitable period of a presidency in which your unreasonably high hopes are dashed and you turn against the president.
The creation of those unreasonable hopes requires two things: an inspiring individual and an inspiring story. Sometimes "change" is enough of an inspiring story, but without the inspiring individual, change doesn't sound poetic and glorious. And all along, Romney has presented himself primarily as an effective manager, which might be what you need, but it won't make your heart go all aflutter.
Tea Partiers descended on the Capitol Tuesday afternoon to voice their disapproval of Obamacare as the Supreme Court debated the constitutionality of the individual mandate, which will require citizens to purchase health insurance or else face a nominal fee once the bill has been fully implemented in 2014. Initially a conservative solution—originating at Bush's favorite think tank The Heritage Foundation—the mandate has come to symbolize conservative distaste with the bill that will expand coverage to millions of currently uninsured Americans.
Throughout the year, Mitt Romney’s favorability ratings have been consistently under water; by double-digits, more Americans dislike than like the former Massachusetts governor. As time went on—and voters grew familiar with him and his record—the assumption was that this would improve. So far, however, it hasn’t. According to the latest poll from ABC News and the Washington Post, Romney has an unprecedently high unfavorability rating. Fifty percent of Americans have an unfavorable view of the presumptive Republican nominee, while 34 percent rate him positively.
Today wasn't a good day for Obamacare. As Mother Jonesreporter—and Prospect alum—Adam Serwer pointed out on Twitter, it was as if "Obama's lawyer brought a butter knife to a bazooka fight." In the aftermath of the second day of hearings on the Affordable Care Act, the fate of the legislation seems much more precarious thanks to Solicitor General Donald Verrilli's unfortunate stab at defending the individual mandate. When you're going in against the big guns—andPaul Clement and the Supreme Court bench are pretty scary people to face—you come prepared.
It’s obvious that the GOP is beginning to panic about their poor performance with Latino voters. The Hill, for example, reports that Senate Republicans are working on a watered-down version of the DREAM Act, in an attempt to win back some Hispanic support. Senators Jon Kyl and Kay Bailey Hutchinson are working on one variation, while the GOP’s Great Latino Hope—Senator Marco Rubio of Florida—is working on another. Both are expected to be unveiled when Mitt Romney official wins the Republican presidential nomination.
The Afghanistan War is on shakier ground with each passing day. The Obama administration has been eying the conflict warily for some time, and the massacre of Afghani citizens by an errant soldier has forced the White House and its NATO allies to re-evaluate the conflict and its potential end date. According to reports, the Obama administration is weighing if it should speed up the withdrawal of the troops before the 2014 exit date. The 33,000 sent over as part of the surge in 2010 are scheduled to depart next summer, but that will leave 68,000 troops on the ground, and the administration is still considering whether to heed the advice of military leaders to leave the troops in place or to pack up and admit that the fight has become an impossible quagmire.
Picture this scene: A recently elected president announces that he will decline to place his hand on a Bible when taking the oath of office. When people object, he replies that he doesn't believe in God, so it wouldn't make much sense for him to go through the motions of a religious ritual when he does not share that religion's beliefs.
During the February 22 Republican primary debate in Arizona, moderator John King of CNN set up a question about global instability and the president’s ability to affect gas prices by noting that “the American people often don't pay much attention to what's going on in the world until they have to.” The next day, Politico media blogger Dylan Byers flagged the question, describing it “as a comment that warranted explanation” even though it was “not necessarily wrong.” Later that day, King sent Byers a statement defending his question, claiming that he “did not ‘suggest’ and
The GOP primary is finally starting to fall into the groove reporters and pundits have insisted it was in all along. Romney is comfortably ahead in delegates, endorsements, and attacks from Democrats, and his current opponents are having a harder and harder time proving their relevance. Newt Gingrich is finally starting to fade from the limelight; his insistance that his campaign will make it to Tampa falls increasingly on deaf ears as embedded reporters flee his side with alacrity. And Rick Santorum—the conservative point man in the race—is starting to buckle under pressure to cede the nomination to Romney so the party can turn its attention to beating Barack Obama.
A crowd of protesters outside the Supreme Court on the first day of ACA hearings (Photo: Patrick Caldwell)
The Supreme Court opened hearings today on the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act—PPACA if we're going to be technical—but more commonly known as Obamacare. The six hours slotted for oral arguments are spread out across three days, and while the constitutionality of the individual mandate is the main issue at stake, there will be a host of other topics discussed, ranging from severability (whether the rest of the law can stand if the mandate is struck down) to whether Congress was within its bounds when it redefined Medicaid eligibility to include swaths of new people currently uninsured.
It often happens that when campaign negativity reaches a fever pitch, a candidate will take a small step back from the vitriol and say something like, "My opponent is a nice guy—he's just wrong about everything." What they almost never do, however, is say, "My opponent is wrong about a lot of things, and if he gets elected, things won't be good. I'm not saying it'll be a disaster, but it'd be better if you elected me." The imperatives of campaigning lead candidates to spin out the most disastrous scenarios and apocalyptic warnings. And there's no doubt that some people believe them; you wouldn't have to interview too many Republican voters to find a few who sincerely believe that if Barack Obama is re-elected, within a few months freedom will disappear, Christianity will be outlawed, everyone's guns will be confiscated, and so on. But usually, presidential candidates—who know they must appeal to people who retain a grip on reality—try to keep these arguments within limits.
But not all of them. Ladies and gentlemen, Rick Santorum:
Rick Santorum won the Louisiana primary on Saturday by a huge margin. Despite the breathless media coverage, it doesn't mean much for the Republican nomination contest. What was true last week is still true now: Mitt Romney is the presumptive nominee, and all that's left is for him to accumulate the delegates he needs to make that official.
As we go through the remaining primaries, there are a few things you should look for. The first, and most obvious, is what party leaders have to say about the candidates. With Romney the unofficial winner, party leaders will want to begin to move to the general election, but that won't be possible if Santorum, Newt Gingrich, and Ron Paul are still contesting the eventual Romney nomination. As such, you should expect influential Republicans to try to push the remaining candidates out of the race. Already, Tea Party leader Jim DeMint has encouraged the other candidates to re-evaluate their decision to stay in:
As the Republican party has moved farther and farther to the right in recent years, I've often felt that practical discussions of the effects of policy have gotten less and less important. The true believers who now dominate the GOP—and the politicians who feel the need to pretend they're true believers—are much more comfortable talking about the role of government than they are talking about how you solve actual problems, so they make practical arguments almost half-heartedly. Listen to a Republican talk about how they'd solve the problem of over 50 million Americans without health insurance, for instance, and you'll hear something like, "Well, we need free market solutions that don't infringe on freedom, because Obamacare represents the most profound expansion of government since Joe Stalin, and big government kills freedom…" Ask them why the free market will work better than government when in this case the opposite has proven true again and again, and they'll quickly move back to the level of philosophy, because as on so many issues, it's much more about values than about the actual effects of policies. I'm sure Republicans aren't actively pleased about the fact that so many of our people have no coverage, but they don't care deeply enough about that practical problem to accept a solution that in any way violates their philosophical principles (or helps their political opponents, of course).
Liberals talk in philosophical terms far less often, in part because our philosophy tends to be less inclined toward rhetorically easy black-and-white constructions. That's why I was pleased to see this, from the Obama campaign:
Mitt Romney is ready to shake off the GOP primary and move on to the general election, and so is most of his party. He picked up Jeb Bush’s endorsement this week, and even the Tea Party has been tepidlygiving its OK to the front-runner. Meanwhile, the Republican National Committee is taking a page from the Obama 2008 playbook by getting a head start on general-election prep before the primaries conclude.
Even with his own sense of grandiosity, I doubt even Newt Gingrich truly believes a brokered convention is on the horizon. Mitt Romney, while still a weak candidate for the general election, is working his way steadily up to the required delegate count, and the leaders of the Republican Party—such as possible White Knight Jeb Bush—are throwing their lot behind Romney.
But Gingrich isn't quite ready to drop the line, and his reasoning for why a brokered convention would help his party has become specious to a hilarious degree. Yesterday he suggested that it'd help Republicans because a brokered convention would just be so much darn fun to watch. Via GOP12, here's what Gingrich said on CNN: