Not that it really matters, but Rick Santorum's campaign is facing even more trouble than expected. While his fate as the runner-up was sealed weeks ago, that didn't become the prevailing narrative until Mitt Romney's clean sweep on Tuesday night. The presumption after those results was that Santorum would stick around for a few more weeks, hanging on until his home state Pennsylvania votes on the April 24 and then concede given Romney's insurmountable delegate lead.
Since leaving Congress, Newt Gingrich managed to put together a souped-up version of the way congressional heavy hitters make a living after leaving the life of legislating. As befitting a world-historical figure like himself, simply signing on with one of Washington's elite law firm/lobby shops wouldn't be enough. Instead, Gingrich constructed what I like to call GloboNewtCorp, a network of quasi-think tanks, policy centers, and publishing enterprises whose role was to promote all things Newt. They worked symbiotically, each feeding off each other's work. So for instance, if you're a health-care company, you could pay six figures to Newt's Center for Health Transformation, you weren't only paying for Newt's access to powerful Republicans, you also saw your favored policy ideas show up in the products of other arms of GloboNewtCorp, like Newt's op-eds and books.
One would imagine that a presidential campaign could only aid GloboNewtCorp in acquiring new clients and new income, heightening Newt's visibility and reputation as a visionary, knowledgeable insider. But it seems to have had the opposite effect. This morning we learn that the Center for Health Transformation, one of the cornerstones of Newt's empire (the "for-profit think-tank" raked in $55 million over the last decade), has filed for bankupcy protection. And I predict that it won't be the last arm of GloboNewtCorp that suffers because of Gingrich's presidential campaign...
Via Mike Allen’s Playbook, here’s Joe Scarbourough on yesterday’s Morning Joe with a few candid thoughts on what Republican leaders actually believe about Mitt Romney’s candidacy:
“Nobody thinks Romney’s going to win. Let’s just be honest. Can we just say this for everybody at home? Let me just say this for everybody at home. The Republican establishment – I’ve yet to meet a single person in the Republican establishment that thinks Mitt Romney is going to win the general election this year. They won’t say it on TV because they’ve got to go on TV and they don’t want people writing them nasty emails.”
In a new tactic that TPM appropriately called the "I'm rubber, you're glue" strategy, Mitt Romney has decided to accuse President Obama of being too vague in his plans for a second term. Once you get past the absurdity, there's something meaningful going on. But first, to Mitt's charges: "Nancy Pelosi famously said that we would have to pass Obamacare to find out what was in it. President Obama has turned that advice into a campaign strategy: He wants us to re-elect him so we can find out what he will actually do. With all the challenges the nation faces, this is not the time for President Obama's hide and seek campaign." Riiiiight.
This probably seems to you like a weird accusation to make. After all, Obama's plans for a second term seem pretty clear: more of the same! You may think that'd be great, or you may think that'd be a hellish nightmare, but either way it's not like it's some big mystery. It isn't as though he's going to come out and really shock us with some new policy turn that is totally different from the kind of things he's been doing for the past three years. But that's what you think only if you don't reside deep in the heart of the Republican base, which is where the key to this appeal lies...
You’ve no doubt heard last night’s big news already: Barack Obama clinches the Democratic nomination for president! It was just a tad bit quicker and cleaner than in 2008. Meanwhile, the other party also held primaries in Maryland, D.C., and Wisconsin—and Mitt Romney swept them, as expected, relegating Rick Santorum’s longshot hopes to the dustbin. So what, pray tell, will the political punditsphere find to chatter about while we wait for the fall? There’s always the old faithful vice-presidential speculation (see Daily Meme, below). There’s also—dare we dream?—a meaningful debate beginning to percolate.
I'm sorry, but I refuse to let this one go, even if I have to repeat myself. Time's Alex Altman writes, "A very conservative party is on the verge of nominating a relative moderate whom nobody is very excited about, largely because none of his rivals managed to cobble together a professional operation." I beg you, Alex, and every other reporter covering the campaign: If you're going to assert that Mitt Romney is a "relative moderate," you have to give us some evidence for that assertion. Because without mind-reading, we have to way to know whether it's true.
What we do know is that when he ran in two races in the extremely liberal state of Massachusetts, Mitt Romney was a moderate. Then when he ran in two races to be the Republican nominee for president, Mitt Romney was and is extremely conservative. There is simply no reason—none—to believe, let alone to assert as though it were an undisputed fact, that the first incarnation of Romney was the "real" one and the current incarnation of Romney is the fake one.
As gloomy as liberals can sometimes be, it's been a long time since there was a presidential election in which Democrats actually thought their presidential candidate was certain to lose. The last one would have to be 1984, and before that, 1972. But in the 28 years since Ronald Reagan got re-elected, there hasn't been a Democrat who has been totally blown out of the water, an election in which even his own partisans thought he had little or no chance. The closest would have been Michael Dukakis, who famously had a 17-point lead after his convention, even if he did end up losing by a healthy 7-point margin.
But if you listen to Joe Scarborough, Republicans have basically given up on winning in November. He's not the first person to say it (George Will suggested a month ago that the time to give up on the presidential race was coming), but we haven't heard anyone of his prominence say so vociferously that Republicans are all thinking this one's over, as Scarborough did on today's "Morning Joe"...
The good news for Mitt Romney is that the Republican presidential primaries are effectively over; with his decisive win in Wisconsin—and his victories in Maryland and Washington, D.C.—he has established himself as the presumptive nominee. To wit, his victory speech was light on red meat, and heavy on his critique of the Obama administration, with a new variation on his claim that the president sought a society of equal results:
We can officially call the GOP nomination, or so sayeth a team of experts at The New Yorker. Teaming with political scientist Josh Putnam of the blog Frontloading HQ, Ryan Lizza and Andrew Prokop gamed out the remaining primaries and caucuses, using demographic data from the states that have voted thus far to project vote totals in next several months of contests. They go through their extensive calculations in the post, but the gist of their conclusion is as follows:
Romney currently has 504 delegates. And so, according to our model, he is projected to end the contests on June 26th with 1,122 delegates.
Mitt Romney's struggles to win over the conservative wing of the GOP base have often been dismissed as a problem for the general election. Even if evangelicals and social conservatives in Alabama want to vote for Rick Santorum over Romney, they're unlikely to turn around and cast their ballot for Barack Obama in November.
One of the strange things about living in Washington, D.C. is the ongoing presence of lots and lots of Republicans. In my adult life I've lived in two other large cities (San Francisco and Philadelphia), and in both of those members of the Grand Old Party are not only few in number but nearly invisible. Sure, there are a few cities where Republicans are plentiful (Dallas, I hear), but on the whole the more urban the area you're in, the more likely Democrats are to dominate the place's political, cultural, and social life.
But here in the nation's capital, Republicans are plentiful. You see them going in and out of think-tank offices, traipsing about Capitol Hill, even walking down the street in broad daylight. Famous ones, ordinary ones, ones in all sizes and ages and genders. They're everywhere...
"We won without winning!" So said longshot candidate George Wallace after taking a surprising 34 percent of the vote in the 1964 Wisconsin primary, but it might as well be a prediction of how Rick Santorum will try to frame today's primaries. Mitt Romney is comfortably ahead in Maryland and the District of Columbia (where Santorum isn't even on the ballot), and the front-runner is currently ahead 7.5 percent in Real Clear Politics' average of the polls in Wisconsin.
It’s clear that the Republican elite no longer wants to see this nomination contest drag on any longer. Sought after endorsers such as Paul Ryan and Marco Rubio have finally lent their support to Romney, and on Sunday Senator Ron Johnson said that he had been selected by Minority Leader Mitch McConnell to coordinate the message between the Romney campaign and Senate Republicans. The early calls for Santorum’s departure will become an avalanche if, as largely expected, Romney runs up the delegate score in tonight’s primaries.
Are you ready for some campaignin'? (Flickr/Obama campaign)
Barack Obama's re-election campaign has finally begun in earnest, with a TV ad hitting Mitt Romney as an ally of the oil industry and a speech coming up later today in which he'll attack Paul Ryan's budget, which almost every Republican in the House voted for and Mitt Romney endorsed. Ryan's budget won't ever pass, but it's a pretty forthright ideological statement, and the Obama campaign is endeavoring to make sure everyone understands where it's coming from. And in doing so, he's offering more hints that his campaign could actually turn this into more of a real debate about fundamental values, and less of a clown show about things like who loves America more.
Easter is a minor gift-giving holiday in the American calendar, and for the last year—and counting—President Obama’s Easter gift has come in the form of House Budget Chairman Paul Ryan. Last year, Ryan penned the “Roadmap,” a budget document for House Republicans that laid out their priorities for the long-term: deep cuts to existing social programs, deep cuts to Medicare, and big tax giveaways to the wealthiest Americans. With the Tea Party at the height of its power, Republican lawmakers were eager to sign on to Ryan’s “right-wing social engineering” (to borrow a phrase), even if it was anathema to public opinion.