It’s no exaggeration to say that the Romney campaign has developed a reputation for political ruthlessness. In Florida, with the help of super PACs and a massive fundraising advantage, they crushed Newt Gingrich—they drove him from the state and relished in the lamentations of his supporters.
The media has anointed Rick Santorum as the newest frontrunner in the GOP race after he clinched three victories last Tuesday night in Minnesota, Colorado, and Missouri. That bump translated into a steep rise in the national polls, with Santorum trumping former favorite Mitt Romney in four of the last five by as much as 15 percent. RealClearPolitics now gives Santorum a 1.6 percent edge in their polling average.
Last Thursday evening, President Obama raised a tidy $1.4 million for his re-election campaign at a private Washington fundraiser hosted by a lesbian couple from Chicago. The event inspired an unusually tart headline at ABC News: “Obama, No Same-Sex Marriage Supporter, Solicits Cash at Home of Lesbian Couple.” But the apparent contradiction came as little surprise to the LGBT community, which has seen the president tap the “gay-TM” freely and frequently while he continues to oppose marriage equality. The fundraising efforts have been stepped up in 2012, with Obama touting the repeal of “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” and his administration’s refusal to defend the Defense of Marriage Act in court as reason enough for LGBT donors to keep giving.
For a time, it looked as though Newt Gingrich would be the Romney alternative that the religious right and Tea Partiers would coalesce around. Now Rick Santorum has taken that spot after a string of victories in primaries last week and a huge rise in national polls. In a new ad, Santorum challenges Gingrich on another front: Which candidate can claim the most historical gravitas.
The ad features a series of quotes over soaring orchestral music as images of Santorum flash across the screen. "I adore Rick Santorum's conviction," the ad quotes Mike Huckabee, despite the former Arkansas governor's neutral stance on the 2012 race. "Santorum … one of the 25 most influential evangelicals in America," the ad quotes Time.
Public Policy Polling has been a boon for political journalists over the past few years, partially for their extensive and accurate numbers—they were the only ones noting the rise of Rick Santorum in Minnesota last week—but also for their sense of humor. In addition to surveying the major political races, PPP tackles the all-important topics such as which NFL player is more popular than all of the presidential candidates (Tim Tebow of course) or how Stephen Colbert would perform in the South Carolina Republican primary.
Republicans finally came to their senses yesterday and realized they were waging a losing battle with their opposition to a payroll tax extension. The two-month extension Congress passed in December was set to expire by the end of this month, and Republicans were adamant that any further extension be paired with equal spending cuts. Democrats balked, instead suggesting a surtax on millionaires that the Republicans would never accept, and another last minute legislative showdown appeared inevitable. Then out of nowhere yesterday afternoon Congressional Republicans announced that they would drop their resistance:
Is Fox News moving to the center? That's the rather surprising question asked in this story in The Politico. The answer, on the surface, appears to be "sort of." There's a simple explanation for this, which we'll get to in a moment. But here's the essence of the story, which is about how true-blue conservatives are beginning to suspect that Fox is becoming just one more outpost of the liberal media:
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.