“I don't think American elections should be bankrolled by America's most powerful interests," President Barack Obama said during his 2010 State of the Union, staring down the six Supreme Court Justices in attendance. It was a week after the high court issued its decision on Citizens United. That landmark ruling—followed shortly by a D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals' decision in Speechnow.org v. Federal Elections Commission that removed the $5,000 donation limit for political-action committees (PACs)—led to the development of super PACs that can receive unlimited campaign donations as long as they do not directly coordinate with the candidates on messaging and ad creation.
This November, when Barack Obama faces off against his Republican opponent, there will be a third candidate in the race, too. This candidate has already qualified for the ballot in 14 states, including California. The campaign to ensure the candidate’s ballot access in all 50 states has raised $22 million (more than the campaigns of every Republican presidential candidate except Mitt Romney), with which it has employed 3,000 paid signature gatherers and enlisted 3,000 volunteers.
With Rick Santorum’s Tuesday sweep in Colorado, Minnesota, and Missouri, the number of non-Romney “surges” in the GOP presidential contest now threatens to eclipse the number of debates. Pundits respond every time in competing choruses: the “It’s Not Over Yet!” song of jubilation, and the “Sorry, Mitt Is Still Inevitable” retort. It can be as tiresome as hearing Romney recite snatches of “America the Beautiful”—and it presents the campaign as a largely substance-free succession of stats and fundraising numbers and demographics.
The Pew Research Center is out with one of its big reports about news use and politics, and as usual there's a lot of interesting stuff there, if this happens to be your thing. I want to point to one result, about perceptions of "bias" in the news. On one level, it's about what you'd expect: Republicans see a lot of bias in the news, particularly with Tea Party Republicans. That's because they're the most intense partisans, and they've spent 30 years marinating in an ideology that puts their oppression at the hands of a vicious liberal media at its center.
Rick Santorum might be the media darling of the day after his clean sweep in last night's three elections. But that likely won't mean much for his future electoral prospects. Those three elections did not actually award any delegates—two (Minnesota and Colorado) were nonbinding caucuses, and the Missouri primary has been termed a beauty contest, with the states' delegates actually selected by another vote later this spring.
It’s no secret that super PACs skew toward the wealthy set. However, a new study from Demos (editor's note: Demos is The American Prospect's publishing partner) and U.S. PIRG highlights how few people are running the money game this election cycle and how secret some of their contributions can be. Since the birth of super PACs in 2010 until the end of 2011, 93 percent of the itemized funds raised by super PACs from individuals were more than $10,000. That’s only 726 people.
Despite the fact that Mitt Romney chose not to compete in Missouri and Minnesota—and spent little time in Colorado—his loss last night in all three states, to Rick Santorum, has been spun by the media as a terrible wound for the former Massachusetts governor. MSNBC’s Michael O’Brien described the results as “upsetting” to Romney’s status as the front-runner, while The Washington Post said that it would slow Romney’s march to the nomination. For The New York Times, this race was an “upset” that “raised fresh questions about Mitt Romney’s ability to corral conservative support.”
Super PACs are the breakout stars of the 2012 election cycle. Like one of Newt Gingrich's mistresses, they're technically independent of the candidates they support but can still besmirch a reputation. In recent weeks, Gingrich has called on Mitt Romney to disown statements made by the “millionaire friends” who've donated to his super PAC, while Newt himself took heat for an ad produced by a pro-Gingrich PAC slamming Romney’s record at Bain Capital.
In the summer of 2008, revving up for the general-election campaign against John McCain, Barack Obama raised some eyebrows by telling a group of Philadelphians: “If they bring a knife to the fight, we bring a gun.” He wasn’t talking about fundraising specifically—he was emphasizing his ability to give a punch as well as take it—but he might as well have been: Obama also dismayed some supporters by eschewing the public financing system to make sure he had more than enough artillery ($750 million, in fact) to fend off the Republicans that year.
If you've been on the internet in the last day or so, you've no doubt seen discussion of Congressman Pete Hoekstra's ridiculous ad in which a young Asian woman with a straw hat around her neck rolls up on her bike next to a rice paddy and talks about incumbent Democratic senator Debbie Stabenow in broken English: "Debbie spend so much American money, you borrow more and more from us. Your economy get very weak. Ours get very good." And so on, including bestowing the nickname "Debbie Spenditnow" on the senator. Zing! Yes, of course it's absurdly racist, trying to get Michigan voters to fear the yellow menace. But my problem is this: does it have to be so amateurish?
My home state of Minnesota holds its caucus today, and no one really knows how the election will turn out. Public Policy Polling rolled out numbers last night that gave Rick Santorum a decent lead with 33 percent of the vote followed by Mitt Romney at 24 percent, Newt Gingrich at 22 percent, and Ron Paul bringing up the rear with 20 percent. Besides PPP there has been little polling in the state, and tracking numbers on Sunday had all of the candidates clustered together, so it's really anyone's guess how the caucus vote will roll in tonight. It's a nonbinding caucus, so the results themselves won't play a role in delegate math.
The most important thing about conservative activist Erick Erickson’s latest lament for the Republican presidential field isn’t his declaration that he would endorse the “sweet meteor of death” over any of the current candidates. It’s that, in the same segment, he resigned himself to supporting the eventual nominee in the general election.
Among political scientists, it’s well known that the “independent voter” is a myth. When pressed, the large majority of voters lean Democratic or Republican and tend to vote like partisans, consistently supporting their party of choice. The only difference between a strong partisan and a “weak partisan leaner” is that the latter are reluctant—for whatever reason—to place themselves in one camp or the other.
The Obama campaign is setting the presidential election contest ablaze with its second designer clothing collection. Runway to Win features fashionable 2012-themed apparel created by some of fashion’s heaviest hitters. The line launches February 7, with profits going toward the Obama re-election effort.
Conservatives spent Monday being outraged about the Chrysler Super Bowl ad featuring Clint Eastwood. They were upset that the great Western hero and former Republican would highlight Detroit manufacturing, which they argued was an implicit endorsement of Obama's policies. “I was, frankly, offended by it,” Karl Rove said on Fox News. “I'm a huge fan of Clint Eastwood. I thought it was an extremely well-done ad, but it is a sign of what happens when you have Chicago-style politics, and the president of the United States and his political minions are, in essence, using our tax dollars to buy corporate advertising."