When an election is some time away, pollsters typically ask people, "If the election were held today, who would you vote for?" It often seems like a silly question, because of course the election isn't today. But eventually, today comes. We imagine that up until the election, people's beliefs about the candidates are unformed and not held with much conviction. But as Election Day approaches, those beliefs harden, to finally come to fruition in the vote.
The latest survey from The Washington Post and ABC News shows former House Speaker Newt Gingrich with a crushing lead in the Iowa Republican caucuses. Thirty-three percent of Iowa Republicans support Gingrich’s bid for the Republican presidential nomination, compared to 18 percent support for former Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney, 18 percent support for Congressman Ron Paul, and 11 percent support for Texas Governor Rick Perry. What’s more, Gingrich leads on the concrete questions as well. On the question of electability: “29 percent of likely caucus-goers say Gingrich represents the Republicans’ best chance to defeat President Obama in 2012, while 24 percent say so of Romney.”
For many members of Congress, it must seem truly strange to observe the current Newt Gingrich boomlet. This is, after all, the same Gingrich who was run out of Washington 13 years ago after his party suffered a rare midterm loss that left Republicans barely hanging on to control of the House. Gingrich not only stepped aside as speaker but resigned his congressional seat.
PolitiFact, which has become the premier fact-checking entity in American journalism, just announced its nominees for its annual "Lie of the Year" award. This is, of course, a gimmick designed to bring more attention to the group's work. There's nothing wrong with that—lots of organizations do similar things. But because PolitiFact has built a good reputation among journalists (not unchallenged, though—it's been criticized by both the right and the left at various times, and some of those criticisms have been valid), it has a good deal at stake in making sure its "Lie of the Year" is as persuasive as possible. In other words, the decision will be political.
By any reasonable account, Donald Trump's pseudo-debate should be laughed off as a media spectacle. Ron Paul had the appropriate response, immediately rejecting the invitation. His campaign chair said that the debate "is beneath the office of the presidency and flies in the face of that office’s history and dignity."
Unfortunately, Newt Gingrich—who never passes up the opportunity for a good clown show—is the field's current front-runner. "This is a country of enormously wide-open talent. You know, Donald Trump is a great showman. He's also a great businessman," Gingrich said yesterday after an hour-long meeting in New York with Trump.
Mitt Romney is a veritable scholar of the evil art of flip-flopping. His definitive lecture on the subject can be found here (and here is an example of Mitt Romney practicing the witchcraft of which he speaks). He is also an influential expert on the art of not taking a stance at all, as evidenced in
ViaTPM's Benjy Sarlin comes this devastating five-minute video of Mitt Romney railing against the dangers of politicians with shifting policy views. Only this was in 2004, when Romney was just the moderate governor of a liberal state, not the wannabe presidential candidate who would say whatever it takes to earn his party's nomination.
Where Newt Gingrich's new Iowa ad waxes poetic about American exceptionalism, Ron Paul goes for the Spike TV production route in his new commercial set to air in Iowa and New Hampshire. Titled "Big Dog," the ad doesn't actually feature Paul himself until the necessary approval tag at the end. Instead, it's a series of flashy graphics set to intense rock music, as buildings explode to represent the federal agencies he would abolish (outdoing Rick Perry by two, Paul has five he would ditch: Education, Interior, Energy, HUD, Commerce) and an 18-wheeler runs over the image of a government bureaucrat.
Republicans have closed access to the ballot for millions of Americans all in the name combating voter fraud, largely a fairy-tale threat drummed up by Fox News in the wake of ACORN.
With model legislation provided by the America Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC), the new wave of Republican state legislatures elected in the 2010 midterms proposed a series of similar bills across the country. Some states, like North Carolina, still had Democratic governors to veto the legislation, and in others such as Maine, the voters turned against the new bills.
Even though the Republican presidential nomination is set to kick off when Iowans head to their local schools and community centers for the caucuses in just 30 days, I'm skeptical of current polls. Over the weekend, the Des Moines Register found that 64 percent of likely caucus goers have yet to see any of the candidates in person. Besides the national debates, they haven't seen many on their TV screens either; Ron Paul was the only candidate with significant commercial buys earlier in the year, and the rest of the contenders are only now beginning to purchase airtime.
Presidential primary campaigns used to have a predictable script, one that went as follows. Before anyone started campaigning, journalists declared one candidate to be the early front-runner, based on his standing within "the establishment," that shadowy group of party insiders whose string-pulling power, attenuated though it might be, still exists. This candidate was often a sitting or former vice president (George H.W. Bush in 1988, Al Gore in 2000) or had run before and fallen short (Bob Dole in 1996, John McCain in 2008). If no such person could be found, the candidate who looked strongest on paper could be a reasonable substitution (George W. Bush in 2000, John Kerry in 2004, Hillary Clinton in 2008).
For a member of the conservative establishment, the last two weeks have not been ideal. Your nominal candidate — former Massachusetts governor Mitt Romney — has not been able to consolidate his position among Republican voters, and has hit a wave of intense criticism as Democrats and Republicans begin to wonder about his core beliefs, or lack thereof. Under normal circumstances, you might switch your vote to another candidate, but the emerging alternative is Newt Gingrich, whose poor record as House Speaker is tarred by affairs, adultery, and a series of shady business ventures. Democrats are gleeful over the possibility of a Gingrich nomination, and for good reason; it would give President Obama a huge advantage in the general election.
The Des Moines Registerreleased its well-regarded Iowa Poll over the weekend. Newt Gingrich topped off the field with 25 percent support a month out from the Iowa caucuses. It's a complete turnaround from his performance in the first two Register polls this year—one in June and another just a little over a month ago—in which the candidate only notched seven percent. Ron Paul comes in second with 18 percent, a sizable jump from his standing in the previous two polls.
Earlier this week, Herman Cain announced that he was "reassessing" his campaign in light of the allegations he had an extramarital affair and charges of sexual harassment. This afternoon—in an event marked by fanfare and enthusiasm—Cain followed up on that announcement with a decision to suspend his bid for the Republican presidential nomination. “I am suspending my presidential campaign because of the continued distraction and the continued hurt caused on me and my family,” said Cain in his speech to supporters. “It’s not because I’m not a fighter,” he explained, “It’s just that when I went through this reassessment of the impact on my family … my supporters … as well as my ability to raise the necessary funds to be competitive, we had to come to this conclusion.”
Ted Widmer's op-ed on the difficulty of being in the third-year of a presidential administration is beautifully-written, chockfull of wonkalicious presidential history, and very smart. If you're going to read one article before the weekend, make it this one.