Around 150 bigwigs from the social-conservative movement gathered in Texas Friday night to endorse a candidate. Organizers didn't come out and say it, but the implicit goal of the gathering was to rally around a single alternative to Mitt Romney before he rolls past the competition in South Carolina and Florida. Surrogates for each candidate—save Romney and Jon Huntsman—addressed the crowd Saturday morning before the voting took place. The field was narrowed down through a series of votes until one candidate could attain two-thirds support.
With the South Carolina primary eight days away, and Rick Perry having morphed into the Incredible Shrinking Candidate, conservative Republicans are down to two options in their quixotic quest for a non-Romney. The only problem: One has already displayed more political personalities than Sybil, and the other specializes in social issues that nobody especially cares about in 2012.
When Mitt Romney talks about his nongovernmental experience, he tends to reduce it to a simple declaration: "I understand how the economy works." He probably says this to one audience or another a dozen times a day. What he doesn't do is go into any detail about what kinds of insights this deep understanding has brought him to. After all, what he proposes on the economy is the same menu as every other Republican—lower taxes on the wealthy and investors, fewer regulations on business. If his experience in private equity has given him some profound economic wisdom, it's hard to tell what it consists of.
Santorum speaks to supporters in Greenville, South Carolina.
CHARLESTOWN, SOUTH CAROLINA—Rick Santorum’s campaign for the Republican nomination relies on stark, apocalyptic rhetoric. Barack Obama isn’t just a Democratic president passing Democratic policies; he’s a dangerous radical who seeks to bend the American people to his will and fundamentally change the country’s “values.”
The debate among the Republican candidates over Mitt Romney’s time at Bain Capital has raised again questions about whether Romney’s tenure in the “1 percent” will damage his campaign. The Obama team certainly welcomes this debate. After all, they have been attacking Romney along precisely these lines:
The day after Mr. Romney squeezed out a razor-thin victory in the Iowa caucuses, Mr. Obama’s political brain-trust trained most of its fire on him, painting him as both a Wall Street 1 percent type and an unprincipled flip-flopper.
Yikes, this isn't even going to be close. Mitt Romney is opening up a massive lead in Florida, the state that could be the front-runner's capstone to securing the nomination. A Rasmussen poll yesterday put Romney more than 20 points ahead of the nearest candidate. He drew 41 percent to 19 percent for Newt Gingrich. Rick Santorum had 15 percent, and everyone else was in the single digits.
If it weren’t bad enough that he’s become the face of leveraged buyouts, Mitt Romney is facing another fresh challenge in the next three primary and caucus states. As Arthur Delaney points out at Huffington Post, the first two states to vote for a GOP nominee have weathered the recession relatively well—a boon for the laissez-faire front-runner. It’s a different story in the next three: South Carolina and Florida, with 9.9 percent and 10 percent unemployment respectively, and Nevada, which tops the country in both unemployment (13 percent) and foreclosures (one of every 16 homes in 2011).
Rick Perry has a new minute-long campaign ad out today, and he's pulled out all the emotional stops. It covers all requisite Ken Burns bases—there's baseball, war vets, and even a Tim Tebow kneeling in the rain. There are planes, trains, and automobiles. Watch the magic for yourself.
Summerville, South Carolina—The surest sign of Rick Perry’s anemic support in South Carolina is how incredibly low key his appearances have been. Whereas Mitt Romney drops in for rallies, and Rick Santorum holds town halls, Perry contents himself with small towns and smaller restaurants. Today, he held a “main street walk," which is exactly what it sounds like: He walks down the (usually quaint) main street of a (similarly quaint) town, speaking to voters and posing for photographs.
I normally try my best to ignore the latest Blair Witch film sting from conservative provocateur James O'Keefe, he of ACORN and Planned Parenthood fame. But O'Keefe's new gotcha video unfortunately dips its toes into my beat, so I'll briefly grant him some of the media attention he craves.
For fans of the horse race, this presidential election comes up a little short. The remaining contests are worth watching to see how the Republican Party's competing factions reconcile the fact that they must put aside their differences and support Romney if they hope to defeat Barack Obama, but any semblance of drama disappeared once Romney won the first two nominating states. He now leads the polls in the upcoming primary states.
Yesterday, the Pew Research Center released a report showing that the American public now perceives the conflict between the rich and poor as more prevalent and intense than conflicts between black and whites or conflicts between immigrants and the native-born. The number seeing those class conflicts has jumped 19 points since 2009, and amazingly, even 55 percent of Republicans think there are strong conflicts between rich and poor. For the GOP, about to nominate a guy who earned a couple of hundred million dollars as what one of his opponents calls a "vulture capitalist," this is disconcerting news. First, a graph: