In case anyone forgot over the last decade or so that Newt Gingrich is a grandiose egomaniac, this campaign has served as a helpful reminder. But know that isn't enough, of course—if you're a reporter, you have to explain it. In today's New York Times, an article explores the question of whether Newt has mellowed under the calming influence of advancing age and the fair Callista. Some evidence to the contrary comes here:
In Mr. Gingrich’s voice was the sneer of the professor of American history he once was, and, it seemed, a glimpse of the Old Newt.
Ah yes, history professors, well known for their sneering.
The long battle is over, and the troops are headed home. House Republicans finally caved on a two-month extension on the payroll tax cut, realizing that their intransigence was winning them nothing but voter contempt. Congress cleared the $33 billion legislation this morning. The only concessions rewarded to the obstructionists were a minor provision protecting businesses from a few payroll-reporting requirements and an agreement to push a conference committee to negotiate a year-long extension on the tax cut.
CEDAR RAPIDS, IOWA—Adoring crowds packed rooms to capacity across Iowa the last two days to hear the leader of their revolution. Dr. Ron Paul, as he his loving referred to by his supporters, went on an eight-stop jaunt through eastern Iowa to rile up his supporters two weeks before they vote in the caucuses. He is poised to win the 2012 Iowa caucuses: He leads in the latest polls, has a developed campaign infrastructure, and can count on true believers to show up to vote on January 3.
If there's one thing liberals know about their representatives in Washington, it's that those Democrats are a bunch of wimps. All Republicans have to do is draw back their fists, and Democrats will flinch. "What if they criticize us???" they whine, as they cave in on progressive principles again and again. That's the story liberals tell, and much of the time it's true.
The New York Timesreports that Mitt Romney has earned the endorsement of George H.W. Bush:
The former president told reporters for The Houston Chronicle that he supported Mr. Romney because of his “stability, experience, principles. He’s a fine person,” Mr. Bush, 87, said. “I just think he’s mature and reasonable – not a bomb-thrower.”
The cave-in by the House Republicans on the payroll tax is on terms that keeps this conflict going well into the election year--and on terms very favorable to Barack Obama and the Democrats. For the GOP, the two-month extension of the payroll tax cut is the worst possible politics.
First, they look weak (because they are weak); and second, the same drama will be replayed next year with the same outcome. Raising taxes on millionaires rather than cutting Social Security or Medicare, or hiking payroll taxes, wins every time.
You might think that the only thing Karl Rove and Barack Obama agree on is that gravity exists. But yesterday, Rove agreed with the White House that it’s time for Republicans in the House to cut their losses and pass the Senate's two-month extension on the payroll tax cut before they go home for the holidays. The Senate has already gone home, which means the House can't strike up a new deal: It can either vote on the extension or let the tax cuts expire. Rove told Fox News on Wednesday that Republicans "have lost the optics on it” and “the question now is how do the Republicans get out of it."
BETTENDORF, IOWA—After spending the past week and a half hopping from one Iowa town to the next, I've found few GOP voters willing to express wholehearted support for any candidate.
Take Debbie and Phil Rogers, a married couple from Cedar Rapids that I met before a Newt Gingrich event on Monday. He's a pastor for the United Methodist Church, and she works for Level 10 Apparel, the company that was hosting the event. Both supported Huckabee in 2008—"He's absolutely my guy. Loves Jesus, loves duck hunting, that makes him my kind of people," Phil said—but neither has yet to pin their hopes on any single candidate this time around. Debbie had liked Herman Cain earlier in the cycle, but is now left drifting between Gingrich, Rick Perry, and Rick Santorum.
At the moment, according to Nate Silver’s most recent forecast, Mitt Romney is in a dead heat with Ron Paul for first place in the Iowa caucuses. Both hold a 40-percent chance of winning the contest, though Paul holds a slight edge in most of the polls used by Silver. Even still, this is an abrupt change from most of the fall, when Romney was projected to lose the Iowa caucuses on account of his moderate background and opposition from evangelical Christians.
Now that Ron Paul is leading some Iowa polls, the knives are out—as they have been for every non-Romney contender this year. Michele Bachmann is warning of the apocalyptic consequences of Paul’s isolationist tendencies, while Rick Perry wants everyone to know that his fellow Texan is a big ol’ earmarker. Iowans are fretting that a Paul victory will spell doom for the caucuses.
Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney has a new stump speech, which—as is increasingly the case—peddles outright lies about President Obama and his agenda. You should read it for yourself:
Just a couple of weeks ago in Kansas, President Obama lectured us about Teddy Roosevelt’s philosophy of government. But he failed to mention the important difference between Teddy Roosevelt and Barack Obama. Roosevelt believed that government should level the playing field to create equal opportunities. President Obama believes that government should create equal outcomes.
Throughout the year, the Wall Street Journal has encouraged GOP intransigence as a way to get concessions from Democrats. But now—with the current fight over the payroll tax cut extension—the editors are worried that Republicans have taken it too far:
GOP Senate leader Mitch McConnell famously said a year ago that his main task in the 112th Congress was to make sure that President Obama would not be re-elected. Given how he and House Speaker John Boehner have handled the payroll tax debate, we wonder if they might end up re-electing the President before the 2012 campaign even begins in earnest.