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Mitt's Instincts Lead Him Astray, Again

(Flickr/DonkeyHotey)
Yesterday, Mitt Romney demonstrated once again why he has such trouble with his party's base. The issue was a bill in Congress sponsored by Senator Roy Blunt, which would allow any employer who has any objection to any medication, procedure, or treatment—not just objections to ladies doing dirty things with their ladyparts, which is where this all started—to deny their employees insurance coverage for it. Let's say your boss thinks people with diabetes are fatties who deserve to get their feet amputated—no diabetes coverage! Or your boss is one of the nincompoops who thinks immunizations give kids autism—no coverage for immunizations! Obviously, it's a truly awful idea, and when Romney was asked about it by an Ohio television host, he said , "I'm not for the bill. But, look, the idea of presidential candidates getting into questions about contraception within a relationship between a man and a woman, husband and wife, I'm not going there." What happened next was predictable:...

Anti-Romney, with a Side of Grits

(Flickr/Gage Skidmore)
The implications of Mitt Romney's Michigan win are still being parsed, but the calendar leaves little time for the campaigns to rest. Super Tuesday is in less than a week, and a total of 437 delegates in 10 states is at stake. The media have coalesced around the idea that Ohio is the only race that matters. The candidates have followed their lead—this morning Romney was campaigning in Toledo, and Rick Santorum called in to a Dayton radio station. To a certain degree, the focus on Ohio is understandable. It's a general-election swing state, and polls indicate it's also teetering between Santorum and Romney ahead of Super Tuesday. The primary results in other states are more easily predicted: Newt Gingrich should carry his home state of Georgia, Santorum should fare well in the other Southern states, Romney will clean up in the Northeast and Virginia, and everyone will ignore the few delegates up for grabs in the caucus states out West. I'm far more interested to see how things play out...

GOP Leaders Desperate to Rip the Party in Two

(Recuerdos de Pandora/Flickr)
(Recuerdos de Pandora/Flickr) Mother Jones ’ Andy Kroll reports that top Republicans continue to “whisper” about a campaign to draft a new candidate into the presidential race should Mitt Romney falter in Michigan: On CNN Tuesday morning, Rep. Peter King (R-N.Y.), chair of the House homeland security committee, hinted at a whisper campaign among “top Republicans” who want a GOP favorite such as New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie or Rep. Paul Ryan (R-Wisc.) to enter the race if Romney loses the Michigan or Arizona primaries or struggles on Super Tuesday, when ten states controlling 437 delegates hold GOP primaries on March 6. “I think there’s going to be more of an interest, more of an emphasis on having someone ready if on Super Tuesday… Mitt Romney does not manage to break loose, and to have that candidate ready to come in,” King said. He added, “Again, I have no inside knowledge. Just whispering and mumbling here among top Republicans who are concerned that Governor Romney has not been...

Romney's Clunker

“This is not exciting and barn-burning,” Mitt Romney admitted as he stood today amid 65,000 empty seats at Detroit’s Ford Field to deliver what was billed as a major economic address, “but it’s important.” He was right, at least, about the first part. The awful optics—the 1,200 supporters who showed up didn’t even fill the rows of chairs that stretched to the end zone—occasioned derision from just about every politico with a Twitter account. (See “Daily Meme,” below.) But what did Romney actually say? Nothing surprising. He called for cutting income tax rates by 20 percent, anticipating that economic growth and curtailing some (unspecified) tax breaks will keep the deficit from skyrocketing. He announced his intention to raise the minimum age for Social Security and to create a voucher system for Medicare. And he reiterated that he would drop the corporate tax rate to 25 percent, the rate that Obama’s new tax plan reserves for manufacturers. Along the way, the “resolute” Romney...

Why Arizona is "in Play" This November

(Pablo Manriquez/Flickr)
If John McCain weren’t on the ballot in 2008, you could make a strong case that his state, Arizona, would have been in play for Democrats, regardless of who they nominated. Hispanics were a huge share of the population, a significant share of the electorate—at 16 percent of all voters in the state—and a solid block of supporters for the Democratic Party—in 2008, they supported Barack Obama with 55 percent of the vote. The percentage of Hispanics in Arizona has remained steady since then, at around 30 percent , but the voting age population has increased to 845,000, and now constitutes 19 percent of Arizona residents of voting age, up from 17 percent in 2008. What’s more, intense Republican antagonism—through intrusive, draconian laws—have thoroughly alienated Hispanic voters. All of this is to say that conditions have moved Arizona to the column of states which are “in play,” and recent polls bear that out. For example, in its latest survey of the state, Public Policy Polling found...

Romney's Endgame

(AP Photo/Gerald Herbert)
Mitt Romney’s ambitions for the 2012 primary have never been mysterious. He’s in it to win it, and with a weak field, the primaries should have been a mere prelude to his coronation. Things haven't worked out that way. First there was Rick Perry in September, a chiseled Texan with conservative cred, undone by his inability to list more than two government agencies at a prime-time debate. Herman Cain, charismatic and entertainingly unpredictable, was finally brought down by a raft of sexual harassment-allegations in October. After the South Carolina primary, Newt Gingrich took the lead, but Gingrich couldn’t overcome his own reputation and inability to be likeable. Santorum, the former Pennsylvania senator with antiquated social views, seemed destined to sit on the bench the whole primary season, but has suddenly been catapulted to the front of the pack because of his appeal to the most conservative edge of the party. When facing the first few challengers, Romney wasn’t worried. He...

Mitt Romney's Money Problems

AP Photo
The big assumption about Mitt Romney’s campaign for the Republican presidential nomination is that he has limitless pockets. After all, with the support of the Republican establishment and an immense fortune, it shouldn’t be too hard for him to generate funds through the contest. But according to a few (anonymous) Republican donors—and a source from within the Romney campaign—there’s growing worry that the former Massachusetts governor might run out of money from direct donations before the race is over. Buzzfeed’s Zeke Miller has the details : [R]omney has proved unable to tap into the emotion-driven small-dollar contributions that helped power Barack Obama in 2008, and which fueled even his more Establishment rival, Hillary Clinton, this time four years ago when she too began to run out of big donors. The result: Republican fundraisers say that despite his success so far, they think Romney is fast approaching a wall, and that he will likely be forced to pay for the campaign out of...

Olympic Deja Vu?

(Flickr/Dougtone)
Mitt Romney has me counting the days until the Olympics (164 as of Tuesday.) Since he's not always eager to talk about his largely-moderate record as Massachusetts governor, we've gotten to hear a lot about Mitt's role planning the 2002 Salt Lake City Olympic Games. There was that lingering animosity between Romney and Rick Perry , supposedly because Romney didn't give the Boy Scouts enough of a role. Of course, most of it's been about the boring stuff, like how he turned around a potentially disastrous event and made it profitable. But, when he starts talking about it, I mainly just imagine people competing in sports I've usually forgotten exist. ( I'm looking at you, luge. ) Romney's got me not only hyped up for the summer games but nostalgic for winter—particularly 2002 Salt Lake City. So imagine my joy when I learned today that Salt Lake City has started an exploratory committee to consider hosting the games for a second time! Now, just to be clear, it's hardly a sure thing...

Obama, Mr. Popular

(Flickr/Stephen Poff)
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 The Washington 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. But a recent succession of polls has shown the president with a consistently positive approval rating, and the current average from Real Clear Politics shows Obama in the black for the first time since last year: Moreover, a declining percentage of the country says that the country is moving in the wrong direction. In RCP’s latest average , 30.3 percent of Americans say the country is moving in the right direction, while 62 percent say we’re on the wrong track. Six...

Mitt Romney Is Really Bad At Running For President

(Flickr/DonkeyHotey)
If you spend your time amongst politically-involved liberals these days, you've probably participated in a lot of head-shaking conversations, along the lines of, "Wow, is this Republican race awesome, or what?" It is, without doubt. And one of the things it has showed us is that, what political scientists call "candidate quality" is a more complicated factor than we usually think. And Mitt Romney turns out to be the most complicated candidate of all. Ordinarily, we tend to believe that while some candidates are good at some things and some are good at others, and a candidate may have one particular strength but be lacking elsewhere (e.g. Newt Gingrich usually performs well in debates but sucks at most other parts of campaigning), the political world is basically divided into good candidates, mediocre candidates, and bad candidates. You can go pretty far being mediocre—for instance, Al Gore and Bob Dole never knocked anybody's socks off, but both rose almost to the apex of their chosen...

Bubble in the Heartland

“Why Not Santorum?” One can imagine many ways to answer that banner-headline question at National Review Online . But some conservatives—along with pundits desperate to inject a spark of interest back into the Republican race—are posing it seriously as the Iowa caucus winner appears poised to give Mitt Romney a run in three low-profile GOP contests in Heartland swing states on Tuesday. Polls released on Sunday showed Santorum slightly ahead in one caucus state, Minnesota, and running second in another, Colorado, while the most recent numbers had him leading in Missouri, which holds a “beauty-contest” primary that won’t select any actual delegates. This may be Santorum’s last chance to regain a bit of the oomph he lost after Iowa, and he’s been campaigning hard—and mostly alone—in the three states since giving up Florida and Nevada for lost. The Romney campaign, determined to have no more right-wing “surges” that disrupt their man’s smooth gallop to the nomination, are doing Santorum...

Another Kind of Mandate

You have to feel for the genuine policy wonks at a place like the Heritage Foundation. On one hand, they want to conduct their research with integrity. On the other hand, they work at an organization where the line between being ideological and being partisan is always fuzzy. Take the individual health-insurance mandate, an idea that had its origins at Heritage, where it started as a way to address some of the pathologies of the health-insurance market without relying on government-provided insurance. For years, this was seen as a conservative approach, which is one of the reasons Mitt Romney embraced it in his Massachusetts health-insurance reform. We all know the rest of the story: a similar mandate became part of the Affordable Care Act, and Republicans immediately decided that the fact that Obama used it now meant the mandate was the very essence of statist oppression. So opposition to the mandate became a partisan requirement. But what if you're a conservative health-care wonk (...

Obama's Mixed Signals

Today's Balance Sheet: Obama needs a good nine months more of good news if he wants to win reelection. 

Before all eyes in the country turned to football last night, President Barack Obama told Matt Lauer in his annual pre-Super Bowl interview that he "deserve[s] a second term.” He went on: “We’ve made progress. The key right now is to just make sure we don’t start turning in a new direction that could throw that progress off." It's impossible to hear these words without thinking of the 243,000 new jobs added in January—very good news for an administration whose future rests on the capriciousness of the global economy over the next few months. The wealth of good news has also led to a jump in Obama's approval rating and, for the first time, Obama holds a significant edge over Mitt Romney in a hypothetical match-up; if the election were held today, Obama would win with 51 percent of the vote. However, the burst of economic confidence doesn't mean Obama's re-election is preordained. There are still nine months to go until the polls close, and the potential for things to go wrong is still...

The Revolution Will Not Be Televised

AP Photo
This was supposed to be the year of Ron Paul. Sure, no one outside his band of misfit supporters expected Paul to come anywhere close to winning the Republican nomination, but he was on a path to be the spoiler of the race. His baseline support had apparently ticked up since 2008—the rise of the Tea Party brought new love for his career-long opposition to the Federal Reserve—and the Texas congressman had used those intervening four years to develop the most ruthlessly efficient organization combined with an enviable budget of any of the candidates—except for maybe Mitt Romney. His path was set: Paul could consistently finish somewhere around 20 percent in most state primaries, rarely enough to win but still respectable. That's a low enough total to push most candidates out of the race eventually, but Paul is committed to his ideological purity, not the Republican Party. He'd likely carry on past the outcries from the Grand Old Party's establishment. While that might not secure the...

Gingrich the Spoiler

(AP Photo/Evan Vucci) Republican presidential candidate and former House Speaker Newt Gingrich speaks during a news conference after coming in second in the Nevada caucuses. T he most important rule in Nevada is don’t bet against the house. The guys who got it wired tend to win, and Mitt Romney, candidate of the Mormon majority, didn’t disappoint in Saturday’s caucuses. Equally unsurprising was the low turnout, which probably fell short of the number of people dropping their paychecks in the MGM Grand Casino on Saturday night. The best efforts of the media to drum up a story notwithstanding, the Nevada caucuses yielded no surprises and barely anything of interest. Barring some unforeseen upheaval, all that matters in this race is how long Newt Gingrich soldiers on. The campaigns will largely lie fallow for the remainder of February—the upcoming primaries in Arizona and Michigan are on Romney’s turf, and he’s expected to do well. (In Arizona, Mitt’s Mormons will boost his prospects, as...

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