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Romney Meets Veteran

Stop me if you've heard this one before. So Mitt Romney sits down next to a grizzled, flannel-shirt-wearing Vietnam vet in hyper-conservative Manchester, New Hampshire, and asks him about his service. It's a softball, right, made for the TV cameras? Wrong : But 63-year-old Bob Garon wanted to talk about gays in the military—because he is a gay veteran. Garon was sitting in a booth across from his husband, Bob Lemire, at Chez Vachon, a must-stop diner for politicians looking for votes in the New Hampshire primary. Garon and Lemire eat there nearly every morning. The owners call them "The Bobs." Surrounded by a crush of TV cameras, Romney asked Garon about his tour in Vietnam. But Garon asked if Romney would support efforts to repeal the New Hampshire law that legalized gay marriage in the state and allowed him and Lemire to marry. As the old slogan had it, we're everywhere. This is why we're gonna win. Even grizzled Vietnam vets want their husbands to have equal protection under the...

Upright and Alright

Rick Perry finally found a sense of vigor and cowboy swagger when he took the debate stage at Drake University this weekend. In previous debates, the Texas governor either stumbled his way through inept and forgetful answers, or would just assume a sleepy gaze during the second half with nothing to add to the proceedings. But in the latest contest, he ripped into Mitt Romney, instigating the night's most memorable moment when Romney reached his hand over and offered a $10,000 bet against Perry. Where'd this new fire come from? In an interview with the Des Moines Register 's Kathie Obradovich Perry hinted at one possibility: My back is great. I’m back running again for the last six weeks. I think part of the reason you have seen a somewhat different candidate on the debates is my health, and (I’m) both physically and mentally just back in the game. You have fusion on your back, and it takes you a while to get back on your game… I would suggest to you that I was pretty fatigued. No...

Were the Debates a Mistake?

If you can get past the attacks on President Obama, the disregard for actual economic conditions, and the assertion of “philosophical decreptitude” in American liberalism, you’ll find a smart point about the GOP presidential debates in Fred Barnes’s latest op-ed for The Weekly Standard . For your sake, I’ll just post it here: Besides aiding Obama, Republicans have hurt themselves in numerous ways by letting the debates be the organizing events of the campaign. The stronger candidates have been diminished by appearing, debate after debate, on equal footing with also-rans whose chances of winning the party’s presidential nomination are nil. Given the extent to which Barnes is a solid member of the conservative establishment, I wouldn’t be surprised if he were echoing the thoughts of many other conservative elites. The debates have had an astonishing and unprecedented impact on how conservative voters view and evaluate the Republican presidential candidates, and it’s hard to say that...

Ryancare and the Tea Party

Journalists covering Romney’s new position in favor of the Ryan Medicare plan have focused on how this will be a boon for Democrats if Romney gets the nomination. “The reason this matters: It will give Dems a weapon in the general election against Romney,” says Greg Sargent, blogging at the Washington Post . That may be the case. But Romney’s move may not even help him with conservatives, at least judging by our interviews with Tea Party activists . Tea Party members we spoke to perceived Mitt Romney as a flip-flopper, and were unconvinced by his policy changes. They also took electability very seriously, prizing above all a candidate who could beat President Obama. Tea Partiers’ opinions of Romney’s politics were pretty mainstream, often perceiving him as an uncompelling candidate who had switched his positions too frequently. Those we spoke to were aware that Romney had tried to blur his earlier support for a health bill similar to “Obamacare.” A typical comment came from Ellen: “I...

That Didn't Take Long

Yesterday I noted that the pro-Mitt Romney Super PAC Restore Our Future was launching its ad campaign on a positive note. Sure, their commercial started off by attacking Barack Obama's early career as a community organizer, but it refrained from vilifying Newt Gingrich. That was somewhat unexpected; all signals indicate that Romney's campaign has entered panic mode over Gingrich's unexpected rise in the polls. But disparaging an opponent can backfire. So far the Romney campaign has avoided going negative. The Super PAC, on the other hand, has free reign to impugn Gingrich's integrity and Romney can disavow any influence on the ad (as his campaign must, since legally Super PACs and candidates cannot coordinate their efforts). It didn't take long for Restore Our Future to take the predictable turn. A new anti-Gingrich ad showed up online last night that attacks Gingrich's "baggage." The former House speaker has been accused of ethics violations, took...

Today in Smackdowns

Mitt Romney, speaking to the editorial board of the Washington Examiner : I am very concerned that this president is putting America on a path toward appeasement internationally and entitlement domestically . That we go from being a merit-opportunity society to an entitlement society. And it’s going to require a dramatic change in Washington by someone who knows how to lead. [Emphasis mine] President Obama, speaking to reporters following a Republican filibuster of his nominee for the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, Richard Cordray: Ask Osama bin Laden and the 22-out-of–30 top al Qaeda leaders who’ve been taken off the field whether I engage in appeasement. Or whoever is left out there, ask them about that. [Emphasis mine] Something tells me that Romney’s “appeaser” attack won’t work well in a general election.

Money Changes Everything

It's Iowa poll week, and yet another survey shows Newt Gingrich leading the state. A poll from The New York Times /CBS has Gingrich topping the field at 31 percent, followed by Mitt Romney and Ron Paul, who are essentially tied with 17 percent and 16 percent support, respectively. Those numbers track with other results released earlier this week, though things get more interesting below the topline stats. Mitt Romney might still be trailing Gingrich, but his recent Iowa campaigning could be starting to pay off. He attracts the most support (18 percent) when respondents were asked which candidate is their second choice. If Gingrich's surge starts to falter when the candidates all gang up on him in the coming debates, Romney might pick up some support. Another interesting finding: Iowa may not be the paradise for social conservatives it was thought to be. Just 9 percent of Iowa Republicans listed "social issues" as their most important issue, with "economy and jobs" gobbling up 40...

What to Read Before You Unwonk for the Weekend

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. If you have time to read only two things before the weekend, make this one your second. A member of the one percent refuses the label of job creator, and instead bestows it upon the middle class, and he has a good argument as for why everyone should agree with him. Newt Gingrich may be the current frontrunner, but he hasn’t been raking in many endorsements, which have been shown to be a better predictor of victory than polls. How the primary unfolds will be a good test of this political theory. Women for Herman Cain also like nannies and South African sugar. If he really wanted to salvage his campaign, he obviously should have used one of these images. Things Newt Gingrich likes: being in the lead, old people, the word...

When Endorsements Hurt a Campaign

Mitt Romney is rolling out an endorsement today that, in a more sensible world, would be a major boon to his Iowa. Longtime former Republican Governor Robert Ray is set to announce his support for the campaign on the same day that Romney begins airing his first TV ad in Iowa. Ray served as Iowa's chief executive from 1969 through 1983 and is remembered fondly by most Iowans for his moderate governance, though not all segments of the state's population share that reverence. If any of Iowa's social conservatives were still going to support Romney (the small handful they might be), Ray will drive them further away. The campaign last fall against three Supreme Court judges who legalized same-sex marriage has become a galvanizing force for conservative voters this year. Ray was literally the voice for the weak-willed opposition campaign last fall, speaking on a radio ad that served as the only paid media for the pro-judge groups. "We'll never agree with every call, but you shouldn't fire...

The Anti-Newt Campaign Begins

It was only a matter of time before one of the Republican candidates unloaded on Newt Gingrich, attacking him with all (or at least some) of the reasons rank-and-file Republican voters ought to dislike him. So who was it: Mitt Romney, the man most threatened by Gingrich's rise? Rick Perry, looking to crawl back into the race? Herman Cain, in a last-ditch attempt to save his campaign? Michele Bachmann, hoping to win back the Tea Party voters who loved her for about 12 seconds a few months ago? Nope, none of them. Believe it or not, it was Ron Paul, who delivered 2 minutes and 28 seconds of hurt: The only thing the video doesn't have is an explicit mention of Gingrich's marital history, with its multiple infidelities and trading in of wives for younger mistresses. But most everything else is there, including the famous ad he made with Nancy Pelosi supporting action on climate change, his prior support of an individual health-insurance mandate, his criticism of the sainted Paul Ryan, and...

Have the Curtains Closed for Herman Cain?

Yesterday, Herman Cain suffered another setback to his book tour cum presidential campaign when he announced that he’s been accused of carrying on a 13-year-long extramarital affair. Cain denounced the accusations, but he couldn’t mitigate the damage; at this point, support for his campaign has dwindled to where it was before his surge in October. As a result of this—and the earlier accusations of sexual harassment—the Cain campaign has opted to “reassess” its decision to go forward in the Republican presidential primary. National Review ’s Robert Costas provides the scoop: "When the previous two accusations, false accusations, came about, we made another assessment. The way we handled those was, we continued on with our schedule. We made an assessment about what was going to happen to our support. But our supporters, and even some folks that we didn’t have as supporters, they stood with us, and they showed it not only in terms of their verbal support, they showed it in terms of their...

Mitt Romney's Brand Takes a Hit

I’m not the biggest fan of Richard Cohen, but you should read his attack on Mitt Romney’s character, or lack thereof, in today’s Washington Post . In a few sentences, he gets to the heart of Romney’s persona — a mercenary politician who treats principles as a means to greater power: Mitt Romney runs for president with the eye of a venture capitalist. He sees the profit in certain positions, discards those that are no longer profitable and moves on. He was pro-choice when it did him some good, instituted a health insurance plan that he now denounces and once supported amnesty for some illegal immigrants. Richard III offered his kingdom for a horse. Romney offers his principles for some votes in Iowa. Ideological flexibility is par for the course in politicians, and there’s nothing wrong with it — success in politics depends on a willingness to compromise, bend principle, and take deals when you can make them. Romney’s core problem is that he takes this to its reductio ad absurdum . It’...

Mitt vs. Mitt

The Democratic National Committee is out with a new ad targeting Mitt Romney for his ideological…flexibility. The 30 second clip will run on cable and broadcast stations in several swing states – Virginia, New Mexico, North Carolina, Ohio and Pennsylvania – as well as Wisconsin. Here it is: There is a longer, 4-minute web-only version that’s equally devastating in outlining Romney’s willingness to change positions for narrow political gain. Given the extent to which the “flip-flopper” image harmed both Al Gore and John Kerry, I don’t think that you can say that these efforts are useless , especially if the media opts to define Romney in these terms as well. But – as with all things in presidential campaigns – the utility of this strategy depends on the economy; under poor economic conditions, few people will care that Romney is devoid of core political convictions.

Not All Endorsements Are Created Equal

Slate 's Dave Weigel takes The Washington Post to task for running an inane article listing the "big six 2012 endorsements." As a general rule, I'm opposed to these types of lists, which are typically desperate exercises reporters turn to when they have a deadline staring them down and no new ideas. But while he's right to criticize the lazy idea, Weigel takes it a little too far when he uses Chris Christie's support for Mitt Romney as evidence that endorsements play no role: That endorsement mattered. Romney went from the mid-twenties in national polls to... the mid-twenties in national polls. In Iowa, he went from the low twenties to the low twenties. In New Hampshire, he went from a twenty-point lead to a twenty-point lead. All the stuff about money and insider loyalty is true, but the Christie endorsement has done nothing yet to rally the sort of voters who wanted Christie to run. Sure, Christie's endorsement of Romney didn't sway the polls, but that's a poor example to expand...

The Lying Lies of Mitt Romney

With a little more than a month before the New Hampshire Republican primary, former Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney has released his first ad of the campaign, a blistering attack on President Obama’s economic record: The ad hinges on a quip from Obama’s 2008 campaign, “If we keep talking about the economy, we’re going to lose.” The problem, of course, is that Obama was quoting the words of a McCain strategist. At best, Romney’s choice to put them in the mouth of Obama is disingenuous; at worst, it’s an outright lie. And given the extent to which the rest of the ad relies on various distortions -– Romney decries the high foreclosure rate despite his preference for a process that keeps homeowners underwater -– “lying” is a fair way to describe his rhetoric. This isn’t the first instance of dishonesty from the Romney campaign, and it won’t be the last. To wit, after the Obama campaign attacked this ad as “ deceitful ,” Romney spokesperson Gail Gitcho responded with this rejoinder: The...

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