CPAC, DC—The Citizens United case is back in the news this week with the Obama campaign's announcement that they would coordinate to help raise funds with the super PAC Priorities USA. As the presidential campaign ramps up, it's easy to forget what the actual Citizens United organization is: a mini-film studio with a conservative bent.
The group is all over CPAC this week, airing their films in the CPAC Theatre, hosting a blogger briefing Wednesday, and sponsoring a panel Thursday morning titled "Advancing the Pro-Life Movement through Media.” And of course, they also have a booth selling DVDs of their various films in the CPAC vendor basement.
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.
The class of commentators who celebrate politicians outside the two-party system might finally realize their dreams of a third-party candidacy in 2012. These agitators of a middle path—typically white, upper-middle-class elites terrified of the nation's debt but ill at ease with social conservatism—have tried their hand in past years at disrupting the normal political process. In 2008, a group called Unity '08 planned to run a bipartisan presidential ticket but fell apart before the election.
The 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.
To no one’s surprise, Mitt Romney repeated his 2008 performance in Nevada with a double-digit win last night. Given the poll numbers, which had the former Massachusetts governor leading by up to 20 percent, Romney’s victory was nearly preordained.
Last week, when Mitt Romney claimed not to have seen an attack ad his campaign had produced, he was no doubt trying to blame his super PAC, Restore Our Future, for coming up with it. Whether or not the former Massachusetts governor was being truthful—one can imagine that, in a fast-moving campaign, candidates only passively approve the messages their surrogates put out—the incident underscored the way super PACs, which are barred from coordinating directly with the candidates they are supporting, have come to dominate the political landscape.
It's always good for political junkies to remind ourselves that the rest of the public doesn't think about politics nearly as much as we do, and therefore their opinions are far less rooted and far more likely to change with the arrival of new information. If you're a TAP reader, you had an opinion about Mitt Romney and Newt Gingrich a year ago, and your opinion today is probably pretty much the same as it was then. It may have intensified a bit, and there may be new things you think of when you think of those two, but it's unlikely that you've shifted from disliking them to liking them, or vice-versa. But that's not the case for most Americans, who in recent months have been subjected to all kinds of new information about the Republican candidates.
As the Gingrich-Romney cage match rages on into the spring, it’ll be increasingly tempting to grope for parallels with the epic Clinton-Obama clash of 2008. Will the eventual winner be “battle-tested” like Obama, a stronger candidate for having survived a slugfest, as some optimistic Republicans have argued? If favorability ratings are any indication, the answer appears to be an emphatic “no.” The longer the race goes on, it seems, the more people realize that they can’t stand Mitt Romney—and they already knew they didn’t like Newt Gingrich.
As with the Iowa caucuses, vote shares for the Republican candidate in New Hampshire distributed themselves geographically in 2012 in ways that are highly consistent with how they were distributed in 2008. The following graphs illustrate that persistence of support.
In the order of the finish, we start with Romney, whose showing in 2012 repeated that of 2008, just shifted up about 5 percentage points in every town:
Without issuing an explanation, yesterday the Supreme Court upheld a federal law banning resident aliens from making campaign contributions. It is regrettable but perhaps telling that the Court chose not to explain why it agreed with the lower court: The case reveals obvious problems with its penchant for First Amendment absolutism in campaign-finance cases, most notably its decision in Citizens United.
ADEL, IOWA—Caucus chair Jon McAvoy faced an awkward situation right before his townsfolk were set to vote. Surrogates for each candidate—save still-on-the-ballot Herman Cain and Iowa absentee Jon Huntsman—had stepped up to the microphone for one final pitch. Michele Bachmann’s campaign had sent some star power in the form of her 21-year-old daughter Elisa; though her mom faded fast and left the race the following day, the younger Bachmann won praise for her eloquence from the caucus voters. She was the closet thing to a celebrity at this site 23 miles west from the heart of downtown Des Moines, with locals stumping for the other candidates. McAvoy introduced each of the speakers, an easy task when it came time for Perry: McAvoy was that designated supporter.
If you want to challenge your pedagogical skills, try explaining the Iowa caucuses to a child. "You see, Billy, in America, we get to choose our presidents, and every citizen gets to participate. So to start the process off, everyone who wants to be president spends months in the state of Iowa, personally meeting as many Iowans as they can. And then one Tuesday in January, those Iowans go to their local schools and community centers, hang around for an hour listening to boring speeches, then cast their votes. Then the media tell us that the candidates who didn't come in first or second are unworthy of any more attention from people in the other 49 states, so those candidates drop out of the race.
A little bit of sanity has returned to the GOP presidential field, with the latest polls from Iowa indicating that quasi-frontrunner Newt Gingrich has fallen back. Yet, Gingrich has been replaced by yet another shock frontrunner: Ron Paul is now on track to win the Iowa caucuses.
STORY CITY, IOWA—Before the pro-life seminar film debut last night, Mike Huckabee took to the stage to address his most adoring fans. Iowans still love the former Arkansas governor and winner of the 2008 Iowa Caucus. Sure there were four current presidential candidates on the docket, but many people seemed more interested in what their former favorite candidate had to say.