For 2013, the American Conservative Union tagged their annual CPAC conference with the slogan "America's Future: The Next Generation of Conservatives." Presumably the organizers realized that the GOP's demographic troubles from 2012 spelled future trouble for the conservative movement. But Friday afternoon the panel trotted out the same old broken horses who ruined the party in the last election.
In June 2011, the National Collegiate Athletic Association charged the football program at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill with violating multiple rules. An investigation had revealed that players like former defensive tackle Marvin Austin and former wide receiver Greg Little had received “improper benefits” like jewelry and money for travel. Other infractions involved a tutor giving too much help on players’ class papers and a former assistant coach accepting money from an agent in exchange for access to athletes.
Today's installment of what Prospect alum Adam Serwer has termed the "dumbgeist"—the latest idiotic trumped-up controversy of the day—offers a demonstration of something important about Mitt Romney. It's just that it doesn't offer a demonstration of the thing the media says it does. I'll explain below, but first, witness the horror of...Wawagate!
Every time some candidate airs a negative ad, you can reliably turn on cable news and hear some "strategist" or other say, "This is going to be the most negative campaign in history!" But I'm still waiting for someone to say, "This is going to be the dumbest and most trivial campaign in history!" The 2012 campaign will not be the most negative in history, trust me. But it might be the dumbest. So what do we bloggers do when confronted with the latest bit of campaign idiocy? You can ignore it, of course. You can say, "This is actually quite revealing...", in which case you're full of it. Or you can say, "This is inane." I'm opting for number 3.
As far as challengers to a party establishment are concerned, Rick Santorum was unique. Unlike Ronald Reagan, Santorum didn’t lead an ideological faction. Unlike Gary Hart, he wasn’t the young and dynamic future of his party. He didn’t lead a marginalized wing of the party coalition, like Jesse Jackson did, and he wasn’t a media favorite, like John McCain was.
Both political scientists and political professionals have known for some time that in presidential primaries, momentum matters a lot. Win, and you look like a winner; lose, and you look like a loser. This is manifested in multiple ways, from the tone of news coverage to the ease of fundraising. But seldom does one candidate attack another by saying, "My opponent lost an election, so he's a big loser." I've heard plenty of (mostly liberal) commentators note contemptuously that Rick Santorum lost his last Senate race by 17 points as a reason he ought not be elected president, which I never found particularly persuasive. What's far more important is why he lost by that margin, which is that he sold himself to Pennsylvania voters as a mainstream Republican with a populist streak but then became a venomous culture warrior once in office.
But the Mitt Romney campaign has evidently decided it's going to play the loser card in Pennsylvania. What's notable about this ad is that there is no mention of any issue of substance; it just tells people that Santorum is a losing loser who lost like the loser he is:
We can officially call the GOP nomination, or so sayeth a team of experts at The New Yorker. Teaming with political scientist Josh Putnam of the blog Frontloading HQ, Ryan Lizza and Andrew Prokop gamed out the remaining primaries and caucuses, using demographic data from the states that have voted thus far to project vote totals in next several months of contests. They go through their extensive calculations in the post, but the gist of their conclusion is as follows:
Romney currently has 504 delegates. And so, according to our model, he is projected to end the contests on June 26th with 1,122 delegates.
One of the strange things about living in Washington, D.C. is the ongoing presence of lots and lots of Republicans. In my adult life I've lived in two other large cities (San Francisco and Philadelphia), and in both of those members of the Grand Old Party are not only few in number but nearly invisible. Sure, there are a few cities where Republicans are plentiful (Dallas, I hear), but on the whole the more urban the area you're in, the more likely Democrats are to dominate the place's political, cultural, and social life.
But here in the nation's capital, Republicans are plentiful. You see them going in and out of think-tank offices, traipsing about Capitol Hill, even walking down the street in broad daylight. Famous ones, ordinary ones, ones in all sizes and ages and genders. They're everywhere...
The Trayvon Martin case is both an individual tragedy and a symbol of a larger problem, the way some people are treated as "suspicious," as George Zimmerman described Martin, and the myriad consequences that suspicion brings. Lots of conservatives don't really think that larger problem is much of a big deal, and apparently, the way they've decided to make that case is by focusing on this individual incident, namely by trying to convince everyone that Trayvon Martin was a no-good punk who had it coming.
The GOP primary is finally starting to fall into the groove reporters and pundits have insisted it was in all along. Romney is comfortably ahead in delegates, endorsements, and attacks from Democrats, and his current opponents are having a harder and harder time proving their relevance. Newt Gingrich is finally starting to fade from the limelight; his insistance that his campaign will make it to Tampa falls increasingly on deaf ears as embedded reporters flee his side with alacrity. And Rick Santorum—the conservative point man in the race—is starting to buckle under pressure to cede the nomination to Romney so the party can turn its attention to beating Barack Obama.
It often happens that when campaign negativity reaches a fever pitch, a candidate will take a small step back from the vitriol and say something like, "My opponent is a nice guy—he's just wrong about everything." What they almost never do, however, is say, "My opponent is wrong about a lot of things, and if he gets elected, things won't be good. I'm not saying it'll be a disaster, but it'd be better if you elected me." The imperatives of campaigning lead candidates to spin out the most disastrous scenarios and apocalyptic warnings. And there's no doubt that some people believe them; you wouldn't have to interview too many Republican voters to find a few who sincerely believe that if Barack Obama is re-elected, within a few months freedom will disappear, Christianity will be outlawed, everyone's guns will be confiscated, and so on. But usually, presidential candidates—who know they must appeal to people who retain a grip on reality—try to keep these arguments within limits.
But not all of them. Ladies and gentlemen, Rick Santorum:
Earlier this week Rick Santorum decided he didn't want to win Puerto Rico's upcoming GOP primary. "They'd have to speak English, that would be a requirement." Santorum said as a stipulation for Puerto Rico attaining statehood. "That's a requirement we put on other states. It's a condition for entering the union." Santorum walked the comment halfway back Thursday, but continued to insist on the supremacy of English in state law. "English should be taught here, and everyone should speak English here," he said.
Not the future leader of the GOP (Flickr/DonkeyHotey)
Rick Santorum has benefited from excellent timing. Unlike the other not-Romneys who ran for president this year, he had the good fortune of not catching the imagination of the Republican base until late in the primaries, after Michele Bachmann, Herman Cain, Rick Perry, and Newt Gingrich had all had their brief moments as the alternative to the likely eventual nominee. By the time the voters got around to Santorum, there was just nobody else left, which has enabled him to have his moment in the sun at the end of the primaries, just where you'd want it to be if you're going to parlay your loss into a lucrative and influential career opportunity.
Today the Washington Postmakes the case, without much in the way of evidence, that "Santorum has, after 10 weeks of contests, all but claimed the title of leader of the conservative wing of the GOP." I don't buy it...
Even after losing the Deep South primaries, Newt Gingrich refuses to back down from his bid for the Republican presidential nomination:
Former House Speaker Newt Gingrich says there’s probably no circumstance that would lead him to pull out of the Republican presidential sweepstakes before the party’s August nominating convention.
“I’ll be with you in Tampa,” Gingrich tells CBS’s “This Morning” show, when asked about his plans.
The former congressman from Georgia has won primaries in only two states, South Carolina and Georgia. But when asked Friday what conditions could lead him to withdraw from the race, he says, “Probably none.”