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 2012 Republican nomination has been defined as much by what it lacks as its actual substance. At the start of the year, it was about a lack of any official candidates. Unlike the last presidential election, when Tom Vilsack announced his candidacy just after Thanksgiving 2006, and both Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama were running by February 2007, no one wanted to take the early plunge this year. Gary Johnson was the first to officially enter the field in April this year, and most candidates didn't file their paper work until May or June.
With only four Democrats voting for the measure, yesterday the House passed H.R. 10, “Rules from the Executive in Need of Scrutiny” (REINS). If it were to become law, this radical piece of legislation would prohibit all federal agencies, including the Environmental Protection Agency, the Food and Drug Administration, and the Securities and Exchange Commission from minting any new regulations impacting the economy by more than $100 million unless they passed both the U.S. House and Senate within 70 legislative days.
Democrats were fed up at the start of the year. They had held 59 seats in the Senate for most of the previous two years, their largest majority since the 1970s. But that near-supermajority wasn't enough to overcome a Republican fillibuster. A 60-vote hurdle became a common deathtrap for every Democratic bill or Obama nomination confirmation, leaving the executive branch understaffed and the federal bench depleted.
It's Iowa poll week, and yet another survey shows Newt Gingrich leading the state. A poll from TheNew 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.
President Obama's re-election effort is on shaky ground by most accounts. The president's approval rating hovers in the mid-40s, a level far below the presidents who secured second terms. The latest unemployment figures finally dropped below 9 percent, but the job market is still not growing at the pace it needs to in order to rebound before the election, and things could become dire if Europe does not fix its financial instability.
The political center has an undeserved reputation as the home of the most dispassionate and reasonable people. According to a strain of thought that stretches back to the 18th century, parties endanger democracy; partisans see only their side of the truth, pursue their own narrow interests, and aggravate tensions and conflict. The rational course supposedly lies in the middle, where champions of civic virtue counsel compromise and invite us to put the public good first.
Mitt Romney, the living symbol of the 1 percent, hasn't always viewed his stint in the private sector as the epitome of his experience. On the campaign trail, Romney loves to rail against "career politicians" and tout his credentials as a businessman who can bring an economic acumen he believes is lacking in the current White House (willfully ignoring that he first ran for political office in 1994 and has been in perpetual presidential-campaign mode for at least the last five years), saying in one debate:
Former Vice President Dan Quayle declared his support for Mitt Romney today. Quayle dinged President Obama and explained his endorsement in an op-ed published in the Arizona Republic newspaper earlier today:
For many members of Congress, it must seem truly strange to observe the current Newt Gingrich boomlet. This is, after all, the same Gingrich who was run out of Washington 13 years ago after his party suffered a rare midterm loss that left Republicans barely hanging on to control of the House. Gingrich not only stepped aside as speaker but resigned his congressional seat.
By any reasonable account, Donald Trump's pseudo-debate should be laughed off as a media spectacle. Ron Paul had the appropriate response, immediately rejecting the invitation. His campaign chair said that the debate "is beneath the office of the presidency and flies in the face of that office’s history and dignity."
Unfortunately, Newt Gingrich—who never passes up the opportunity for a good clown show—is the field's current front-runner. "This is a country of enormously wide-open talent. You know, Donald Trump is a great showman. He's also a great businessman," Gingrich said yesterday after an hour-long meeting in New York with Trump.
ViaTPM's Benjy Sarlin comes this devastating five-minute video of Mitt Romney railing against the dangers of politicians with shifting policy views. Only this was in 2004, when Romney was just the moderate governor of a liberal state, not the wannabe presidential candidate who would say whatever it takes to earn his party's nomination.
Where Newt Gingrich's new Iowa ad waxes poetic about American exceptionalism, Ron Paul goes for the Spike TV production route in his new commercial set to air in Iowa and New Hampshire. Titled "Big Dog," the ad doesn't actually feature Paul himself until the necessary approval tag at the end. Instead, it's a series of flashy graphics set to intense rock music, as buildings explode to represent the federal agencies he would abolish (outdoing Rick Perry by two, Paul has five he would ditch: Education, Interior, Energy, HUD, Commerce) and an 18-wheeler runs over the image of a government bureaucrat.
Even though the Republican presidential nomination is set to kick off when Iowans head to their local schools and community centers for the caucuses in just 30 days, I'm skeptical of current polls. Over the weekend, the Des Moines Register found that 64 percent of likely caucus goers have yet to see any of the candidates in person. Besides the national debates, they haven't seen many on their TV screens either; Ron Paul was the only candidate with significant commercial buys earlier in the year, and the rest of the contenders are only now beginning to purchase airtime.
The Des Moines Registerreleased its well-regarded Iowa Poll over the weekend. Newt Gingrich topped off the field with 25 percent support a month out from the Iowa caucuses. It's a complete turnaround from his performance in the first two Register polls this year—one in June and another just a little over a month ago—in which the candidate only notched seven percent. Ron Paul comes in second with 18 percent, a sizable jump from his standing in the previous two polls.