Conservatism

Another Conservative Language Victory

The TANF web site, apparently still using its 1996 design.
If I told you that Ron Paul (remember him?) said that Secret Service protection for presidential candidates is "welfare" and he didn't need it, what would you think he meant? Why of course, you'd think he meant that the kind of protection the Secret Service provides is necessary, but sometimes a candidate has fallen on hard times and can't afford to pay for it themselves, so the government steps in to do it for them. And if Paul doesn't need it, it's because his campaign, unlike those of his rivals, is on sound financial footing. That's what you'd think he meant, right? Well, no. You'd know that when Ron Paul says "welfare," what he means is "an undeserved government handout." Welfare was established as part of a safety net to insure that people in poverty wouldn't spiral into absolute destitution, but today not only has the program (now called Temporary Assistance to Needy Families, or TANF) been slashed to the bone , we barely ever debate it at all, unless it's to discuss a...

The Javelin Takes Down a Saint

(Flickr/NewsHour)
Secret Service names, while irrelevant for the actual election, are always a good source for a little amusement. In 2007 Barack Obama was designated the "Renegade" as he sought to takedown "Evergreen"—the name given to Hillary Clinton back when she was first lady. Gerald Ford's "Pass Key" seemed to presage his early departure from the White House. George H.W. Bush's "Timberwolf" seems a little rough and tumble for the demure president. Personally I'm preferential to the evocative "Rawhide" that Reagan went by. Now that Mitt Romney and Rick Santorum are being guarded by our nation's finest they've picked up new monikers for themselves. GQ nabbed the exclusive reveal last night. Romney will go by the handle "Javelin," one presumably directed to fell the incumbent president. For the few remaining months Santorum is in the race he'll be labeled "Petrus." The first results from Googling indicate that Petrus is Gordon Ramsey restaurant or a wine of the Bordeaux variety, but Santorum would...

Are Conservatives Getting Crazier?

Flickr/Talk Radio News Service
Every four years, presidential candidates from both parties say, "This is the most important election of our lifetimes." Reporters predict that this will be the most negative campaign in history. Partisans say that if their side loses, the disaster will echo through decades, and we believe that our opponents are more dastardly than they've ever been. And over the last couple of years, we liberals have looked at conservatives and thought that they have reached levels of craziness unseen before. So historian/author/smart guy Rick Perlstein, who knows more about the conservative movement of the last half-century than pretty much anyone, warns us that what we're seeing now is really nothing new: Over fifteen years of studying the American right professionally — especially in their communications with each other , in their own memos and media since the 1950s — I have yet to find a truly novel development, a real innovation, in far-right "thought." Right-wing radio hosts fingering liberal...

Don't Believe the Hype

(Flickr/NS Newsflash)
It wasn't much of a surprise that Mitt Romney waltzed to victory in the Puerto Rico caucus yesterday. Rick Santorum had campaigned minimally in the territory and tried his best to offend the region's majority Spanish speaking population while he was there, whereas Romney had the backing of the island's major political figures, including popular governor and potential rising GOP star Luis Fortuno. But in many ways, it still represents a big win. Romney won 88 percent of the vote, shutting out Rick Santorum from collecting any new delegates. The estimated 22 delegates Romney collected in Puerto Rico are three more than Santorum won in Alabama and 13 more than he reaped in Mississippi. Yet scan the newspapers this morning, and you'll find scant coverage of the caucus. Unlike the states Santorum won last week, Romney's dominating victory hasn't triggered a series of articles questioning whether the state of the race has been overturned. Instead, you get thoughts like Jeff Zeleny's in the...

Pennsylvania Shouldn't Have Any Senators

(Flickr/Gage Skidmore)
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 . Santorum recognizes that he is going to likely lose Puerto Rico—the popular governor of the island has endorsed Mitt Romney—so he's trading in some dog whistling for xenophobic GOP voters in the rest of the country. What's amusing though is Rick Santorum's clear lack of understanding in U.S. law. If, as he first insisted, English had to be on the books as official state law, Santorum would have never been able to enter the United States Senate. His home Pennsylvania is one of 19...

No News For Santorum Out of Missouri

(Flickr/paparutzi)
The next jaunt on the wild Republican roller-coaster is this weekend. Missouri voters head to their local polling locations for the second time this cycle. They first expressed themselves back in early February in a nonbinding primary, a vote won by Rick Santorum but that has no bearing on the delegates that will be sent to Tampa this summer. Missourians vote once again tomorrow, this time in caucuses that will eventually, down the line, help select who is sent to the GOP convention, and by extension, whether the state votes for Santorum or Mitt Romney. Like every caucus, the local meetings held tomorrow are nonbinding. Delegates elected from those meetings are sent on to the district convention. The actual Republican delegates are later selected at the state convention (that's for the statewide delegates, ones representing the various Congressional districts are selected at a separate meeting). That's not too different from how Iowa or other caucus states have worked thus far. But...

The Anti-Women VP Choice

(Flickr/Gage Skidmore)
As Paul Waldman noted earlier this morning, Mitt Romney will be in a tight spot once he's finally clinched the nomination and has to pick a vice-presidential candidate for his ticket, a decision that gets trickier by the day thanks to the elongated primary season. On one side he'll be pressured to appease all of Rick Santorum's supporters, either by granting the second slot on the ticket to the runner-up or another social conservative of his ilk. On the other hand, Romney will have just finished a nomination that has pushed him further and further to the right, so he'll need someone who won't alienate the broader general-election voter base. Virginia Governor Bob McDonnell's name is often near the top when people list possible VPs. He's popular among the conservative grassroots, but falls under the category of typical bland white guys that voters are accustomed to and will receive little notice. It doesn't hurt either that he is the sitting governor for an important swing state. Yet...

A GOP Governor Is Pushing Tax Hikes?

(Flickr/soukup)
Nevada Governor Brian Sandoval came into office with tough talk about taxes. Since then, it seems, he's grown disenchanted with Grover Norquist-style governance. For the second time in as many years, he's pushing to extend a group of temporary tax increases, rather than cut public-education funding. What is the world coming to? Nevada's budget crisis last year was among the worst in the country, with a shortfall that amounted to 45 percent of state expenses according to Stateline.org . When courts ruled the state could not draw on local government funds appropriated by a prior legislature to balance the budget, Sandoval opted to maintain tax rates rather than make more core cuts. This year, he's going with the same philosophy it seems. As the Las Vegas Sun reports: “Let me be clear, as I’ve said before, the economy is improving, but I believe we must begin this budgeting process with all the information available,” Sandoval said in a written statement. “In addition to avoiding further...

What Happened to the Endless Debates?

The GOP candidates gathered in Iowa for an August debate (Flickr/IowaPolitics.com)
After the flurry of debates during the invisible primary, the cable airwaves have recently been bereft of candidates bickering with each other face to face. A final debate had been scheduled to take place this coming Monday, March 19, in Portland, Oregon—a state that doesn't hold it's primary until the middle of May. The local party and media were moving ahead with preparations, announcing moderators last week, but it looks like that debate won't come to fruition. Mitt Romney's press secretary e-mailed Politico last night and confirmed that the leading candidate won't be attending the debate, skipping out to campaign in Illinois before that state's primary next Tuesday. Without the front-runner there's little incentive for the other candidate's to depart from the trail, and it looks like Ron Paul and Rick Santorum won't attend either. There hasn't been a debate since a CNN-hosted event in Arizona on February 22. A pre-Super Tuesday confrontation had been slotted for Georgia on March 1...

Romney's Issue with Evangelicals

(Flickr/Gage Skidmore)
Much has been made about Mitt Romney's struggles to win over the conservative base. He's polling even or ahead in Mississippi and Alabama before tonight's primaries, but given past performances, he'd need an act of God to win a Southern state. Gingrich and Santorum splitting the conservative vote might be just such a miracle, but it still seems somewhat unfathomable given Public Policy Polling's sample that puts evangelicals as 70 percent of likely Republican voters in Mississippi and 68 percent in Alabama. That same PPP poll found that voters in these states didn't believe in evolution by large margins—60 percent in Alabama and 66 percent in Mississippi. One has to wonder how that same subsection views Romney's Mormon faith. If these voters interpret the Bible so strictly that they doubt evolution, they probably don't look too favorably upon a religion that claims Jesus reappeared in the middle of Missouri once he'd finished up in Jerusalem. Mormonism is a fast-growing religion, but...

Voter-ID Laws Face Major Roadblocks

(Flickr/ezola)
Texas Republicans have been trying for years to pass a law that would require state voters to show identification before hitting the polls—and state Democrats have been equally determined to stop such a measure. The Rs came close in 2009, but the House Democrats, only two seats away from a majority, blew up the legislative session rather than see the measure pass. By 2011, however, fresh from Tea Party victories, the GOP had overwhelming majorities in both Houses. The bill was almost undoubtedly going to pass, and rather than go for a more moderate version of voter ID with non-photo options, the conservatives went for the gold, introducing one of the most stringent versions of a voter-ID requirement. The only option left for the Democrats was to set up the grounds for the legal battles sure to come . Monday, it looked like those efforts paid off. The Department of Justice has blocked the law, meaning that while the measure goes to the United States District Court for the District of...

Romney's Southern Problem Might Not Matter Tuesday

Mitt Romney at a town hall in Dayton Ohio (Flickr/NewsHour)
Tomorrow night's primaries could end up being anticlimactic after Republicans have spent the past few week fretting about Mitt Romney's inability to win Southern states. So far, the Bible Belt has been his weakest territory to date. While Romney could lose every state in the Deep South and still gain the required number of delegates, conservatives have been worried about the fractured nature of a party where the likely nominee fails to win the most reliably Republican region of the country. Mississippi and Alabama might just buck the anti-Romney trend. Public Policy Polling looked at both states over the weekend and found Romney in a statistical dead heat with his social conservative opponents. Romney had the slight lead in Alabama with 31 percent to 30 for Gingrich and 29 percent for Santorum. That tracks along the same lines as a Rasmussen poll from the end of last week that also had the three candidates separated by one-point margins. It's more of a two-man race in Mississippi—...

Gingrich and Santorum's Pipe Dream

(Photo: Flickr/Gage Skidmore)
The basics of simple math are seeping into the 2012 race as the media challenges Rick Santorum and Newt Gingrich to reconcile with the fact that reaching the required 1,144 delegates has become a near statistical impossibility. The candidates themselves might not cop to these facts, but it's clear they've shifted gears, turning the focus from winning a majority themselves to blocking Mitt Romney from gaining enough delegates to win on the first ballot in Tampa. "Romney needs about 50 percent of the delegates," Santorum said on Meet the Press yesterday. "On the current track that we're on right now the fact is Governor Romney doesn't get to that number." Gingrich pushed the same idea on his Sunday stop by Fox News. "He's not a very strong front-runner. Almost all conservatives are opposed, which is the base of the party," the former speaker said. "And I think we are likely to see after the last primary in June, we're likely to see a 60-day conversation about what's going to happen as...

Santorum for President Round 2

(Flickr/Gage Skidmore)
Earlier this week, I postulated that Rick Santorum needs to firmly position himself as Romney's runner-up to put himself in line to be the party's pick in 2016. Salon 's Alex Pareene followed the similar logic but took it a step further, declaring , "Now Rick Santorum is the 2016 GOP nomination front-runner." But political scientist Jonathan Bernstein isn't so convinced by the myth that Republicans turn to the runner-up in the previous presidential cycle to select a new nominee. Bernstein writes : One could argue that the Huck, not Romney, was really the runner-up in 2008, which certainly doesn't say anything promising for Santorum. Overall, I wouldn't entirely rule out Santorum for 2016 (assuming no Romney presidency), but I wouldn't put him among the top three contenders, either. My take: Should the Republican nominee lose this fall, Santorum will initially be viewed as the front-runner for 2016, but he'll quickly fizzle out once the race gets under way. Santorum has had the great...

Gaming Out The Next Two Months

(Flickr/Gage Skidmore)
Rick Santorum's chances to overcome Mitt Romney's delegate dominance disappeared last night. Romney now holds a 415-176 lead according to figures from the AP. Santorum got just enough good news that he won't need to drop out anytime soon, but that outcome seems inescapable now, whether it is tomorrow or at some point later this spring. Luckily for Santorum, the next rounds of voting skew toward his base, allowing the former Pennsylvania senator to build on his momentum and provide justification for fighting on for a bit longer. The next votes will be held this weekend, when the small stakes Virgin Islands and Guam join Kansas in holding caucuses this Saturday. There are 40 delegates up for grabs in Kansas, a state straddling the Midwest and South, the two regions where Santorum's bid has gained the most traction. There have not yet been any polls for this year's race, but Mike Huckabee—Santorum's stand-in for comparisons to 2008—captured nearly 60 percent of the 19,000 votes cast in...

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