Conservatism

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...

Romney's Spine, Or Lack Thereof

(Flickr/Gage Skidmore)
Ahead of the likely celebratory night for Mitt Romney's supporters, I wrote a cautionary note this morning about why neutral observers shouldn't take Romney's success in the Republican primaries as a sign of they accept him as a moderate. Instead, Romney has gained his spot in the party by aligning himself with every conservative whim. Still, conservatives don't fully trust Romney's sincerity. The former Massachusetts governor will have to watch his back at every turn in the general election; any misstep from conservative dogma will incite a round of handwringing among movement Republicans who would view it as confirmation of their worst fears about Romney. Unlike, say, Rick Santorum, who can adopt the occasional heterodox view without fear of being tarnished a RINO (Republican in Name Only), Romney must maintain a perfect track record to keep conservatives satisfied. That predicament could very well cost him in the general election. His favorability among the broad electorate has...

No Room Here for Moderates

(Flickr/Gage Skidmore)
If current polls are right, Mitt Romney could wrap up the GOP nomination tonight. He's set to sweep the Northeast; faces no competition in delegate-rich Virginia, where Rick Santorum and Newt Gingrich aren't even on the ballot; and his standing is rising in the southern states where he once looked vulnerable. He's edged ahead of Santorum in recent polls of Ohio, where the former Massachusetts governor has been gaining steam in the past few days. Tennessee—a state in which evangelicals dominate—looks like it will end up a three-way tie between Santorum, Romney, and Gingrich. As Slate 's Dave Weigel put it yesterday: "This was what the Romney campaign always wanted and expected … It was Super Tuesday that was supposed to kill the Santorum grassroots campaign, with the live-off-the-land candidate unable to campaign in every state, unable to match Romney's ad spending." When Romney does land the knockout blow—whether it comes tonight or later this spring—a torrent of competing narratives...

Ohio a Game Changer? Please.

(AP Photo/Gerald Herbert)
(AP Photo/Gerald Herbert) Republican presidential candidate, former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney speaks at a campaign rally in Zanesville, Ohio, Monday, March 5, 2012. Any of the following sound familiar? This “could be a game-changer in the Republican presidential race,” Reuters reports . “It may be Romney's last stand,” CBS News declares . Matthew Dowd chimes in : “This is a huge, crucial moment. I think it’s actually the most important moment for Romney in this entire campaign up until now.” If any of this rings a bell, it’s because that’s what pundits were saying about Michigan no more than a week ago. Today, it’s Ohio that has been christened the state that will make or break the Romney campaign. Despite taking place on a date with a snazzier name, there is little to distinguish the Ohio primary from the heavily covered contests in Michigan and Florida. While it's understandable that media attention has focused on contested states instead of safe bets like Nevada or Arizona,...

Republicans Coalesce Around Romney

(Flickr/KP Tripathi)
Despite the horse-race media coverage before tomorrow's Super Tuesday elections, Mitt Romney remains the odds-on favorite to take the GOP nomination. He has nearly double his leading opponent's delegates, dwarfs Rick Santorum's meager cash stockpile, and has a campaign organization that will go unmatched this late in the race. In case that's not evidence enough, Republican elites continue to flock to Romney's side. And it's not just the establishment GOP of old (think Bob Dole and George H.W. Bush). Leaders from the far right of Republican politics are also lending Romney their support. Yesterday, House Majority Leader Eric Cantor and Senator Tom Coburn both endorsed Romney. If Santorum were truly a threat to Romney's bid, a few arch conservative elected officials would be out stumping for the former Pennsylvania senator. Yet his former colleagues are entirely absent from his campaign. Romney has secured the support of 80 sitting members of Congress, according to a count from The Hill...

Blunt Amendment Fails in the Senate

(Flickr/Stacy Lynn Baum)
For a brief moment yesterday it looked as though some GOP senators were ready to step back from the ledge, and reject their party's assault on women's rights. A handful of Republican senators were hesitant to endorse the controversial Blunt amendment, which would allow any employer—both secular and religious—to reject covering individual aspects of health insurance they find morally questionable, not just contraception. Even Mitt Romney expressed opposition to the bill when an Ohio reporter explained the implications before his campaign quickly realized they had defied party doctrine, and issued a clarification, which reversed Romney's earlier statement. Any qualms with the legislation evaporated when it was put to a vote this morning. The measure failed 51-48, but Republicans voted with their usual lockstep discipline. Soon retiring Senator Olympia Snowe was the lone Republican opposing the measure and three Democrats—Ben Nelson, Joe Manchin, and Bob Casey—crossed the aisles to join...

Santorum Beats Dan Savage

(Flickr/Gage Skidmore)
Rick Santorum came up short in Michigan on Tuesday night, but it was of no matter. After months of turmoil he'd achieved a primary goal of his presidential campaign: his Google problem. That's right. When normal, God-loving Americans direct their web browsers to Google and type in the former Pennsylvania senator's last name they are no longer greeted by spreadingsantorum.com as the first result. Created by sex columnist Dan Savage in response to Santorum's comparison of homosexual relationships to man-on-dog sex, the Web site coined a sexual neologism, redefining Santorum's last name as " The frothy mixture of lube and fecal matter that is sometimes the by-product of anal sex." Thanks to enthusiastic fans, the simple webpage sat atop the Google rankings for years, bedeviling the politician at every turn. "Savage and his perverted sense of humor is the reason why my children cannot Google their father's name," Santorum wrote in a letter last year, and his eldest daughter Elizabeth told...

Are Republicans Backing Away from the Contraception Fight?

(Flickr/Stacy Lynn Baum)
Senate Democrats think they have Republicans backed into a corner. In response to the hullabaloo around the Obama administration's decision on covering contraception in health-care plans, Missouri Senator Roy Blunt has offered an amendment to allow any employer—not just religiously affiliated organizations—to refuse to cover any health-care service—not just contraception—based on "religious beliefs or moral convictions." The battle over reproductive rights has already allowed Democrats to paint Republicans as antagonistic to women and, needless to say, Senate Dems are gleefully forcing a vote on the measure tomorrow to get their opponents' extremist take on the record. The Washington Post 's Greg Sargent checked in with a few Republican senators and found that some are hesitant to endorse the amendment ahead of tomorrow's vote: A spokesman for Senator Susan Collins confirms to me she’s still undecided — with less than 24 hours until tomorrow’s vote. On MSBNC just now, Senator Olympia...

Anti-Romney, with a Side of Grits

(Flickr/Gage Skidmore)
The implications of Mitt Romney's Michigan win are still being parsed, but the calendar leaves little time for the campaigns to rest. Super Tuesday is in less than a week, and a total of 437 delegates in 10 states is at stake. The media have coalesced around the idea that Ohio is the only race that matters. The candidates have followed their lead—this morning Romney was campaigning in Toledo, and Rick Santorum called in to a Dayton radio station. To a certain degree, the focus on Ohio is understandable. It's a general-election swing state, and polls indicate it's also teetering between Santorum and Romney ahead of Super Tuesday. The primary results in other states are more easily predicted: Newt Gingrich should carry his home state of Georgia, Santorum should fare well in the other Southern states, Romney will clean up in the Northeast and Virginia, and everyone will ignore the few delegates up for grabs in the caucus states out West. I'm far more interested to see how things play out...

Liberal Troublemakers in Michigan

(Flickr/Gage Skidmore)
Rick Santorum's newfound frontrunner status can primarily be attributed to the weakness of Mitt Romney's candidacy. The former frontrunner has bobbled away his advantage through unforced errors and an inability to convince Republican voters that he truly is one of them. Santorum was just in the lucky position of being the last plausible Romney alternative. Though most of the credit lies on Romney's shoulders, the shift in political rhetoric over the past month has helped Santorum. The resurgence of culture-war issues like birth control arrived at a prime moment for a candidate whose career has been predicated on appealing to the social values of the religious right. We’ll have a better sense on just how Republicans are responding once the results from the Michigan and Arizona primaries come in tonight. With Arizona an assured win for Mitt Romney, the attention is centered on the Wolverine State. A few weeks ago, Rick Santorum had opened a wide lead in Michigan; now Romney has clawed...

Where Are All These Atheist Politicians?

(Flickr/gwilmore)
Throughout the 2012 race Rick Santorum has tried his best to distance his campaign from his image as a vehicle for the religious right. He has scorned the media for asking questions on the culture wars, spends his days touring the Midwest to tout his plan for manufacturing, all while leaving social moralizing at the dog whistling level. But on Sunday, the old fire and brimstone Santorum was back in full force in an interview with ABC's George Stephanopoulos when the discussion turned to John F. Kennedy's 1960 speech on the separation between church and state. "What kind of country do we live that says only people of non-faith can come into the public square and make their case? That makes me throw up," Santorum said. Paul already explained how Santorum misread Kennedy's message and Jamelle made the case for why, in a saner world, it would be enough to disqualify Santorum from being treated as a credible presidential candidate. When I first read Santorum's comments though, I was mostly...

Romney's Wealth Problem

(Flickr/401K)
Americans have come to expect a certain patrician baseline from their political class. Congress is stocked full of millionaires, and in the 2008 campaign Joe Biden was considered working class for riding Amtrak, despite having a net worth in the hundreds of thousands. No one bats an eye now when Rick Santorum whines about his meager means on the debate stage then releases tax returns revealing that he rakes in over $900K a year. Yet, Mitt Romney's wealth has served as an albatross to his campaign. We might be used to millionaires running for president, but Romney would rank among the richest handful of presidents if elected. His vast fortune is more than double the total worth of the past eight presidents combined. Newt Gingrich played on resentments of Romney's wealth to great success in South Carolina before dialing back his attacks once the Republican establishment turned on him, accusing the former speaker of employing leftist critiques of capitalism. Romney's campaign has danced...

Meanie Mitt Pulls Ahead

(Flickr/Gage Skidmore)
Rick Santorum's improbable moment atop the GOP field seems likely to fade away just as quickly as his anti-Romney predecessors. A pair of new numbers from Public Policy Polling point toward tomorrow being a triumphant day for Mitt Romney. The former Massachusetts governor leads by an insurmountably wide margin in Arizona. He's up 43-26 percent over Santorum, and carried early voters—which will constitute nearly half of Arizona's total vote count—by 48-25. And after trailing Santorum by as much as 15 percent three weeks ago, Romney has reopened a slight Michigan lead of 2 percent. Again, PPP found that Romney dominated early voters (62-29 over Santorum), though they represent a far smaller share of the Michigan bloc. It looks as though Romney's negative assault on his opponents' record and character has worked yet again. Santorum's favorability numbers plummeted over the past several weeks. One week ago PPP had Santorum with a +44 net favorability in Michigan; today, that number is...

The Obama-ization of Everything

Man, those guys really don't like me.
For the last few years, liberals have been pointing out that conservatives radically shifted their opinions about certain ideas once those ideas were embraced by Barack Obama. The two biggies are an individual mandate for health insurance, which was conceived by conservatives at the Heritage Foundation as a way to get (nearly) universal coverage while maintaining the private insurance system; and a cap-and-trade system for reducing harmful emissions, which was conceived as a way to use market forces instead of government regulations to achieve an environmental good. All kinds of conservatives liked those ideas, but once Obama advocated them, the ideas became not just disfavored but presented as something so vile and socialistic they could only have been coughed up by Joe Stalin's decaying corpse. That happened a couple of years ago, but now we're in an election year, so it's only going to get worse. And watching the entire conservative universe get pulled toward opposition not just to...

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