Conservatism

Dark Horse Victory

AP Photo/Matt Rourke
In one of the most startling turnarounds in presidential-primary history, Newt Gingrich scored a double-digit victory in South Carolina over Mitt Romney on Saturday. When the week began, Romney was coming off an easy win in New Hampshire and had a comfortable-looking lead in every state poll. Every political forecaster in America saw him as the inevitable Republican nominee. But his worst debate performance of the campaign on Monday night was followed by a week of fumbles that gave the lie to his campaign’s legendary “discipline.” Romney, cast as a “vulture capitalist” and out-of-touch one-percenter—in a state with high unemployment—could not even muster a clear answer to questions about releasing his tax returns. Gingrich, who finished fourth in both Iowa and New Hampshire, eased up on his denunciations of Romney’s record at Bain Capital—with the damage already done—and made the most of his local knowledge from next-door Georgia to deliver rabble-rousing performances at Monday and...

Vice Presidents for Romney

The final few days before the South Carolina primary have become all about Newt Gingrich's apparent last minute surge and Mitt Romney's inability to grapple with questions regarding his personal wealth. If momentum carries through, Gingrich should probably finish ahead of Romney in tomorrow's primary. But Romney will remain the clear frontrunner for the overall nomination. Don't believe us in the pundit class? Just look at where Republican elites are headed. Virginia Governor Bob McDonnell shows up on almost every shortlist of potential vice presidential candidates and, as Jamelle pointed out earlier , he endorsed Romney this afternoon. Almost every rising star of the Republican Party has attached themselves to Romney's campaign. Just glance at the list of nine possible VPs The New Republic gathered from talking to Republican insiders. Five had endorsed Romney while the others (save Nevada Governor Brian Sandoval) have decided to sit out the endorsement game. John Thune and Rob...

Inside The Mind of a Conservative Billionaire

I was on the road for a few hours last night and unfortunately missed out on the latest round of "So You Think You Can Beat Barack Obama". Stereotypical liberal that I am, my car radio was instead tuned to NPR and I caught this fascinating interview with billionaire investor Foster Friess. Friess is one of a handful of rich conservatives reshaping campaign finance. A Rick Santorum supporter, Friess has reportedly provided most of the funds for the Red, White and Blue Fund, the super PAC buying ads on Santorum's behalf. Back when candidate specific super PACs began popping up last year, there was concern that billionaires such as Friess would keep their favored candidate funded with no public scrutiny. Super PACs have looser filing requirements than the actual candidates, only filing reports twice a year and if they wanted these billionaires could funnel money through various organizations, obscuring the original source. Instead, many such as Friess and Gingrch supporter Sheldon...

Romney and Off-Shore Bank Accounts

Life must be good at the Obama campaign's Chicago headquarters these days. They can sit back and idly watch as Republicans do their job for them. This is around the time that a presidential reelection campaign would begin zeroing in on the best strategy to use against their general election opponent, but the GOP field has already settled on the narrative against frontrunner Mitt Romney. Instead of a primary defined by Romney's dreaded authorship of Massachusetts's health mandate or his wavering stance on abortion, Romney's opponents have unloaded on his "vulture capitalism" and glee at handing out pink slips. The spotlight was directed on Romney's hesitance to release his tax returns at the debate earlier this week, and will surely be raised again tonight when the candidates gather in South Carolina. Obama for America isn't taking the Republican implosion for granted though. In a conference call with reporters earlier today, campaign officials ripped into Mitt Romney as out of touch...

Secretary of Defense Palin

Newt Gingrich has staked out a string of positions over the course of the campaign that should be enough to disqualify him from holding the nation's top political office. Gingrich can't grasp the concept of separation of powers and believes the president should overrule court decisions he dislikes willy-nilly. He's in favor of child labor and peppers his speeches with race-baiting language. About the only thing Gingrich gets right is his desire to reinvest in space research. But this statement might resonate with voters more than any of those disqualifiers: Certainly, she’s one of the people I’d call on for advice,” Gingrich said in an interview with CNN’s Wolf Blitzer. “I would ask her to consider taking a major role in the next administration if I’m president, but nothing has been discussed of any kind. And it wouldn’t be appropriate to discuss it at this time. Gingrich was speaking of his new supporter Sarah Palin, one of the most disliked public figures even in this era of general...

Back to Iowa

AP Photo/Manuel Balce Ceneta
The Republican Party of Iowa released their final tally of a meaningless number today. According to the certified totals of Iowa caucus votes, Rick Santorum in fact finished ahead of Mitt Romney by 34 votes. But there's a catch: the party is missing results from eight precincts that cannot be certified. There is no way to ascertain if those votes would have given Romney the lead. Still, by any measure, that 34-vote Santorum edge counts as an essential tie. The bigger catch is that none of it matters. The Iowa caucuses are a straw poll, with no actual delegates selected through the vote. After the presidential preference poll at the start of each individual caucus, attendees are elected to serve as delegates to the county convention; a smaller group of those will be sent on to the state convention and eventually the national convention as delegates. Many caucus sites choose to portion delegates based upon the proportion of vote totals for each candidate, but most voters peel away after...

Evangelical Ballot Stuffing

An endorsement from a group of 150 social conservatives over the weekend should have been a huge gain for Rick Santorum's campaign. The South Carolina primary—Santorum's last real shot to block Mitt Romney's waltz to the general election—is right around the corner, and 60 percent of the Republican primary electorate in 2008 was evangelical or born-again Christians. Yet it's hard to see how exactly this endorsement will play out. The group as a whole did not commit resources to boosting Santorum's bid. It remained unclear Saturday afternoon if the attendees who entered the weekend supporting Newt Gingrich (or the few misbegotten souls still clinging to Rick Perry) would switch their ties and commit to Santorum as the anti-Romney of choice. Now, tales of dissent among the conservative rank and file are already starting to leak out. According to the Washington Times , a "civil war" is already under way following the Texas meeting: The meeting was called to avoid a continued division...

A New Candidate?

For fans of the horse race, this presidential election comes up a little short. The remaining contests are worth watching to see how the Republican Party's competing factions reconcile the fact that they must put aside their differences and support Romney if they hope to defeat Barack Obama, but any semblance of drama disappeared once Romney won the first two nominating states. He now leads the polls in the upcoming primary states. Thank god for Stephen Colbert. A recent Public Policy Polling survey showed that 5 percent of South Carolina Republicans would support the fake news host if he were a presidential candidate. That's 1 percent more than Jon Huntsman and falls within the margin of error for Rick Perry and Ron Paul. On last night's Colbert Report, the comedian hinted to his fans that he might have something up his sleeve, winking at a "major announcement" for Thursday night's show. “This just got real,” Colbert said. “I’ve got to ask, what do you think, nation? Should I run for...

Ron Paul’s Guerilla Visions

AP Photo/Cheryl Senter
T hat the biggest story of the New Hampshire Primary has, in the 36 hours since, received relatively little comment attests to our perception of politics as a game of colliding strategies rather than a psychodrama. If nothing else, this coming electoral year we’re about to get a lesson in the strange Oedipal dynamics between fathers and sons. Ron Paul is running for president. He’s not just running for president up until next week’s South Carolina Primary or the Florida Primary at the end of the month; he’s not running through March or June or even up until the combustible convention days of September when the Republican Party meets in Tampa. Ron Paul is running for president forever, which includes—unless he dies first—next November 6. “We’re dangerous,” he giggled Tuesday night from the stage of his second-place victory rally in Manchester. In radicalese, this translates as (in the parlance of the horrible music my 14-year-old son listens to on the way to school): “I’m sexy and I...

A Tea Party State of Confusion

Click on the image to see larger size. I f the 50 states were 50 people, and you had to rank them by ideology, then South Carolina—which holds the second Republican presidential primary on January 21—would be the Tea Partier of the group. Forty-six percent of South Carolinians identify as conservative. Republicans hold every statewide elected office and control both the state house and senate. The governor, Nikki Haley, was on the vanguard of the Tea Party in the 2010 congressional elections, and her predecessor—the right-wing libertarian Mark Sanford—was among the five governors to reject stimulus funds in 2009. The state’s congressional delegation is no less conservative. Of its eight members-—two senators and six representatives—only one, Representative James Clyburn, belongs to the Democratic Party. Moreover, the state’s junior Republican senator, Jim DeMint, is a right-wing icon. It’s not just that he is the most conservative member of the Senate, according to National Journal...

An Ax to Grind

AP Photo/Mike Carlson
Cable-news pundits rejoiced a week ago when Rick Santorum drew Mitt Romney into an essential tie for first place in the Iowa caucuses. For all the ups and downs throughout the fall, this election has been inherently boring. Until Iowa, Romney had inched along unremarkably to the general election while a rotating group of talking heads ran nominal presidential campaigns in order to boost their fees on the lecture circuit. But then Rick Santorum arrived in the spotlight and won an actual vote, not just front-page headlines. Finally, we could train our sights on someone who could, just maybe, make Romney work for the nomination, pushing him out of the general-election comfort zone that he had coasted on all last year. Unfortunately for those invested in an extended horse race, the Santorum surge hasn't panned out. His campaign was an abject failure in New Hampshire last night, even under the arbitrary rules of the expectations game, finishing a distant fifth. Turns out, despite his weak...

Ads and Debates Rule the Day

Yesterday, I speculated that the traditional dynamic of the early states weeding out the also-ran candidates could be upended this cycle by the increased reliance on debates and super PACs. Last night, Mitt Romney won a resounding victory, yet no candidates are rushing to exit stage left this morning. In fact, all have packed up their bags to head south, either to South Carolina or Florida. The exit polls from last night show that the debates mattered as much as any other factor for voters in New Hampshire—whom the candidates showered with a level of personal face time no upcoming state's voters will be granted. A full 84 percent said the debates played an "important" role in their vote yesterday, and 52 percent of all voters said it was a "very important" part of their decision-making process. Just half of the New Hampshirites who turned out said they had been contacted by one of the candidate's campaigns. Advertising, however, clearly helped shape the script; 72 percent in the exit...

It's the Money, Honey

AP Photo/Brian Bianco
Mitt Romney's march to the GOP nomination became even more likely last night after he thumped everybody else in the New Hampshire primary. Now the guesswork turns to South Carolina with the campaign press cadre picking up their bags and hopping on the next flights to Charleston and Columbia. But the bigger prize comes later in the month when Florida's 50 delegates are doled out. Mitt Romney already holds a commanding double-digit polling lead in the Sunshine State. That head-start matters more than in other states thanks to the prevalence of absentee and early voting in the primary. And now Romney's allies are chipping in to ensure that the month ends on a good note for the former Massachusetts governor. The Washington Post reports that Restore Our Future, the super PAC backing Romney's bid, has committed $3.6 million to a Florida ad buy while his opponents keep all their attention trained on South Carolina. It would make no difference if Santorum or Gingrich overcame their current...

Could Super PACs Prolong the Race?

Republicans have allocated just 40 delegates between Iowa and New Hampshire. In terms of the math, neither state is essential to boosting the candidates to the required 1,144 delegates. Rather, the first two states of the GOP nomination contest have traditionally winnowed the field in years; finishing near the bottom of the pack pushes the candidates off the front page of newspapers, and fickle donors flee to spend their dollars on a more likely winner. Iowa already succeeded in forcing Michele Bachmann out of the race , and tonight's results in New Hampshire may cause others to follow suit. On the other hand, the number of debates and the influence of unfiltered money from super PACs might allow candidates to stick it out longer than in years past. Ground organizations have played little role in this election; Rick Santorum had spent the most time in Iowa, and Jon Huntsman essentially lives in New Hampshire these days, but neither received a bump until the media started paying...

Mitt Romney, Mr. Sunshine

All eyes are on New Hampshire today as voters in the Granite State head to the first primary in the Republican nomination contest. Unlike the maddeningly slow trickle-in of the results in the Iowa caucuses last week, we should know the winner soon after the polls close tonight. Mitt Romney has held a dominating lead in the polls all year, and though his numbers have dipped slightly over the past few days, it's unlikely that he will place anything other than first—election sage Nate Silver of FiveThirtyEight puts the likelihood of Romney winning New Hampshire at a whopping 98 percent. The outstanding question is how the other candidates will do: Is Jon Huntman's momentum real or just a media fiction, and—egads!—could Buddy Roemer finish ahead of Rick Perry? Many of the candidates—including the two Ricks and Newt Gingrich—have set their hopes on South Carolina's January 21 primary, but it's the election at the end of the month that could prove to be the most important. Florida will be...

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