Conservatism

Football: Game of Life—and Texas Senate Races

Flickr/Parker Michael Knight
Meet Craig James. If you aren't a football fan, you've probably never heard of the guy. If you are inclined toward the pigskin, well, James's voice should be pretty familiar to you—he's been commentating at ESPN for 20 years after a short but successful career with the New England Patriots. He's also running for U.S. Senate in Texas. In a state where football is pretty much holy, James hews closely to the stereotype. He calls the Constitution "the playbook" and speaks in broad platitudes about hating Obama and loving America. Why isn't he afraid to stand up to power? Because, he explains, the last guy he was awed by was Patriots' quarterback Steve Grogan. While he argues that it's his experience as a rancher, father, and real-estate mogul that qualify him for office, he falls back on football as his primary qualification an awful lot. One Boston Globe profile gives a pretty clear portrait of the image that James wants to project: At home, James dons his blue jeans, cowboy hat, and...

New Results, Same Race

(Flickr/Gage Skidmore)
Rick Santorum might be the media darling of the day after his clean sweep in last night's three elections. But that likely won't mean much for his future electoral prospects. Those three elections did not actually award any delegates—two (Minnesota and Colorado) were nonbinding caucuses, and the Missouri primary has been termed a beauty contest, with the states' delegates actually selected by another vote later this spring. Much like Iowa, these were small-scale contests where Santorum's town halls could win over enough votes to tip the scales. These were also the first contests where the Romney super PAC stayed largely on the sidelines, running few ads. That won't be the case in the remaining two February contests; Arizona and Michigan are large states where TV ads and traditional campaign infrastructure will trump grassroots appeal. After those states vote, the nomination finally ditches its state-by-state progression and becomes a truly national primary on Super Tuesday. Every poll...

Minnesota Not So Nice

(Flickr/J. Stephen Conn)
My home state of Minnesota holds its caucus today, and no one really knows how the election will turn out. Public Policy Polling rolled out numbers last night that gave Rick Santorum a decent lead with 33 percent of the vote followed by Mitt Romney at 24 percent, Newt Gingrich at 22 percent, and Ron Paul bringing up the rear with 20 percent. Besides PPP there has been little polling in the state, and tracking numbers on Sunday had all of the candidates clustered together, so it's really anyone's guess how the caucus vote will roll in tonight. It's a nonbinding caucus, so the results themselves won't play a role in delegate math. The narrative tomorrow will be about whether Santorum has capitalized on Gingrich's missteps to gain momentum and reposition himself as the anti-Romney alternative. The more interesting story is the state of the Republican Party in Minnesota—yet another contest in a potential swing state for the general election—giving us a glimpse at how each candidate's...

Miracle in Vegas

Flickr/Gage Skidmore
On Saturday night, as CNN’s wall-to-wall coverage of the Nevada caucuses was wilting from lack of anything to cover (candidates had yet to appear, vote totals were both low and unchanging, commentators had nothing to say), the network decided to air the one caucus still ongoing: the post-Shabbat Vegas caucus that the state GOP had set up to accommodate those observant Jewish Republicans who couldn’t turn out till the sun set. But the caucus was unbearable. Under caucus rules, the moderator was compelled to call on anyone who raised his or her hand to speak, and an inordinate number of Ron Paulistas, when duly recognized, droned on about the apocalypse to come now that we no longer peg the dollar to gold. (Of course, we ceased such pegging during Richard Nixon’s presidency, so the apocalypse has been a long time comin’.) When one speaker finished, another rose to repeat the previous speaker’s points—so much so that the event’s moderator politely suggested that if prospective speakers...

Conservatives Ditch Corporate Spending After Eastwood Ad

(Flickr/Sachyn)
Conservatives spent Monday being outraged about the Chrysler Super Bowl ad featuring Clint Eastwood. They were upset that the great Western hero and former Republican would highlight Detroit manufacturing, which they argued was an implicit endorsement of Obama's policies. “I was, frankly, offended by it,” Karl Rove said on Fox News. “I'm a huge fan of Clint Eastwood. I thought it was an extremely well-done ad, but it is a sign of what happens when you have Chicago-style politics, and the president of the United States and his political minions are, in essence, using our tax dollars to buy corporate advertising." "The commercial’s theme was more closely informed by Barack Obama’s recent SOTU call for the country to put aside its differences and march to the president’s tune than by the rugged individualism that one usually associates with the star who played Dirty Harry and The Man with No Name," National Review 's Charles C.W. Cooke wrote . I was more ambivalent. It's nice to see...

The Revolution Will Not Be Televised

AP Photo
This was supposed to be the year of Ron Paul. Sure, no one outside his band of misfit supporters expected Paul to come anywhere close to winning the Republican nomination, but he was on a path to be the spoiler of the race. His baseline support had apparently ticked up since 2008—the rise of the Tea Party brought new love for his career-long opposition to the Federal Reserve—and the Texas congressman had used those intervening four years to develop the most ruthlessly efficient organization combined with an enviable budget of any of the candidates—except for maybe Mitt Romney. His path was set: Paul could consistently finish somewhere around 20 percent in most state primaries, rarely enough to win but still respectable. That's a low enough total to push most candidates out of the race eventually, but Paul is committed to his ideological purity, not the Republican Party. He'd likely carry on past the outcries from the Grand Old Party's establishment. While that might not secure the...

What Happens in Vegas

Flickr/califrayray
The next stop on the national humiliate Newt Gingrich tour lands in Nevada tomorrow when, if recent polls have even an ounce of truth, Mitt Romney will trounce the competition. Every survey this week has Romney up by staggeringly wide margins. Public Policy Polling's latest numbers have Romney doubling Gingrich and gathering support from 50 percent of Nevadans. The Las Vegas Review-Journal' s numbers aren't quite as rosy for the former Massachusetts governor; Romney tops Gingrich by only a 20 percent margin. The polls that give Romney a dominating lead can probably be trusted given his performance in the state last time around. The real question is who finishes in second. All of the factors that make a caucus state hard to accurately poll are the ones that lend themselves to outsize turnout among Paul supporters—organization and enthusiasm. Even though the latest polls put Paul in solid double-digits behind Gingrich, it won't be too surprising if Paul in fact finishes second tomorrow.

In Case You Were Underestimating ALEC's Role

Florida Representative Rachel Burgin recently filed a pretty typical bill for a conservative Republican, asking the federal government to lower corporate taxes. But there was one thing that made Burgin's measure a little unusual: It began by stating the mission of the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC). That's likely because Burgin's bill had its origins with the corporate-funded nonprofit. Most Americans have never heard of ALEC. The innocuously named group offers a meeting ground for conservative state legislators and corporations. The organization boasts nearly 2,000 members and partnerships with almost 300 corporations and private nonprofits. The "partnerships" give major businesses the opportunity to shape policy in states around the country. Last year, The Nation embarked on a six-part series called "ALEC Exposed," investigating the group's overwhelming influence on everything from deregulation to privatizing education to killing off unions. But much of the group...

Behold the Power of Newt

ORLANDO, FLORIDA —Newt Gingrich has publicly pledged to have the single most productive day in presidential history. Gingrich has taken to listing his first-day proposals during recent stump speeches, but he promised to take it a step further when he spoke last night. He promised to release a new Contract With America during his non-concession speech— "a personal one between me and you"—that would detail his plans once he enters office. "We're going to put this together in a way that you will be able to see in writing with my signature, and you'll be able to hold me accountable," Gingrich said. For Gingrich, it's not enough to promise voters that you'll bring change to Washington—you have to bring about that change in the span of a few hours. By my assessment, it seemed like far too ambitious of a plan, just given the taxing schedule of inauguration, what with changing tuxedos between each ball and whatnot. But Gingrich offered a rebuke to my timekeeper's cynicism last night. "All of...

Gingrich Goes After Goldman

ORLANDO, FLORIDA —Newt Gingrich often rails against the establishment elites who have conspired to sink his campaign. Sometimes it is Mitt Romney; others times he targets the liberals (an unlikely tag-team combination), but there is always someone to blame other than himself. I heard a new formulation of this theory at his "Crossing the Finish Line Rally" in Orlando last night. The event, held on the final eve before the primary, was intended as a pre-victory rally of sorts but took a much more subdued tone, as Gingrich's standing in the polls has evaporated over the past week. But angry Gingrich was in true form, lashing out at his opponent's vast wealth and the conspiracy to prevent Gingrich from gaining power: Goldman Sachs is a company that has taken billions from the American taxpayer, and they had a handpicked candidate in 2008 named Barack Obama. They have a handpicked candidate this year named Mitt Romney. They want to make sure that they keep the establishment in charge so...

Newt's Old-Time Religion

LUTZ, FLORIDA — On the last Sunday before the Florida primary, Newt Gingrich bowed his head at Exciting Idlewild Baptist Church, a megachurch in a suburb north of Tampa. As the remaining Republican candidates scramble to reach as many voters as humanly possible before Tuesday's all-important primary, every chance to preen before a captive audience is a golden opportunity. And no audience is more glued to their seats than devout Christians on a Sunday. Most parishioners appeared unaware that a celebrity was scheduled to be in their midst. When Gingrich stepped off his bus, reporters formed a swarm that enveloped him as he rushed inside the sanctuary. He walked in quickly, ignoring the media flock as he huddled in close conversation with the church's senior pastor, Ken Whitten. Gingrich made no remarks once inside the church, but he sat in the front center pew where the thousands of congregants could see him sing and sway. When Pastor Whitten recognized Gingrich, the church cameraman...

Hemming and Hawing on Blind Trusts

JACKSONVILLE, FLORIDA —The candidates declined easy chances to attack one another with a surprising frequency during last night's debate. "This is a nonsense question," Newt Gingrich said when moderator Wolf Blitzer provided a prime opportunity to attack Romney's tax returns. "Look, how about if the four of us agree for the rest of the evening, we'll actually talk about issues that relate to governing America?" Romney didn't buy the truce-talk. "Wouldn't it be nice if people didn't make accusations somewhere else that they weren't willing to defend here? " he said. But Romney had his own trouble distancing himself from harsh rhetoric. Blitzer asked Romney what the message was behind an ad that accused Gingrich of referring to Spanish as "the language of the ghetto." "I haven't seen the ad," Romney replied. "I'm sorry, I don’t get to see all the TV ads." He hemmed and hawed, denying any responsibility when Gingrich said it was an inappropriate distortion of his statement. "I doubt that...

Gingrich's Debate Pledge

Survey a room of Newt Gingrich supporters and one main common theme always arises; they eagerly await the general election when Gingrich will easily waltz past Barack Obama in every debate. Newt has always thought highly of his skill at the podium. Throughout the fall and winter his stump speech has included a promise that, should he gain the nomination, he will challenge Obama to a series of seven Lincoln-Douglas style debates with no moderator. He took that pledge a step further on Thursday, stating that he would bypass the normal debate commissions. "I would reject the so-called debate commission this fall," he said," because we have had enough of newsmen deciding what the topics are going to be." Colonel Michael Steele of Black Hawk Down fame introduced Gingrich at the event and threw out the suggestions that broadcasting the Gingrich general election debates on pay-per-view could help solve at least a part of the national debt problem. The crowd largely agreed. "That's the one...

Mitt Romney, Hero of Finance

Romney’s backers say he did the tough work needed to restructure the economy. Actually, he seized opportunities that the tax, securities, and bankruptcy laws should never have given him.

“Creative destruction” is Mitt Romney’s best defense for his career in private equity and the trail of displaced workers some of his ventures left behind. The idea comes from the economist Joseph Schumpeter, who argued that capitalism generates economic growth through “gales of creative destruction” that sweep away obsolete technologies and products. As Romney’s advocates have it, that’s what his firm, Bain Capital, has advanced—painful economic changes that are essential to a rising standard of living. If Romney made his fortune that way, he deserves the praise that some conservatives have lavished on him for contributing to American competitiveness. But that isn’t the whole story. Much of the work of Bain and other private—equity firms has little to do with the kind of wrenching Schumpeterian change that contributes to growth, still less to the job creation for which Romney claims credit. Technological innovation was at the heart of Schumpeter’s vision, and no one today objects to...

Romney's Mormon and Evangelical Divide

COCOA, FLORIDA —In the Republican nomination contest, where evangelicals represent a broader segment of the voting population than the general election, it's widely accepted that Mitt Romney's Mormon faith could cost him. Romney's tax returns brought his faith back into the limelight when it was revealed that he does in fact tithe around 10 percent of his earnings to the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, as dictated by church rules. Yet, in the weeks preceding the Iowa caucuses, I didn't run across a single Republican who had ruled out Romney on the basis of his religion—or at least no voters willing to admit as such to a reporter. The worst I would get from the Iowans was concern that other people in the general election would be hesitant to cast their ballot for a Mormon, though they themselves were of course not influenced by that factor. I arrived in Florida this week to cover the last few days of the Sunshine State's primary, and at the very first event I attended, one...

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