Conservatism

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...

Same Schtick, Different Day

AP Images/Vince DeWitt
DERRY, NEW HAMPSHIRE— Newt Gingrich is a master of Stalinist history. In the New Hampshire campaign’s closing days, he made much of his own role in the job creation of the Reagan and Clinton years (though he never mentioned Clinton by name) and contrasted himself with his rivals by touting his ability to reach across the aisle during Clinton’s presidency. As Gingrich recounted it to a crowd of 300 gathered in a high-school auditorium in Derry late yesterday afternoon, he and Clinton both “concluded very early on that we really wanted to get together to do something for the country.” They would meet privately, he said, while bashing each other publicly. His account is notable for its obvious omissions. It makes no mention of Gingrich’s forcing Clinton to close the government down at the end of 1995 (Clinton wouldn’t accede to Gingrich’s demands to cut Medicare). It leaves out Gingrich’s decision to have congressional Republicans campaign for office in 1998 on a platform of impeaching...

Romney's Jobs Claims Come Under Scrutiny

Mitt Romney's pitch to voters relies heavily on his executive experience. He doesn't spend much time dwelling on his time as the chief executive of Massachusetts (a more fitting selling point for someone seeking the presidency) but rather concentrates on his experience in the private sector as chief executive at Bain Capital. Romney claims himself to be a "job creator." "In the business I had, we invested in over 100 different businesses and net-net, taking out the ones where we lost jobs and those that we added, those businesses have now added over 100,000 jobs," he said over the weekend. There's no reliable way to vet that number unless Romney or Bain release supporting documents (which they have of course refused to), but the AP's Calvin Woodward offers good reason to be skeptical. "His campaign bases its claims on recent employment figures at three companies—Staples, Domino's, and Sports Authority—even though Romney's involvement with them ceased years ago," Woodward writes . "By...

Mitts Off

AP Photo/Charles Krupa
T he non-Romney Republicans had ten hours to stew over their abject failure to lay a glove on the Mittster in Saturday night’s lackluster prime-time debate. Nudged on Sunday morning by moderator David Gregory, who launched the proceedings by asking the aggrieved Newt Gingrich to make an argument against Romney’s electability, they came out with guns blazing at the Meet the Press debate. But it was almost certainly too little, too late, to bring down the frontrunner. Romney’s ludicrous pretense of being a non-politician was deflated at last, as Rick Santorum and Newt Gingrich ganged up on him effectively. When Santorum asked why Romney didn’t run for re-election as governor of Massachusetts, given his great passion for improving the state, Romney revived his hoary rhetoric: “Politics is not a career. My life’s passion has been my family, my faith, and my country.” Gingrich parried: “Can we drop a little bit of the pious baloney? The fact is, you ran for Senate in 1994 and lost … you...

Mitt the Unassailed

AP Photo/Elise Amendola
Manchester, New Hampshire —Well, that was unremarkable. The last presidential debate until another begins ten hours from now saw none of Mitt Romney’s challengers actually challenge him. His toughest challenge probably came from George Stephanopoulos, who asked him if his assertions on Bain Capital’s job creation were really on the level—neither Newt, Ron, Jon nor the two Ricks, confronted Romney with anything as potentially threatening to his lead. Part of the problem, as my colleague Jamelle Bouie has pointed out, is that a number of these guys don’t really seem to be running for president. Ron Paul, who took off two-and-a-half days between the Iowa caucuses and his arrival in New Hampshire yesterday afternoon, is simply running to spread the libertarian word, and take shots at his inconstantly conservative rivals (focusing tonight on Rick Santorum—not Romney). Paul had a good night pitching to libertarians and anti-warriors. Santorum had a good night, too, but it’s not likely that...

One Strapped Santorum

AP Photo/Donald Traill
Manchester, New Hampshire— The fact that Rick Santorum doesn’t have much of an organization or an appreciable number of dollars has been increasingly apparent during the past several days in New Hampshire. Late yesterday afternoon, his campaign had scheduled a town hall in the back room of Belmont Hall, a modest restaurant in a working-class neighborhood of Manchester. The room was far too small for the crowd that turned out but everyone who’d turned out managed to squeeze in nonetheless. But shortly before the event was scheduled to begin, the restaurant owner stepped to the podium and announced that a fire marshal had shown up and ordered all but 100 of the attendees to leave, which would have meant 150 people would have to go. (Who called the fire marshal? Someone from another campaign, or someone who doesn’t like Santorum?) The volunteer representing the Santorum campaign called a campaign staffer and the decision was made to move the event into the restaurant’s parking lot. And...

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