Conservatism

Pocketbook Rules

DES MOINES, IOWA —Leaders of Iowa's religious right gathered here Wednesday night in an attempt to recalibrate the presidential race to focus on the social issues. A full crowd packed into the ornate Hoyt Sherman Place theater for the world premiere for Gift of Life , a pro-life film produced by Citizens United and narrated by former Arkansas Governor Mike Huckabee. The film was full of CGIed fetuses, heart-rending stories of adults whose parents had considered abortion, and Huckabee strolling on a beach wearing a blazer as children built sandcastles in the background. The crowd sat enraptured throughout the movie, but the four Republican candidates who spoke before the film were the real draw. Michele Bachmann, Newt Gingrich, Rick Perry, and Rick Santorum all happily stepped on stage to flaunt their pro-life credentials; Mitt Romney, Ron Paul, and Jon Huntsman turned down the invitation. Each of the candidates in attendance used the opportunity to make outlandish claims and...

Legislative Legerdemain

AP Photo/Yves Logghe
So you think congressional Republicans are the only right-wingers who like to append their pet (and sometimes, wedge) issues—like the Keystone pipeline—to must-pass legislation like the payroll tax-cut extension? Guess again—it looks to be a trans-Atlantic syndrome. Turns out that David Cameron, Britain’s Tory prime minister, went to Brussels for the EU summit last week with exactly the same strategy. As the heads of government of the other 26 member states debated German Chancellor Angela Merkel’s proposal to regulate national budgets more tightly (itself a wildly irrelevant idea to the crisis of Greek, Italian and Spanish solvency, but that’s another story, which I wrote about in today’s Post ), Cameron cleared his throat and proposed a series of measures designed to protect the City—the London-based banks that dominate the British economy and helped bring about the crash of 2008. Cameron was operating under the theory that the Germans and the French so desperately needed unanimous...

One Small Step for Newt

AP Photo/Bill Ingalls
GRINNELL, IOWA—The emerging narrative for Newt Gingrich is that that he is an unstable politician prone to indulging in crazy theories more fitting a fantasy author than a presidential contender. He's been doing his best Chicken Little impression for years, running around warning about the threat of an EMP attack knocking out the nation's electrical grid (hint: it's not much of a threat). And, he is such a Steven Spielberg fan that he became convinced that the U.S. should invest in building a real-life “Jurassic Park.” During the debate last weekend, Newt's stance on space policy got Mitt Romney chuckling. "Places where we disagree?" Romney said in response to some prodding from debate moderator George Stephanopoulos. "Let's see, we can start with his idea to have a lunar colony that would mine minerals from the moon, I'm not in favor of spending that kind of money to do that." The Republicans in the crowd laughed it up with Romney, who had used a similar line of attack the day before...

Ron Paul Ties Gingrich in Iowa

GRINNELL, IOWA—That sure didn't last long. The Newt Gingrich boomlet appeared to have at least a bit more staying power than the month-long GOP love affairs with Michele Bachmann, Rick Perry, and Herman Cain. Instead, it might already be over. A new survey from Public Policy Polling puts Gingrich dead even with Ron Paul in Iowa, a crucial state that Gingrich will need to win if he hopes to clinch his party's nomination. Gingrich notches just 22 percent support in the poll, with Ron Paul in second place at 21 percent. The survey, conducted between December 11 and December 13, encompasses the days immediately following the last GOP debate. Gingrich's likability plummeted during that time. When PPP polled Iowans the previous week, the former speaker had a net favorability of 31 percent; that's now dropped to just a 12 percent margin, with 52 percent of caucus voters having warm feelings for Gingrich and another 40 percent having negative views. Mitt Romney placed third in the poll with...

Upright and Alright

Rick Perry finally found a sense of vigor and cowboy swagger when he took the debate stage at Drake University this weekend. In previous debates, the Texas governor either stumbled his way through inept and forgetful answers, or would just assume a sleepy gaze during the second half with nothing to add to the proceedings. But in the latest contest, he ripped into Mitt Romney, instigating the night's most memorable moment when Romney reached his hand over and offered a $10,000 bet against Perry. Where'd this new fire come from? In an interview with the Des Moines Register 's Kathie Obradovich Perry hinted at one possibility: My back is great. I’m back running again for the last six weeks. I think part of the reason you have seen a somewhat different candidate on the debates is my health, and (I’m) both physically and mentally just back in the game. You have fusion on your back, and it takes you a while to get back on your game… I would suggest to you that I was pretty fatigued. No...

Calm, Cool, and Collected

AP Photo/Charlie Neibergall
There are plenty of reasons to remain skeptical of Newt Gingrich's surge over the past few weeks. Sure, he's ahead in recent polls out of Iowa, South Carolina, and Florida. But Republican voters have proved fickle this election, bouncing from one candidate to the next gaffe after gaffe. After his campaign almost ran out of money and his staff fled over the summer, Gingrich had one of the thinnest field operations of any candidate—it was so disorganized that he won't even be on the primary ballot in Missouri after missing the filing deadline. But Gingrich hasn't been subject to much scrutiny, thanks to the Thanksgiving news slowdown and a break from the debates. When the candidates gathered in Des Moines on Saturday night, it was just the second debate—and the first one unrelated to foreign policy—since Gingrich entered the spotlight, and the candidates were bound to attack the front-runner. For a candidate who had spent most of his time at debates arguing with the moderators'...

A Rare Moment of Hope For Santorum

While most of the Republican presidential candidates have bypassed the typical ground game route, Rick Santorum has practically moved to Iowa, hoping that he can shake enough hands to convince the state's social conservatives that he is the real deal. But so far, it hasn't paid any dividends. He wallows near the bottom of Iowa polls, never breaking out of the single digits. He's set to make a "major announcement" today, and if early leaks are correct, it's a big endorsement for his campaign. According to The Hill 's Daniel Strauss, Iowa Secretary of State Matt Schultz will endorse Santorum's campaign. Schultz is a Tea Party favorite in the state, after he won a highly contested Secretary of State race last fall, knocking off the Democrat who had held that position. He's used his office to promote many of the causes popular among the grassroots right such as photo ID bills. Democrats successfully blocked that bill, but Iowa still suffered as a part of the 2011 wave of voter supression...

So Much For That Donald Trump Debate

Once Newt Gingrich accepted the invitation to Donald Trump's debate, the oh-so-wise political pundit class predicted (well, I predicted ) that what was supposed to be a sideshow event would turn into a full-on debate. After all, Newt is currently leading the polls, so what candidate would pass on the opportunity to attack the former House speaker exactly one week before the Iowa caucuses? Turns out, it's an offer most of them felt fine refusing : Michele Bachmann has officially said “no” to the Donald Trump-moderated Newsmax debate scheduled for later this month… this leaves just two candidates— Newt Gingrich and Rick Santorum—who plan to show up at the Dec. 27 event in Des Moines. Mitt Romney, Jon Huntsman, Rick Perry, Ron Paul have all declined to attend. Perry became the latest to decline Trump’s invitation on Thursday. Beyond owning up to my own mistaken predictions, it's interesting that Gingrich will be debating Santorum one-on-one, a format Gingrich has favored of late. He went...

That Didn't Take Long

Yesterday I noted that the pro-Mitt Romney Super PAC Restore Our Future was launching its ad campaign on a positive note. Sure, their commercial started off by attacking Barack Obama's early career as a community organizer, but it refrained from vilifying Newt Gingrich. That was somewhat unexpected; all signals indicate that Romney's campaign has entered panic mode over Gingrich's unexpected rise in the polls. But disparaging an opponent can backfire. So far the Romney campaign has avoided going negative. The Super PAC, on the other hand, has free reign to impugn Gingrich's integrity and Romney can disavow any influence on the ad (as his campaign must, since legally Super PACs and candidates cannot coordinate their efforts). It didn't take long for Restore Our Future to take the predictable turn. A new anti-Gingrich ad showed up online last night that attacks Gingrich's "baggage." The former House speaker has been accused of ethics violations, took...

So It Begins

The 2012 Republican nomination has been defined as much by what it lacks as its actual substance. At the start of the year, it was about a lack of any official candidates. Unlike the last presidential election, when Tom Vilsack announced his candidacy just after Thanksgiving 2006, and both Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama were running by February 2007, no one wanted to take the early plunge this year. Gary Johnson was the first to officially enter the field in April this year, and most candidates didn't file their paper work until May or June. Then the story was about all the candidates that lacked the requisite ambition to enter the field, as everyone from good on paper candidates (John Thune or Mitch Daniels) to media celebrities (Sarah Palin or Chris Christie) all ignored their pleading supporters and took a pass. The fall was primarily defined by the absence of a real challenger to Mitt Romney. Republican voters cycled between various flavors of the month before settling on Newt...

Legislative Stranglehold

Passing the REINS bill would give Republicans the ability to veto any significant new regulations.

With only four Democrats voting for the measure, yesterday the House passed H.R. 10, “Rules from the Executive in Need of Scrutiny” (REINS). If it were to become law, this radical piece of legislation would prohibit all federal agencies, including the Environmental Protection Agency, the Food and Drug Administration, and the Securities and Exchange Commission from minting any new regulations impacting the economy by more than $100 million unless they passed both the U.S. House and Senate within 70 legislative days. The requirement that regulations be agreed to by both the House and Senate would give the staunchly anti-government Republican majority in the House the ability to unilaterally veto significant regulations by simply refusing to pass the legislation within the accorded time frame. Many of the new protections scheduled to go into effect this year and next are the result of laws passed by Congress and signed by President Barack Obama in his first two years in office. These...

Rip It Up and Start Again

Democrats were fed up at the start of the year. They had held 59 seats in the Senate for most of the previous two years, their largest majority since the 1970s. But that near-supermajority wasn't enough to overcome a Republican fillibuster. A 60-vote hurdle became a common deathtrap for every Democratic bill or Obama nomination confirmation, leaving the executive branch understaffed and the federal bench depleted. It looked like Democrats had finally had enough and developed the backbone to fight back when the Senate reconvened in January. There was talk of rewriting Senate rules to end the filibuster. Republicans would have moaned about how Democrats were breaking with all sorts of historical norms, but ending the filibuster falls well within constitutional limits; no previous body can dictate the procedural rules for a future Congress. It never reached that point, though, because Republicans—no longer concerned with progressive legislation originating in Speaker Nancy Pelosi's House...

Money Changes Everything

It's Iowa poll week, and yet another survey shows Newt Gingrich leading the state. A poll from The New York Times /CBS has Gingrich topping the field at 31 percent, followed by Mitt Romney and Ron Paul, who are essentially tied with 17 percent and 16 percent support, respectively. Those numbers track with other results released earlier this week, though things get more interesting below the topline stats. Mitt Romney might still be trailing Gingrich, but his recent Iowa campaigning could be starting to pay off. He attracts the most support (18 percent) when respondents were asked which candidate is their second choice. If Gingrich's surge starts to falter when the candidates all gang up on him in the coming debates, Romney might pick up some support. Another interesting finding: Iowa may not be the paradise for social conservatives it was thought to be. Just 9 percent of Iowa Republicans listed "social issues" as their most important issue, with "economy and jobs" gobbling up 40...

Campaign Drags Down Public Opinion of Republicans

President Obama's re-election effort is on shaky ground by most accounts. The president's approval rating hovers in the mid-40s, a level far below the presidents who secured second terms. The latest unemployment figures finally dropped below 9 percent, but the job market is still not growing at the pace it needs to in order to rebound before the election, and things could become dire if Europe does not fix its financial instability. Still, Obama's political team shouldn't feel like giving up quite yet. A generic Republican averages just a 1-point lead over the president. Things look even better when the president is paired with a specific Republican, where he trumps Romney by 1 percent, Gingrich by 6 percent, and Perry by a 10-point spread. As voters begin to tune in to the Republican primary election, that edge will likely grow even larger. A new poll from the Pew Research Center shows that the Republican primary has helped drag down public opinion of the GOPers. Of those surveyed,...

The Fanatics of the Center

Moderation has its zealots, so convinced of their righteousness that they ignore the likely impact of their actions.

Thomas Friedman via Center for American Progress
T he political center has an undeserved reputation as the home of the most dispassionate and reasonable people. According to a strain of thought that stretches back to the 18th century, parties endanger democracy; partisans see only their side of the truth, pursue their own narrow interests, and aggravate tensions and conflict. The rational course supposedly lies in the middle, where champions of civic virtue counsel compromise and invite us to put the public good first. The anti-partisan story is a seductive myth, and a dangerous one. Those who represent themselves as standing in the center have their own partialities. Many people who call themselves nonpartisan or independent actually lean left or right but for one reason or another resist coming out of the closet as Democrats or Republicans. Some people who tell pollsters that they’re independents don’t follow politics closely or care about it enough to risk taking sides. They’re hardly model citizens. Besides this muddled middle,...

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