Election 2012

Despite Previous Denials, Romney Is Competing in Iowa

Any lingering doubts on Romney's new commitment to winning the Iowa caucus can now be laid to rest. He's opened a new campaign headquarters in Des Moines, a campaign spokesperson said his " strategy is to win there," and starting tomorrow Romney will begin airing a new commercial, his first in Iowa since his 2008 presidential campaign: Even as Romney has hesitated to launch a full-fledged Iowa campaign, he's already light years ahead of his main competitors. The (likely temporary) surge of Newt Gingrich's campaign allowed him to open his state headquarters just this week and rehiring the staff members that had fled his campaign when money dried up over the summer. For all the handwringing about Romney's poor performance in 2008, he still finished in second place with 25 percent of the vote, nearly doubling Fred Thompson's third place vote. If current trends continue, there likely won't be any social conservative alternative who can capture the 34 percent that went to Mike Huckabee in...

Ignoring the Obama Presidency

Among liberals, and most political observers, it’s widely acknowledged that President Obama took a major political hit when he pushed for health-care reform against Republican intransigence and public opposition. The cost of winning comprehensive health-care reform—a longtime liberal dream—was a resurgent and powerful Republican Party. If political courage is defined by the willingness to suffer politically for the sake of good public policy, then Affordable Care Act stands as a testament to the president’s political courage. Which is why I also have no idea what National Journal ’s Josh Kraushaar is talking about when he writes the following : One of President Obama’s political weaknesses in his first term has been that he’s all-too-willing to avoid making tough decisions, hesitant to expend political capital for potential long-term gain. Throughout his first term in office, he’s had a cautious governing style, and has avoided taking on some of his party’s core constituencies…when it...

The Anti-Newt Campaign Begins

It was only a matter of time before one of the Republican candidates unloaded on Newt Gingrich, attacking him with all (or at least some) of the reasons rank-and-file Republican voters ought to dislike him. So who was it: Mitt Romney, the man most threatened by Gingrich's rise? Rick Perry, looking to crawl back into the race? Herman Cain, in a last-ditch attempt to save his campaign? Michele Bachmann, hoping to win back the Tea Party voters who loved her for about 12 seconds a few months ago? Nope, none of them. Believe it or not, it was Ron Paul, who delivered 2 minutes and 28 seconds of hurt: The only thing the video doesn't have is an explicit mention of Gingrich's marital history, with its multiple infidelities and trading in of wives for younger mistresses. But most everything else is there, including the famous ad he made with Nancy Pelosi supporting action on climate change, his prior support of an individual health-insurance mandate, his criticism of the sainted Paul Ryan, and...

Rick Perry's Last-Ditch Anti-Immigration Pitch

In hindsight, the likely failure of Rick Perry's presidential ambitions shouldn't have been all that surprising. Despite appeal among party elites, late-entry candidates like Wesley Clark in '04 and Fred Thompson in '08 have historically struggled to catch up to the rest of the field. The candidates in the race from the beginning have a chance to work out all the kinks before the spotlight glares at the debate stages, an experience that would have proved especially crucial in Perry's case. He's always been a loose-cannon campaigner with, shall we say, a less than thorough grasp on his material. It was a problem his campaign staff could mitigate by limiting his media exposure in Texas elections but couldn't avoid on a national stage. After just four debates during his decade as Texas' governor, Perry was bound to produce a series of gaffes during the tiring slog of presidential campaigning. None of that should have been a surprise. What has been shocking to watch is the process under...

What Gingrich and Dubya Have in Common

Talking Points Memo sheds some light on Newt Gingrich’s ongoing effort to appeal to Hispanic leaders: As Benjy Sarlin reported back in 2009, Gingrich was using social networking and TV appearances on Spanish language TV to ingratiate himself with the Hispanic community and attempt to grow the GOP base there. Republicans have long felt they have a real chance to grab big swaths of the Latino vote, which they say is naturally more socially conservative and open to Republican ideas. Gingrich continued the outreach early into his campaign. As Time’s Michael Scherer reported in May, Gingrich gave one of his first post-campaign announcement interviews to Univision, where he took questions on immigration and previewed the path to legal status for the millions of illegal immigrants already in the US that’s led to attacks from his Republican rivals. Given the extent to which Latino voters are well-aware of the Republican Party’s hostility toward their interests—from efforts to help the economy...

Did Obama Lose Votes Because He Was Black?

Back when Barack Obama was still fighting to become the Democratic nominee for president, there was worry—from supporters and opponents—that the “Bradley effect” would take hold once he moved to the general election. Were white voters voicing support for Obama out of a sense of obligation to egalitarian norms? Would that change when they actually had to cast a vote? In other words, could Obama poll well in the lead up to the election, but then lose as a result of bias on part of voters? Of course, those fears were unfounded. Obama handily won the 2008 election with a solid majority of the popular vote. What’s more, when it came to white voters, Obama improved on the performance of John Kerry in 2004 and Al Gore in 2000 . But we shouldn’t think that this rules out a racial bias effect in the final election results. It’s possible that Obama underperformed relative to where he could have been absent racial animus. In a newly published paper , Seth Stephens-Davidowitz—a political...

Incompetent Presidential Campaigns Aren't the Exception, They're the Rule

If there's one thing the Politico is good at, it's channeling the feelings of Washington insiders, and today they give us a taste of what those insiders on the Republican side think of Herman Cain. In short, the Cain Train is a train wreck, "what many political professionals say is political malpractice on a grand scale": That familiar Keystone Kops performance is a reflection of an organization staffed by few operatives with presidential experience, working for a political neophyte who’s proven himself ill-equipped for a national campaign. The combination of a supremely self-assured candidate — speaking in the third person and convinced of his own ability to talk himself out of any jam — surrounded by a group of not-ready-for-prime-time aides making it up as they go along has resulted in a campaign meltdown for the ages. It isn't as though we haven't seen inept primary campaigns before, but what we haven't seen before is inept campaigns that rocket to the front of the pack. And we...

Will Iowa Conservatives Sit Out the Election?

Iowa's much-vaunted evangelical conservative base is nowhere to be seen. After propelling Mike Huckabee to the top of the field in the last presidential nomination contest, the common assumption among political pundits has been that the state's Christian right would coalesce around a similar candidate again this year. But, less than five weeks out from the caucuses, all of Iowa's evangelical leaders are still holding off on making a decision. Just yesterday, the Iowa Faith and Freedom Coalition's president announced that the organization would not endorse any candidate for 2012. "I believe that it is the role of our members and supporters to endorse the candidate of their choice," Steve Scheffler wrote in a press release. "There are many strong conservative candidates running and while none of them are perfect, our October 22nd Banquet highlighted for me just how blessed we are to have so many strong pro-life, pro-family, pro-national security and pro-freedom candidates running for...

Queering Congress

(AP Photo/Russel A. Daniels) Tammy Baldwin, center, and Jared Polis, right, both openly gay members of Congress, answer questions from Jonathan Capehart, left, at the International Gay & Lesbian Leadership Conference in San Francisco, Saturday, December 5, 2009. Both spoke optimistically about key legislative agenda items sought by LGBT advocates. W hen California teacher Mark Takano ran for Congress 15 years ago, he lost to Republican challenger Ken Calvert by a scant 519 votes. Two years later, things looked more promising. Police had caught Calvert with a prostitute; Takano should have easily clinched a win. But just three months before the election, Ray Haynes—a Calvert supporter in the state assembly—outed Takano as gay. "I said quite clearly I personally don't want a homosexual representing me in Congress," Haynes said at the time. Takano's opponents sent a late mailer, which asked voters in pink letters to consider whether Takano should be "A Congressman for Riverside … or...

Should We Bring Back the Smoke-Filled Rooms?

The National Interest ’s Robert Merry isn’t happy with the current presidential nomination process. It’s too long, too costly, and places too much faith in the ability of ordinary voters to control the process. Other than luck, he argues, there’s nothing to keep an unqualified or vulnerable candidate from winning the nomination. It almost happened with the Democratic Party in 2008 (see: John Edwards), and it could happen with this year’s Republican nomination contest. Moreover, the vetting that does exist isn’t foolproof; if a single candidate wins the early primaries, is there any doubt that the game would be over in short order? For an alternative to the current system, Merry offers a return to the “ smoke-filled rooms ” of yore: It worked like this: The party pros in what were colloquially called “smoke-filled rooms” (party caucuses and conventions) would make the decisions based on conviction, political log rolling, compromise, friendship patterns and, shall we say, party...

Have the Curtains Closed for Herman Cain?

Yesterday, Herman Cain suffered another setback to his book tour cum presidential campaign when he announced that he’s been accused of carrying on a 13-year-long extramarital affair. Cain denounced the accusations, but he couldn’t mitigate the damage; at this point, support for his campaign has dwindled to where it was before his surge in October. As a result of this—and the earlier accusations of sexual harassment—the Cain campaign has opted to “reassess” its decision to go forward in the Republican presidential primary. National Review ’s Robert Costas provides the scoop: "When the previous two accusations, false accusations, came about, we made another assessment. The way we handled those was, we continued on with our schedule. We made an assessment about what was going to happen to our support. But our supporters, and even some folks that we didn’t have as supporters, they stood with us, and they showed it not only in terms of their verbal support, they showed it in terms of their...

The Diminishing Marginal Return of Voting for Barack Obama

Thirty30 Photography
Any explanation of the 2008 election cycle has to include the large intensity gap between Democratic and Republican voters. After eight years of George W. Bush, Democrats were eager to vote against a Republican, and excited to vote for Barack Obama. And while 2008 was Obama’s election to lose, the huge level of Democratic enthusiasm contributed to his unlikely wins in Virginia, North Carolina, and Indiana. With all of that said, there’s a chance that the tables have turned for 2012. The Wall Street Journal ’s Gerald Seib explains : In the most recent Wall Street Journal/NBC News poll, voters were asked whether they were more or less enthusiastic than usual about the 2012 election. A majority of Republicans, 56%, said they were more enthusiastic. By contrast, only 43% of Democrats said they were more enthusiastic. Other readings from the poll produced the same kind of picture of a fired-up Republican base and a more lethargic Democratic one. Among conservatives, 59% said that they were...

The Difference Between MittFlops and NewtFlops

Now that Newt Gingrich is the Republican front-runner (I know, it still sounds like a joke, but it's true), people are starting to pay attention to the fact that if you go through his public statements, you'll find as many changes of position as you will for any other candidate, including Mitt Romney. Some of these are in-the-moment howlers, like the time he assailed President Obama for not imposing a no-fly zone on Libya, then when Obama did just that a few days later, Gingrich assailed him for doing it. Others are position changes familiar to other candidates, like acknowledging and then denying climate change, and supporting and then opposing an individual mandate in health insurance. So do Gingrich and Romney share the same character flaw of unbridled opportunism that causes these changes? The answer is no. In fact, even though they share some of the same flips, the way they happened illuminates something essential about who each man is and how they make decisions. Mitt Romney...

Barney Frank Goes Home

The idea that Massachusetts could lose Barney Frank in our congressional delegation never crossed my mind before yesterday, but I'm told that he's been signalling he's ready to go for a couple of years now. The New York Times ' Abby Goodnough had a nice item about his departure announcement, which includes a great kicker about his famous combativeness with reporters and, well, everyone: Mr. Frank’s famous petulance was on display at times on Monday; he dismissed what he called a “gotcha” question from a reporter about his personal investments and, upon learning she worked for Fox News, said, “Quelle surprise.” He also said he looked forward to leaving office so that “I don’t even have to pretend to try to be nice to people I don’t like,” leading another reporter to ask, “Have you ever?” “Some of you may not think I’ve been good at it,” Mr. Frank said. “But I’ve been trying.” I have to say, I am really looking forward to the "Barney Frank greatest hits"—the quips, the tongue-lashings,...

Wisconsin Dems On Track To Launch Recall

I was a little skeptical last week when Wisconsin Democrats released the first batch of signatures for their recall campaign against Governor Scott Walker. They'd gathered over 100,000 signatures in four days, an impressive haul no doubt, but the first batch of supporters were always going to be the easiest to bring around. State election law requires that the signatures exceed 25 percent of the ballots cast in the relevant election, totaling over 540,000 in Walker's case. After two weeks of campaigning, though, a recall election is now a near certainty. United Wisconsin—the group behind the recall effort— announced yesterday that they have collected 300,000 signatures over the course of 12 days, easily setting them on a path to gain the minimum number in the 60-day window for their campaign. This widespread eagerness among the base also augurs well for the recall election itself. Walker's poll numbers have bounced back after they tumbled during his showdown with labor last spring,...

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