Election 2012

Are Debates Hurting the Republican Candidates?

So far, the Republican Party has held 11 presidential debates, and between audience cheering for the death penalty, attacks on gay soldiers, or huge candidate gaffes, each debate has shown the GOP candidates in one unflattering light or the other. With 14 more debates to go, The New York Times reports some Republican elites are worried about the effect they could have on public perception. “This is the core of the Republican brand. You mess with it at your peril,” said Peter Feaver, a national security official under President George W. Bush. He compared the foreign policy flubs to reports about safety problems in Toyota vehicles. “The whole reason you bought a Toyota was so that you didn’t have those problems,” he said. “It cuts directly to the essence of the brand. Republicans should be concerned about this.” It’s hard to say how much effect these debates have had on the public’s perception of the Republican presidential candidates. It’s certainly true that primary debates can...

Another Fake Presidential Candidate Rises to the Top

If everything works out, the Buddy Roemer boomlet should be perfectly timed to sweep him to victory in the Iowa caucus and make him the Republican nominee for president. OK, I'm kidding (and in case you were wondering, Buddy Roemer is a former Louisiana governor and congressman who is running for president, but for some reason, he's considered "fringe" and ignored while a half-dozen equally clownish candidates are allowed to participate in the debates). But watching the Newt Gingrich surge—he's now leading the Republican field in some polls —you could almost believe that every candidate, including Roemer, will eventually get their day atop the field. I haven't gone back and checked (my personal awareness only dates back to 1988), but has there ever been a presidential primary race that has cycled through this many front-runners? We've had Romney, Trump, Bachmann, Perry, Cain, and now Gingrich atop at least some poll at some time or another. I think our old friend Sarah Palin (remember...

How to Make Congress More Corrupt

As part of his campaign for the Republican presidential nomination, Texas Governor Rick Perry wants to “Uproot and Overhaul” Washington, D.C. with specific reforms to each branch of government. The proposals include a “fundamental reform of the judiciary” through judicial term limits, a “fundamental reform of the executive branch” through the elimination of three federal agencies (the Departments of Commerce, Education, and Energy), and a “fundamental reform of the legislative branch.” Here is Politico’s Mike Allen with details on the latter: Fundamental Reform of the Legislative Branch : Citizen Congress, Accountability and Transparency … Work to establish a part-time, Citizen Congress … Cut congressional pay in half and repeal the rules that prevent members of Congress from holding real jobs in their home states and communities. Perry isn’t wrong to push for judicial term limits—lifetime appointments incentivize obstruction and ideological packing—and there is a plausible argument...

Maine GOP Doesn't Know When to Quit

After voters reject restrictive early voting restrictions, Republicans turn to photo ID

The Republican's national voter suppression strategy took its first hit last week when Maine voters opted to keep their same-day registration laws. The day after that election, I wondered whether the state's Republican majority would show greater hesitance before pursuing other restrictive voter laws. A photo ID law was considered last year, and had come close to becoming law; it passed the state House and was supported by Republican Governor Paul LePage, but lacked the votes to clear the Senate. Maine Republicans had vowed to revive the measure when the next session commences early next year. I had assumed that after voters rebuked their first attempt at decreasing voter turnout, they would need to think twice before giving that law another try. Turns out I was wrong. According to the AP (via ThinkProgress ) they're not backing down: Republican Gov. Paul LePage believes the issue needs to be revisited, notwithstanding Tuesday's vote, said spokeswoman Adrienne Bennett. GOP House...

Health Care Supreme

The Supreme Court, as expected, has decided to take up the question of whether the Affordable Care Act violates the Constitution, and has allotted five and a half hours for oral argument. This is far longer than the typical 30 minutes lawyers get to argue before the Court, but it represents the magnitude of the case. Supreme Court opinions striking down acts of Congress are rare. To find a case where the Supreme Court struck down the centerpiece of a sitting president’s legislative agenda, you would have to go back to the New Deal, when reactionary holdovers like Willis Van Devanter and James McReynolds—the latter a justice so racist and anti-Semitic he would refuse to shake the hands of Jewish colleagues and turn his back on African American lawyers making oral arguments—created a constitutional crisis by repeatedly striking down key New Deal legislation. The Supreme Court's decision to hear the ACA challenge raises three key questions: Should the Supreme Court strike down the...

Herman Cain's Known Unknowns

If you haven't seen it already, here's a remarkable video of Herman Cain struggling to answer a question about whether he disagreed with the actions President Obama took in supporting the Libyan uprising. From the first moment, it's something we almost never see in a presidential candidate. He looks like a student who forgot to study struggling through an oral exam. He asks for hints, he stares at the ceiling, he wrestles to come up with a coherent thing to say. But beyond Cain looking very, very foolish, there are actually some interesting things going on here. The point that will be getting all the attention is where Cain says, "I do not agree with the way he handled it, for the following reasons — No, that's a different one. (Pauses) I gotta go back, see. (Pauses) Got all this stuff twirling around in my head." Yeah, apparently. Anyhow, just watch: The Libya engagement happened while Cain was already running for president -- it's not like he's being asked to take a position on the...

Putting Marriage Rights to a Vote

The country's gradual movement toward marriage equality took a step further last week. Democrats in Iowa won a closely contested special election, which allowed the party to maintain their senate majority and essentially assured that no amendment to overturn same-sex marriage will be put to a vote until 2015 at the absolute earliest. That followed a New Jersey court's decision to hear a case that might replace the state's civil unions provision with full marriage rights. But a bit of bad news snuck through as well. Basic Rights Oregon—or BRO, a delightful acronym for the state's leading LGBT rights group—announced that they would abandon their goal of putting a pro-marriage measure on the ballot in 2012, with their sights now set on 2014. "It is not a question of if we will cross this threshold, but when," the group's board wrote in a release . "We have considered the possibility of putting this issue on the ballot for the 2012 election. However several factors, including the expense...

What to Read Before You Unwonk Tonight

The Prospect ’s Jamelle Bouie blogged about the most important story that’s been hiding under Newt Gingrich’s surge (a news story fit for nothing but speculation for how it will end ) and other election stories—“the European debt crisis has raised the odds of a U.S. recession to more than 50 percent by early 2012, according to a new report from the San Francisco Federal Reserve Bank.” Other big story of the day: The Supreme Court will hear a challenge to the Affordable Care Act in March. In light of this announcement, it’s a good time to revisit Garrett Epps’ post from last week on notoriously conservative Judge Laurence Silberman upholding the law. GQ just published its pizza-party interview with Herman Cain, which is a must-read. Not for the insight it lends into the pizza professional’s political acumen but simply because it is a terrific character study of a man who says incredibly interesting things but who just shouldn’t be elected president. A man who thinks Godfather’s Pizza...

The Court Will Rule—and Then?

AP Photo/Alex Brandon
The Supreme Court’s decision today to take up the constitutionality of President Obama’s health-care reform in this session—they’ll hear oral arguments in March and rule by session’s end in June— means that the issue will be revived for voters just a few month before next November’s presidential election. This is probably good for Republicans no matter which way the justices rule. And, no matter which way the justices rule, I can’t see how this helps the Democrats. There are basically three ways the court could go. They could uphold the individual mandate; they could strike it down, which would essentially negate the rest of the law; or they could rule the issue can’t be litigated until 2015, when the federal government would levy the first penalties on persons who refuse to purchase insurance. Additionally, the court will rule on the important but still subsidiary issue of whether the feds can require the states to pick up additional Medicaid expenditures starting in 2016—but the...

The Most Important Political News of the Day

Reuters provides us with the most important political news of the day—the European debt crisis has raised the odds of a U.S. recession to more than 50 percent by early 2012, according to a new report from the San Francisco Federal Reserve Bank: While it is difficult to gauge the odds precisely, an analysis of leading U.S. economic indicators suggests a rising chance of a recession through the end of the year and into early next year, researchers at the regional Fed bank wrote on Monday. The risk of recession recedes after the second half of 2012, they found. The San Francisco Fed provides a useful chart to illustrate the factors which are driving the risk of recession: From now until the second half of 2012, the European debt crisis accounts for more than 30 percent of the risk of recession, while domestic factors account for a little less. It goes without saying that a recession would be terrible for Barack Obama’s re-election campaign. Negative economic growth – along with more...

Divided Government Isn't Magic

Despite the fact that his No. 1 priority is the defeat of Barack Obama in 2012, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell looks forward to the potential for divided government: “Divided government is the perfect time to do big things, the perfect time,” Mr. McConnell said in a recent session with New York Times reporters and editors. He cited three fairly recent examples of major legislative bargains that were struck with one party in the White House and another running things on Capitol Hill: the 1983 overhaul of Social Security negotiated between President Ronald Reagan and Speaker Tip O’Neill; sweeping 1986 tax law changes; and the welfare reform package of 1996 negotiated between President Bill Clinton and Congressional Republicans. This kind of “grand bargain” bipartisanship can work when both sides have the same goal in mind. In 1983, both sides wanted to save Social Security’s finances, in 1986, both sides agreed that the tax code had become too complicated, and in 1996, both...

Is Mitt Romney Really the Smart One?

Steve Benen offers a provocative suggestion : maybe we shouldn't be thinking about Mitt Romney as the smart, informed one: For all the jokes about the clowns that make up this year's Republican presidential field, the conventional wisdom is flawed. Romney, we're told, is the "serious" one, in large part because he speaks in complete sentences, and isn't bad at pretending to be credible. Ultimately, though, Romney's efforts don’t change the fact that he's faking it — and those who understand the issues beyond a surface-level understanding surely realize the GOP frontrunner just doesn't know what he's talking about. If the weekend's foreign policy debate showed anything, it was that nearly all the Republican candidates are faking it when it comes to foreign affairs, but Steve lists a bunch of occasions on which Romney has said things that are just inane. So why is it that those instances haven't dented this image? He certainly benefits from his opponents: it's almost impossible to look...

Do Regulations Cost Jobs?

One clear consensus emerged at the Republican presidential debate on the economy last week: government regulations are stifling our economic recovery. "I’ve said I’m going to repeal every single Obama-era regulation that costs business over a hundred million dollars. Repeal them all," Rick Santorum said, to no disagreements from the other candidates who all envisioned a robust recovery once regulations were wiped from the books. "The real issue facing America are regulations. It doesn’t make any difference whether it’s the EPA or whether it’s the federal banking, the Dodd-Frank or Obamacare, that’s what’s killing America," Rick Perry said, recalling details for a rare moment. "And the next president of the United States has to have the courage to go forward, pull back every regulation since 2008, audit them for one thing: Is it creating jobs, or is it killing jobs? And if that regulation is killing jobs, do away with it." Are regulations killing jobs? Not really, at least according to...

Gingrich Isn't Going to Be the GOP Nominee

The arguments for why Herman Cain won’t be the Republican presidential nominee, even if he’s popular, are straightforward. He has little history with the Republican Party establishment and shallow relationships with GOP activists on the state and local level. He lacks an on-the-ground campaign in the early primary states, and he’s devoted his time to states like Alabama—irrelevant to the nomination contest but a fine venue for selling books. Indeed, Cain’s upcoming visit to Iowa—the state he has to win or do well in to have a shot at the nomination—is his first since mid-October. Serious candidates tend to spent a lot more time in “make or break” states. At the moment, former House Speaker Newt Gingrich is surging in the polls. In the latest survey of Republican voters from NBC News and The Wall Street Journal , Gingrich earns 22 percent support, a 5 point increase from his previous performance. The reasons for his newfound popularity aren’t hard to grok; the once-ascendent Herman...

Why Tuesday? Because Republicans Said So

Earlier this week, The Washington Post 's Ezra Klein profiled the "Why Tuesday" organization. Here's how that group explains the history of our current election calendar: In 1845, before Florida, California, and Texas were states or slavery had been abolished, Congress needed to pick a time for Americans to vote. We were an agrarian society. We traveled by horse and buggy. Farmers needed a day to get to the county seat, a day to vote, and a day to get back, without interfering with the three days of worship. So that left Tuesday and Wednesday, but Wednesday was market day. So, Tuesday it was. In 1875 Congress extended the Tuesday date for national House elections and in 1914 for federal Senate elections. Of course the constraints that made people in the 1800s choose Tuesday no longer apply in the modern era. Without a bias for the status quo, there would be no reason to choose Tuesday over Wednesday or Thurday. Klein advocated for The Weekend Voting Act, a bill that would move and...

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