The thing to remember about Virginia Governor Bob McDonnell is that his political popularity depends on his ability to keep social issues away from the agenda. As long has he can portray himself as a technocratic, jobs oriented governor—and as long as Virginia maintains its steady rate of economic growth (juiced by the federal government in the north and the military in the south)—he can avoid association with his long history of regressive social conservatism. But now that those issues are on the agenda—thanks to his initial support for a bill to mandate forced penetration—McDonnell’s standing with Virginians, and women in particular, is in free fall.
If there’s been a single, enduring pattern in the Republican presidential primaries, it’s that Mitt Romney—or a staff member—can’t help but offend someone after winning an election. To wit, here’s communications director Eric Fehrnstrom on CNN this morning:
HOST: Is there a concern that Santorum and Gingrich might force the governor to tack so far to the right it would hurt him with moderate voters in the general election.
FEHRNSTROM: Well, I think you hit a reset button for the fall campaign. Everything changes. It’s almost like an Etch A Sketch. You can kind of shake it up and restart all of over again.
If you’re the kind of person who has followed the Republican presidential primaries since the beginning, then it’s fair to say that things are a little boring right now. For all of his good fortune, Rick Santorum hasn’t been able to translate his wins into support from the GOP, and for all of his ups and downs, Mitt Romney hasn’t actually lost the position he reached at the end of January, when he won big in the Florida primary. Romney is still the presumptive nominee, and his big win in Illinois—51 percent to 31 percent for Santorum—will strengthen his path to the 1,144 delegates he needs to clinch the nomination.
I command you to call me "Speaker"...forever! (caricature by DonkeyHotey)
Some years ago, I was watching "Silence of the Lambs" with a friend who was then in medical school, and he pointed out that everyone kept calling the film's villain "Dr. Lecter." "Boy," my friend said. "Once you get that M.D., they have to call you 'Dr.' forever, even if you start killing and eating people."
I raise this because Emily Yoffe has done us a service and asked why in the world everyone has to continue to call Newt Gingrich "Mr. Speaker" when he hasn't been Speaker of the House in 15 years. In all, three of the four remaining Republican candidates for president get called by titles they no longer hold, with Governor Romney and Senator Santorum joining Speaker Gingrich...
If I have to go to one more zoo, I'm going to drive an ice pick into my ear. (Flickr/Gage Skidmore)
A kajillion years or so ago, I spent a bunch of time working on electoral campaigns. Since I was drawn to idealistic liberals, everybody I worked for lost, sometimes quite spectacularly. And I noticed something that happens on a losing campaign: After months of spending your days telling everyone you meet (voters, potential volunteers, potential donors, reporters) how your candidate is just the bee's knees and he is totally going to win despite what everyone thinks, the scales can fall from your eyes. This seems to happen about 72 hours before election day. A strange sense of calm overtakes you, something like the endorphin rush you're supposed to get as your body approaches death. People on the campaign begin to wander off in a daze. On one campaign I was working on in Northern California, after putting in 16-hour days for weeks, the field director (my boss, and someone older and more experienced than me), said, as we were out on an errand two days before the election, a time that was typically frenetic, "So, you been out to Half Moon Bay?" And we took a drive to look at the ocean.
I thought of that as I read this article in the Politico about the latest weird phase in the weirdness that is the presidential campaign of Newton Leroy Gingrich...
If the 2012 Republican nomination race effectively has dwindled to two, what’s striking is how the Tea Party has vanished from the competition. Having virtually taken over the Republican Party two years ago, jettisoning in the process garden-variety right-wingers in order to nominate former witches, now the Tea Party is hard-pressed to identify which dog in the current hunt is theirs. Social conservative Ron Santorum and East Coast establishment Mitt Romney both are throwbacks to earlier Republican incarnations: Santorum is damned by his Senate record of earmarks and government spending, and on the issue of health-care reform that helped galvanize the Tea Party’s existence, Romney is the original sinner. Meanwhile, the two candidates closest to speaking for the Tea Party position, Congressman Ron Paul and former speaker of the House Newt Gingrich, are ghosts who have not gotten the message they’re dead.
Secret Service names, while irrelevant for the actual election, are always a good source for a little amusement. In 2007 Barack Obama was designated the "Renegade" as he sought to takedown "Evergreen"—the name given to Hillary Clinton back when she was first lady. Gerald Ford's "Pass Key" seemed to presage his early departure from the White House. George H.W. Bush's "Timberwolf" seems a little rough and tumble for the demure president. Personally I'm preferential to the evocative "Rawhide" that Reagan went by.
President Obama in a Chevy Volt (official White House photo by Pete Souza)
or a long time, commentators noted that Barack Obama was going to have a hard time persuading the public with his argument about the economy, since it would come down to, "It could have been worse." Saying that unemployment may still be over 8 percent, and it peaked at 10 percent in October of 2009, but if it hadn't been for the stimulus we passed things would have been much, much worse, isn't going to be a consolation if you're unemployed. The fact that most economists say that the stimulus did in fact have a substantial positive effect on the economy doesn't really matter when it comes to getting people to vote for your re-election. When times are bad, "It could have been worse" is small comfort.
That was the story up until recently. But the last few months have shown strong job growth, and most everyone is expecting that the economy will continue its upward trajectory. And guess what that has done to Mitt Romney: made him argue the mirror image of what everyone said Obama couldn't argue persuasively. Romney's case on the economy now comes down to "It could have been better"...
As Greg Sargent, Steve Benen, and others have amply demonstrated, Mitt Romney has a problem with the truth. Throughout his campaign, he has openly lied about his previous positions, his beliefs, and the records of his opponents, Republican or otherwise. In a speech today on economic freedom at the University of Chicago, Romney continued the trend, building a mostly substanceless case against President Obama on the basis of half-truths and falsehoods. You can read the whole speech if you’d like.
It was back during Pat Buchanan's bumptious 1996 primary campaign that my better half glanced up from CNN with a bemused look on her face. "You know what this is about?" she asked. "Little boys in this country used to dream about growing up to run for president. Now they just run for president."
Mitt Romney's struggle to attract small-dollar donors has been well documented. Just 10 percent of his money has come from donations of less than $200, while the vast majority of his money has come from nearly maxed-out contributions. Even though Newt Gingrich lags by a wide margin in overall funding, he's managed to gather more money from small donors, $8.8 million to Romney's $6.4 million. The fundraising gap is large enough thanks to wealthy donors that Romney should be fine for the remaining primaries, but it could spell trouble for the general election.
It wasn't much of a surprise that Mitt Romney waltzed to victory in the Puerto Rico caucus yesterday. Rick Santorum had campaigned minimally in the territory and tried his best to offend the region's majority Spanish speaking population while he was there, whereas Romney had the backing of the island's major political figures, including popular governor and potential rising GOP star Luis Fortuno.
One thing that has gone unremarked upon in the continuing story of Latino disdain for the Republican Party—and its desperate attempt at damage control—is the degree to which Sonia Sotomayor’s nomination to the Supreme Court was a pivotal event for the GOP’s relationship to the Latino community.