Unlike Newt Gingrich, who can claim a regional base, Rick Santorum, who has a solidly defined political persona, or Ron Paul, who has something of a cult of personality, there’s nothing unique about Mitt Romney as a candidate. He is the definition of a generic Republican—a blank slate for the public to register its frustrations. Like Thomas Dewey—who played a similar role in the 1948 election—he is “the little man on the wedding cake.” Indeed, if there is anything close to a reason for his presidential campaign, it’s his vanilla appeal to the broad public, and undecided voters in particular.
Republicans have reached their 1984. I don’t mean this in the Orwellian sense, though Republicans have more than their share of Orwellian impulses. Rather, I mean that the kind of divisions that have characterized Democratic presidential primaries since the 1984 contest between Walter Mondale and Gary Hart have now popped up in GOP primaries as well: This year, Republicans are dividing along lines of class.
In an otherwise sharp article about Mitt Romney's sudden troubles in Michigan, The Atlantic's Molly Ball opens with an analysis that's been parroted by many in the media since Rick Santorum's sudden rise last week:
In one view, Mitt Romney has had it effectively wrapped up for weeks. Rick Santorum's freak victory in three contests last week was a meaningless blip -- a speed bump. Sure, Santorum now leads in some polls, but he's fundamentally a small-time candidate who's about to get crushed like a bug by Romney and his allies. What we're witnessing now isn't drama -- it's death throes.
The big assumption about Mitt Romney’s campaign for the Republican presidential nomination is that he has limitless pockets. After all, with the support of the Republican establishment and an immense fortune, it shouldn’t be too hard for him to generate funds through the contest. But according to a few (anonymous) Republican donors—and a source from within the Romney campaign—there’s growing worry that the former Massachusetts governor might run out of money from direct donations before the race is over. Buzzfeed’s Zeke Miller has the details:
Zombie politics—a play on Zombie Economics—refers to ideas about politics that have become so cemented in conventional wisdom that it is virtually impossible to dislodge them. It doesn’t matter what the data says, or what published research says, or what this blog or any blog says. Zombie politics means that even though the ideas are dead, they just can’t be killed. I regret using the by-now-hackneyed zombie metaphor, but it remains apt.
Perhaps the biggest political puzzle of our time is why, as the lives of working-class whites have descended from the stability and comfort of “All in the Family” to the chaos and despair of “Gran Torino” and “Winter’s Bone,” these same Americans have voted more and more reliably Republican.
It’s no exaggeration to say that the Romney campaign has developed a reputation for political ruthlessness. In Florida, with the help of super PACs and a massive fundraising advantage, they crushed Newt Gingrich—they drove him from the state and relished in the lamentations of his supporters.
For a time, it looked as though Newt Gingrich would be the Romney alternative that the religious right and Tea Partiers would coalesce around. Now Rick Santorum has taken that spot after a string of victories in primaries last week and a huge rise in national polls. In a new ad, Santorum challenges Gingrich on another front: Which candidate can claim the most historical gravitas.
The ad features a series of quotes over soaring orchestral music as images of Santorum flash across the screen. "I adore Rick Santorum's conviction," the ad quotes Mike Huckabee, despite the former Arkansas governor's neutral stance on the 2012 race. "Santorum … one of the 25 most influential evangelicals in America," the ad quotes Time.
Public Policy Polling has been a boon for political journalists over the past few years, partially for their extensive and accurate numbers—they were the only ones noting the rise of Rick Santorum in Minnesota last week—but also for their sense of humor. In addition to surveying the major political races, PPP tackles the all-important topics such as which NFL player is more popular than all of the presidential candidates (Tim Tebow of course) or how Stephen Colbert would perform in the South Carolina Republican primary.
Republicans finally came to their senses yesterday and realized they were waging a losing battle with their opposition to a payroll tax extension. The two-month extension Congress passed in December was set to expire by the end of this month, and Republicans were adamant that any further extension be paired with equal spending cuts. Democrats balked, instead suggesting a surtax on millionaires that the Republicans would never accept, and another last minute legislative showdown appeared inevitable. Then out of nowhere yesterday afternoon Congressional Republicans announced that they would drop their resistance:
As recently as last month, I couldn’t have predicted that Rick Santorum would be leading national polls for the Republican presidential nomination. That’s not to say that I didn’t think about it, but it seemed unfathomable. Not only does Santorum have the dubious distinction of having lost a re-election race by 17 points, but he’s been synonymous with extreme social conservatism for at least a decade.
Marriage-equality advocates notched a major win yesterday when Washington became the seventh state—and just the second west of the Mississippi River—to legalize same-sex marriage. There was less jubilation when, on the same day, the New Jersey Senate passed a marriage-equality bill by a 24-to-16 margin. The legislation is expected to pass the state Assembly when it comes up for a vote later this week, but Governor Chris Christie has promised to veto the bill when it comes across his desk.
The Obama campaign announced Monday morning that it would launch a new initiative termed Truth Team designed to combat Republican misrepresentation of the president's record. It's the successor to the 2008 campaign's Fight the Smears website, which corrected the common myths—such as his birth certificate or secret Muslim faith—through e-mail chains that year. "The GOP candidates are spending a huge amount of time attacking President Obama—no surprise," Deputy Campaign Manager Stephanie Cutter wrote in an e-mail to supporters. "But instead of basing their attacks on our differences of opinion, they've chosen to run on claims about his record that just aren't true."
For a while now, I’ve been convinced of Mitt Romney’s eventual triumph in the Republican presidential primary. It’s not that he was the most well-liked or conservative candidate—we have years of evidence to show that neither are true—but that he was the only candidate with a campaign that could win. So far, however, Republicans have done everything they can to avoid the Romney coronation; they made Rick Santorum a viable player with a win in Iowa, they elevated Newt Gingrich with South Carolina—and after a stop in Florida, where Romney pummeled his opponents with negative advertising—they have returned to Santorum with wins in Minnesota, Missouri, and Colorado.
CPAC, DC—The Citizens United case is back in the news this week with the Obama campaign's announcement that they would coordinate to help raise funds with the super PAC Priorities USA. As the presidential campaign ramps up, it's easy to forget what the actual Citizens United organization is: a mini-film studio with a conservative bent.
The group is all over CPAC this week, airing their films in the CPAC Theatre, hosting a blogger briefing Wednesday, and sponsoring a panel Thursday morning titled "Advancing the Pro-Life Movement through Media.” And of course, they also have a booth selling DVDs of their various films in the CPAC vendor basement.