Elections

Will the Real Citizens United Please Stand Up?

(Photo: Patrick Caldwell)
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. (The American Prospect/Patrick Caldwell) Citizens United displays its greatest hits. I caught up with the group to see which films had sold the most copies in the conservative crowd. " The Gift of Life is always very popular," the young woman selling DVDs told me, mentioning their film featuring Mike Huckabee relaying various inspirational...

The Libertarian Romantic Thriller

(Photo: Patrick Caldwell)
REPUBLICAN CENTRAL, DC—Every Republican presidential nominee is speaking in CPAC's main ballroom today except Rep. Ron Paul. He sent his son, Sen. Rand Paul, in his stead last night and the libertarian's message is being spread—if not always explicitly—down in the CPAC dungeon of booths. (The American Prospect/Patrick Caldwell) Filmmakers have been marketing "Silver Circle" to comic book fans and conservatives. Set in 2019 during the aftermath of an economic collapse, the animated film "Silver Circle" is a "fun thriller romance," according to producer/director Pasha Roberts. I walked up to this booth expecting the typical Paul friendly organization arguing against fiat money, but was instead treated to behind the scenes clips of actors on a green screen stage edited with shots of the completed footage, fully animated in a manner evoking the rotoscoped effect of "Waking Life" but far more halting and amateurish in appearance. "Silver Circle" follows the soon-to-be true story of anti-...

Keep Conventions Conventional

Unless there’s a psychic shift in the Republican Party soon, this past Tuesday evening the campaign for its presidential nomination became sui generis . On its face, the race conforms to the establishment-versus-insurgency template that’s characterized past contests, such as the 1976 GOP race in which Ronald Reagan nearly took the nomination from sitting incumbent Gerald Ford, and the 1980 race in which Edward Kennedy couldn’t liberate Jimmy Carter of the Democratic nomination, so he stole the party’s heart instead. The dynamic in both cases was that once the party dutifully resolved to remain in its marriage to the dour Gerald Ford or Carter, it had one last doomed fling with heartthrobs Reagan and Kennedy in order not to forget who it really yearned for. What makes the current race singular, however, is that Mitt Romney is the weakest and least convincing establishment front-runner since Walter Mondale and that the insurgency is fractured. Insurgencies are purist by definition and...

Bishops, Republicans Get Served

The administration turns the contraception controversy into a political win.

(AP Photo/Susan Walsh) President Barack Obama, accompanied by Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius, announces the revamp of his contraception policy requiring religious institutions to fully pay for birth control, Friday, Feb. 10, 2012, in the Brady Press Briefing Room of the White House in Washington. L ike my colleague Scott Lemieux, I was a little worried when the Obama administration announced that it would present a compromise on its recent decision to require full contraceptive coverage from employers, including those with religious affiliations, like Catholic hospitals and schools. It’s not as if the public is opposed to the decision—as I noted yesterday, 55 percent of Americans agree that “employers should be required to provide their employees with health-care plans that cover contraception and birth control at no cost.” This includes 58 percent of Catholics and 52 percent of Catholic voters. Anything that moved away from the administration’s prior commitment...

Catholic Men at CPAC Oppose Birth Control

(Photo: Patrick Caldwell)
CPAC, D.C.—The controversy around the Obama administration's decision to mandate birth-control coverage in health insurance has dominated the talk at CPAC. "You may not agree with what that religion agrees. That's not the point. The point is, the First Amendment still applies," Marco Rubio said in his early morning address on Thursday. A group called Confronting Religious Persecution in America was primed to take advantage of the latest controversy. They're a Catholic men's organization that favors the conservative interpretation of social morals. "We have a desire to fight in a peaceful manner," said James Bascom, who stood with perfect posture, "to defend the Church, to defend the teachings of the Church, and to defend the remnants of Christian civilization that are being undermined and being destroyed in our society." (The American Prospect/Patrick Caldwell) Bascom, of Confronting Religious Persecution in America, spoke out against the birth control clause in the Affordable Care...

Gold and Silver: Taking Heavy Metal Literally

(Photo: Patrick Caldwell)
CPAC, DC—Bouncing between Republican campaign events over the past few months, I've often run into GOP voters who wish they could support Ron Paul, but just can't mark the box next to his name. They love his End the Fed, slash every government regulation take on the economy, but despair over his isolationist foreign policy. I've met none that exemplify that split more than Travis Englert, who I spoke with yesterday deep in the bowels of CPAC. Hidden in the very back corner of the basement, Englert was manning the booth for Procinctu, a group that he just launched on Wednesday. Their booth might have been out of the main path, but it certainly stood out among the traditional mix of conservative groups. Englert rocks the shaved head looked, ditching the typical CPAC suit for a black button down. Heavy metal music blasted from his booth, and the group's logo features a cartooned shirtless man wearing a headband and rifle across his back. (The American Prospect/Patrick Caldwell) What...

CPAC Boothapalooza Part 1

(Photo: Patrick Caldwell)
CPAC, D.C.—Day one of the Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC) was full of members of Congress palling around with white nationalists, conservatives offering dating advice, and Marco Rubio ripping into the president for considering birth control an essential health-care service. Day two is set to be dominated by talk of the 2012 race, with Rick Santorum, Mitt Romney, and Newt Gingrich all slotted to speak in the main ballroom of the Marriott Wardman Park hotel on Friday. The real fun of CPAC lies in the basement labyrinth of booths where conservative groups of all stripes hawk their wares. In addition to covering the above-ground speeches, over the course of the day I'm going to profile a few of the more colorful vendors hidden away from the light of day. First up is HSP Direct, a mail fundraising firm that is working for Santorum this cycle. For a candidate who isn't particularly known for pulling in the money or an extensive organization, HSP sure was proud of its...

This Is Why You Can't Have Nice Things

(Flickr/Gage Skidmore)
The class of commentators who celebrate politicians outside the two-party system might finally realize their dreams of a third-party candidacy in 2012. These agitators of a middle path—typically white, upper-middle-class elites terrified of the nation's debt but ill at ease with social conservatism—have tried their hand in past years at disrupting the normal political process. In 2008, a group called Unity '08 planned to run a bipartisan presidential ticket but fell apart before the election. This "disempowered center" is back and appears primed for some serious troublemaking in 2012. Americans Elect has qualified for the ballot in 16 states and plans to reach all 50 before November. Founded by *investment banker Peter Ackerman, the group has raised at least $22 million to bankroll this third-party run. Their candidate will be selected through online balloting rather than the normal caucus/primary slog, and the only requirement is that the ticket must be split between a Republican and...

New Results, Same Race

(Flickr/Gage Skidmore)
Rick Santorum might be the media darling of the day after his clean sweep in last night's three elections. But that likely won't mean much for his future electoral prospects. Those three elections did not actually award any delegates—two (Minnesota and Colorado) were nonbinding caucuses, and the Missouri primary has been termed a beauty contest, with the states' delegates actually selected by another vote later this spring. Much like Iowa, these were small-scale contests where Santorum's town halls could win over enough votes to tip the scales. These were also the first contests where the Romney super PAC stayed largely on the sidelines, running few ads. That won't be the case in the remaining two February contests; Arizona and Michigan are large states where TV ads and traditional campaign infrastructure will trump grassroots appeal. After those states vote, the nomination finally ditches its state-by-state progression and becomes a truly national primary on Super Tuesday. Every poll...

Santorum's Missing Ingredient

Despite the fact that Mitt Romney chose not to compete in Missouri and Minnesota—and spent little time in Colorado—his loss last night in all three states, to Rick Santorum, has been spun by the media as a terrible wound for the former Massachusetts governor. MSNBC’s Michael O’Brien described the results as “upsetting” to Romney’s status as the front-runner, while The Washington Post said that it would slow Romney’s march to the nomination. For The New York Times , this race was an “ upset ” that “raised fresh questions about Mitt Romney’s ability to corral conservative support.” The reality, however, is that it did none of those things. This seems to go by the wayside whenever a new “anti-Romney” emerges, but it remains true that Mitt Romney has the most support within the Republican Party, the largest fundraising base, and the largest, most experienced organization. Of the candidates, he’s the most skilled at the process of running for president—which, admittedly, doesn’t say much —...

Minnesota Not So Nice

(Flickr/J. Stephen Conn)
My home state of Minnesota holds its caucus today, and no one really knows how the election will turn out. Public Policy Polling rolled out numbers last night that gave Rick Santorum a decent lead with 33 percent of the vote followed by Mitt Romney at 24 percent, Newt Gingrich at 22 percent, and Ron Paul bringing up the rear with 20 percent. Besides PPP there has been little polling in the state, and tracking numbers on Sunday had all of the candidates clustered together, so it's really anyone's guess how the caucus vote will roll in tonight. It's a nonbinding caucus, so the results themselves won't play a role in delegate math. The narrative tomorrow will be about whether Santorum has capitalized on Gingrich's missteps to gain momentum and reposition himself as the anti-Romney alternative. The more interesting story is the state of the Republican Party in Minnesota—yet another contest in a potential swing state for the general election—giving us a glimpse at how each candidate's...

Follow the Leader

Jamelle Bouie Supporters of former Massachusetts governor Mitt Romney cheer as he takes the stage. The most important thing about conservative activist Erick Erickson’s latest lament for the Republican presidential field isn’t his declaration that he would endorse the “sweet meteor of death” over any of the current candidates. It’s that, in the same segment, he resigned himself to supporting the eventual nominee in the general election. Put another way, liberals who expect conservatives to stay home are fooling themselves. Despite low turnout in the Republican presidential primaries and the overall lack of enthusiasm for Mitt Romney—the GOP’s likely nominee—the simple fact is that when the general election comes, Republicans will energize themselves into voting for the party’s choice. You can already see it, as prominent conservative figures begin to line up behind Romney’s candidacy. Put another way, John Kerry wasn’t a particularly thrilling nominee, but liberals were so angry with...

New Name, Same Old Thing

Flickr/Maitri
Among political scientists, it’s well known that the “independent voter” is a myth . When pressed, the large majority of voters lean Democratic or Republican and tend to vote like partisans, consistently supporting their party of choice. The only difference between a strong partisan and a “weak partisan leaner” is that the latter are reluctant—for whatever reason—to place themselves in one camp or the other. Over the last few years, this myth of the independent voter has taken hold among political journalists and others outside of academia. In its latest report on the 2012 election, centrist Democratic think tank Third Way perpetuates it. Instead of straightforwardly noting that the Obama campaign needs to reach for Democratic leaners, they’ve constructed the “Obama Independent,” which is basically the same thing: In 2008, President Obama won 52% of Independent voters.1 All signs point to an even bigger role for them in 2012; in fact, our recent analysis of voter registration numbers...

Miracle in Vegas

Flickr/Gage Skidmore
On Saturday night, as CNN’s wall-to-wall coverage of the Nevada caucuses was wilting from lack of anything to cover (candidates had yet to appear, vote totals were both low and unchanging, commentators had nothing to say), the network decided to air the one caucus still ongoing: the post-Shabbat Vegas caucus that the state GOP had set up to accommodate those observant Jewish Republicans who couldn’t turn out till the sun set. But the caucus was unbearable. Under caucus rules, the moderator was compelled to call on anyone who raised his or her hand to speak, and an inordinate number of Ron Paulistas, when duly recognized, droned on about the apocalypse to come now that we no longer peg the dollar to gold. (Of course, we ceased such pegging during Richard Nixon’s presidency, so the apocalypse has been a long time comin’.) When one speaker finished, another rose to repeat the previous speaker’s points—so much so that the event’s moderator politely suggested that if prospective speakers...

Conservatives Ditch Corporate Spending After Eastwood Ad

(Flickr/Sachyn)
Conservatives spent Monday being outraged about the Chrysler Super Bowl ad featuring Clint Eastwood. They were upset that the great Western hero and former Republican would highlight Detroit manufacturing, which they argued was an implicit endorsement of Obama's policies. “I was, frankly, offended by it,” Karl Rove said on Fox News. “I'm a huge fan of Clint Eastwood. I thought it was an extremely well-done ad, but it is a sign of what happens when you have Chicago-style politics, and the president of the United States and his political minions are, in essence, using our tax dollars to buy corporate advertising." "The commercial’s theme was more closely informed by Barack Obama’s recent SOTU call for the country to put aside its differences and march to the president’s tune than by the rugged individualism that one usually associates with the star who played Dirty Harry and The Man with No Name," National Review 's Charles C.W. Cooke wrote . I was more ambivalent. It's nice to see...

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