It's Election Day, though most of the country won't notice. Beside a handful of referendums with wide-reaching consequences, there are few contested elections, and the two big-ticket contests—gubernatorial elections in Kentucky and Mississippi—aren't in question. But one small state Senate election in Iowa could have a significant impact on the LGBT community.
Republican Cindy Golding is facing off against Democrat Liz Mathis in the state's 18th District. The special election was triggered when Republican Governor Terry Branstad appointed the incumbent (a Democrat) to a state board earlier this fall.
I'm going to contradict myself and briefly discuss Rick Santorum again. The former U.S. senator secured a key Iowa Republican's endorsement over the weekend, a move that won't significantly improve his chances at gaining the presidential nomination (still only a fan-fiction dream among personhood supporters). But the endorsement highlights the prevalence of discontent among the conservative base this year.
It may be that all the millions of dollars spent by both sides and the tens of thousands of precinct walks they (well, chiefly labor) undertook in the battle to repeal Ohio’s Senate Bill 5, which nullified the collective-bargaining rights of the state’s public employees, merely ensured that Ohioans would vote the way they originally intended to. The latest poll taken before today’s election—from Public Policy Polling (PPP), completed this past weekend—showed that voters backed repeal by a whopping 23-point margin, 59 percent to 36 percent. As PPP noted, voters also backed repeal by a 23-point margin when they were first polled back in March.
Last week, I speculated that Mitt Romney could still win the Iowa caucuses if he poured enough resources into the state over the next two months. Evangelical Christians might have the loudest voice in the Iowa GOP, but they don't constitute the whole party. They're matched by a set of business-minded Republicans who favor low taxes and defanging regulation and who are less concerned with the social issues that could derail Romney's campaign; thanks to the 2010 midterms, the ranks of registered voters from this wing has increased significantly since the last time Romney ran for president in Iowa.
With controversy circling Herman Cain all week, pundits have begun searching for the next conservative bubble. With Mitt Romney unable to top 25 percent in the polls, some candidate must step in to fill the conservative void, or so the thinking goes. Perhaps Newt Gingrich will get his moment in the sun. Or maybe Rick Santorum will steal away Cain's supporters in Iowa polls.
When Politicorevealed the sexual-harassment charges against Herman Cain over the weekend, it would have been fairly easy for the Republican candidate to dismiss their relevance. They were the musings of the liberal media! Or a targeted hit from an opposing campaign! As Jamelle noticed Monday, conservative luminaries like Rush Limbaugh jumped to defend Cain. Politico followed up yesterday morning with a story about how unconcerned Iowa Republicans were with the scandal.
Even for someone who specializes in consistently saying the most offensive and irrelevant things, Ann Coulter's statements about black Republicans in an interview with Sean Hannity Monday crossed the line. In a segment discussing accusations of sexual harassment against Herman Cain, Coulter and Hannity completely sidestepped the allegations and instead ranted about why liberals target African American Republicans. Of course the argument moved away from issues of sex and workplace harassment and moved on to how Barack Obama is only half-black and his father wasn't even an American.
Changes in electoral law often shift elections in ways that cannot be predicted. Jimmy Carter won the Democratic nomination in '76 thanks to his understanding of the new primary rules that favored victories in early states rather than hobnobbing with party elites in smoke-filled rooms. The rise of the super PAC could play a similar role in 2012, completely revamping the operation of presidential campaigns. Thanks to the Supreme Court's 2010 Citizens United ruling, this new type of group is allowed to raise unlimited campaign funds from both individuals and corporations.
As I mentioned earlier today, we are just beginning to observe the role super PACs will play in the 2012 election. A handful of groups capitalized on the Citizens United ruling to begin spending money in 2010, but the extra preparation and heightened interest in presidential politics means the money spent by these groups will skyrocket over the next year.
At New York, John Heilemann ponders Mitt Romney's standing in Iowa. Early in the campaign, team Romney made a deliberate decision to downplay his presence in the first-in-the-nation caucus. He would not repeat his 2008 mistake, where he invested heavily in Iowa only to lose handedly to Mike Huckabee , a candidate who had been buoyed by a wave support from Iowa's active evangelical Christian base. Romney has made just three Iowa trips to date this year, and his Hawkeye staff is limited to five people with no television or radio purchases to his name.
Rick Perry's campaign spent last week floating the possibility that the Texas governor might skip some, if not all, of the remaining presidential debates. Their logic was pretty clear: Perry entered the field as the newly crowned frontrunner in August, only to see his stock plummet after a series of inept debate performances. They hoped to pull their candidate from the debate podium and counted on having few primary voters notice or care. As Jamelle noted last week, that was a risky strategy, which could alienate the conservative elite who already wary to support the governor after his stumbles.
The Des Moines Registerreleased their latest caucus poll over the weekend, and Herman Cain is the official favorite to win Iowa two months before caucus day. Cain posted support from 23 percent of likely voters, narrowly edging out Mitt Romney at 22 percent. No one else could even come close to touching the top two. Ron Paul gathered 12 percent. Michele Bachmann and Rick Perry—both of whom were crowned caucus frontrunners at one point in 2011—only had eight and seven percent respectively.
On Tuesday, the Obama administration announced its new plan for student loans: new graduates can cap their student loan repayments to 10 percent of their monthly income. After 20 years, their debt will be forgiven. Graduates already repaying their loans can consolidate and get half a percent interest rate cut. These changes will go into effect next year, two years before they were already scheduled to do so, and the administration said the move was in response to an online petition drive on its “We the People” site.
The new laws to restrict voter access to the polls are unlikely to change before the 2012 election. Republican-controlled legislatures elected in 2010 have systematically changed voting laws across the country—restricting early voting, photo ID, etc.—using their power to disenfranchise blocks of voters that typically support the other party. Voting rights advocates have fought back in a handful of states. In Maine, a repeal of same-day registration that passed earlier this summer will be subjected to a referendum vote next month. But Democrats have little recourse to stop these laws from hitting the books in most states.
When did tax-reform plans become so sexy? It seems like every day now GOP candidates are flaunting a new, slimmer tax plan, complete with a catchy name and nonsensical (or nonexistent) ideas supporting them. After a while, they can all start to look the same, but they vary widely on the craziness spectrum. Homeland Security decided that colors are passé as a way to measure threat, so here is my patented Herman Cain “I am America” smile threat level system.