Base Problems

(Barack Obama/Flickr)
BuzzFeed’s Zeke Miller looks at the Obama campaign’s attempt to bring health-care reform into the spotlight for the first time since the “shellacking” Democrats received in the 2010 midterm elections: The new case, though, is less factual, and more emotional. It emerged first in the 17-minute “documentary” the campaign released last week, narrated by Tom Hanks. […] The campaign also commissioned a pair of “Face of Change” videos portraying ordinary Americans helped by the reform bill. One includes a North Carolina mother, Rebecca Freiert, retelling the story of having to reduce her infant son’s insurance coverage in the face of a $100 premium hike, which the Affordable Care Act reversed. Miller correctly notes that this is partly out of necessity and partly a response to opportunity. By virtue of taking the case, the Supreme Court has placed the Affordable Care Act in the public eye and forced the administration to defend it in a big way. What’s more, the recent fight over...

Don't Believe the Hype

(Flickr/NS Newsflash)
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. But in many ways, it still represents a big win. Romney won 88 percent of the vote, shutting out Rick Santorum from collecting any new delegates. The estimated 22 delegates Romney collected in Puerto Rico are three more than Santorum won in Alabama and 13 more than he reaped in Mississippi. Yet scan the newspapers this morning, and you'll find scant coverage of the caucus. Unlike the states Santorum won last week, Romney's dominating victory hasn't triggered a series of articles questioning whether the state of the race has been overturned. Instead, you get thoughts like Jeff Zeleny's in the...

Pennsylvania Shouldn't Have Any Senators

(Flickr/Gage Skidmore)
Earlier this week Rick Santorum decided he didn't want to win Puerto Rico's upcoming GOP primary. "They'd have to speak English, that would be a requirement." Santorum said as a stipulation for Puerto Rico attaining statehood. "That's a requirement we put on other states. It's a condition for entering the union." Santorum walked the comment halfway back Thursday, but continued to insist on the supremacy of English in state law. "English should be taught here, and everyone should speak English here," he said . Santorum recognizes that he is going to likely lose Puerto Rico—the popular governor of the island has endorsed Mitt Romney—so he's trading in some dog whistling for xenophobic GOP voters in the rest of the country. What's amusing though is Rick Santorum's clear lack of understanding in U.S. law. If, as he first insisted, English had to be on the books as official state law, Santorum would have never been able to enter the United States Senate. His home Pennsylvania is one of 19...

No News For Santorum Out of Missouri

The next jaunt on the wild Republican roller-coaster is this weekend. Missouri voters head to their local polling locations for the second time this cycle. They first expressed themselves back in early February in a nonbinding primary, a vote won by Rick Santorum but that has no bearing on the delegates that will be sent to Tampa this summer. Missourians vote once again tomorrow, this time in caucuses that will eventually, down the line, help select who is sent to the GOP convention, and by extension, whether the state votes for Santorum or Mitt Romney. Like every caucus, the local meetings held tomorrow are nonbinding. Delegates elected from those meetings are sent on to the district convention. The actual Republican delegates are later selected at the state convention (that's for the statewide delegates, ones representing the various Congressional districts are selected at a separate meeting). That's not too different from how Iowa or other caucus states have worked thus far. But...

Axelrod to Republicans: Let My People Vote

(Flickr/Talk Radio News Service)
Barack Obama's former right-hand man accused Republicans of passing laws to shut out Democrats from voting in the next presidential election. "There's no doubt that Republican legislatures and governors across this country have made an attempt to try to win the elections in 2012 and 2011 by passing laws that are restrictive, that are meant to discourage participation, particularly by key constituencies that have voted Democratic in the past," said David Axelrod, former White House official and current senior advisor to the Obama campaign. The comments were made in an online Q&A following the premiere of "The Road We Traveled," a 17-minute film directed by David Guggenheim and produced by the Obama campaign. Questions were submitted over Twitter, and the topics ranged from how the president will handle Iran to whether Axelrod ever got in arguments with fellow senior advisor David Plouffe. The final question posed to Axelrod was about the string of laws Republican state legislatures...

The Anti-Women VP Choice

(Flickr/Gage Skidmore)
As Paul Waldman noted earlier this morning, Mitt Romney will be in a tight spot once he's finally clinched the nomination and has to pick a vice-presidential candidate for his ticket, a decision that gets trickier by the day thanks to the elongated primary season. On one side he'll be pressured to appease all of Rick Santorum's supporters, either by granting the second slot on the ticket to the runner-up or another social conservative of his ilk. On the other hand, Romney will have just finished a nomination that has pushed him further and further to the right, so he'll need someone who won't alienate the broader general-election voter base. Virginia Governor Bob McDonnell's name is often near the top when people list possible VPs. He's popular among the conservative grassroots, but falls under the category of typical bland white guys that voters are accustomed to and will receive little notice. It doesn't hurt either that he is the sitting governor for an important swing state. Yet...

Celebrating the Defeated

Three former Iowa Supreme Court justices might not have received much love from their constituents, but they're about to be granted a national accolade. Chief Justice Marsha Ternus and Associate Justices David Baker and Michael Streit were voted off the bench in 2010 after conservative activists organized against their retention election, a typically routine procedure that became political overnight. Conservatives—led by failed gubernatorial candidate and evangelical leader Bob Vander Plaats—were outraged when the state Supreme Court legalized same-sex marriage in 2009. The state's constitution is difficult to amend, so they decide to voice their displeasure by removing those three justices with funds provided by major social conservative organizations such as the American Family Association and the National Organization For Marriage. Liberals were caught off guard—unprepared to run a defensive campaign—and the three justices chose to sit out the election under the belief that it...

A Get-Together to Tear It Apart

(Jamelle Bouie/The American Prospect)
Thus far, I’ve been convinced that Republicans will rally around Mitt Romney if and when he wins the nomination. The former Massachusetts governor might not be popular with Republican voters, but Barack Obama is the most hated figure in the GOP, and unity is necessary if Republicans want a shot at taking the White House. But the latest Pew poll suggests division within Republican ranks; in a general-election contest between Obama and Romney, 75 percent of Romney supporters in the primary say that they would back the former governor “strongly.” Among Santorum supporters, that number drops to 55 percent. On the other end, in the unlikely event of an Obama-Santorum matchup, the former Pennsylvania senator could count on strong support from 83 percent of followers, while only 47 percent of Romney supporters say that they would strongly back Santorum. In fact, 20 percent of Romney supporters say that they would vote for Obama if Santorum is the nominee. There is always some division during...

What Happened to the Endless Debates?

The GOP candidates gathered in Iowa for an August debate (Flickr/IowaPolitics.com)
After the flurry of debates during the invisible primary, the cable airwaves have recently been bereft of candidates bickering with each other face to face. A final debate had been scheduled to take place this coming Monday, March 19, in Portland, Oregon—a state that doesn't hold it's primary until the middle of May. The local party and media were moving ahead with preparations, announcing moderators last week, but it looks like that debate won't come to fruition. Mitt Romney's press secretary e-mailed Politico last night and confirmed that the leading candidate won't be attending the debate, skipping out to campaign in Illinois before that state's primary next Tuesday. Without the front-runner there's little incentive for the other candidate's to depart from the trail, and it looks like Ron Paul and Rick Santorum won't attend either. There hasn't been a debate since a CNN-hosted event in Arizona on February 22. A pre-Super Tuesday confrontation had been slotted for Georgia on March 1...

2012 Is a Real Big Deal

(Barack Obama/Flickr)
Ruth Marcus is bored by the 2012 presidential election and wants us to turn our attention to 2016 which, she argues, will be a lot more interesting: Enough about the 2012 election already. Let’s talk 2016, which promises to be far more interesting — and consequential. The precise contours of that election, of course, will be shaped by what happens this November. Yet either way, the 2016 campaign will be, much more than 2012, a battle for the ideological soul of one or both parties. Two things. First, for as much as political observers have a sports-like obsession with the back-and-forth of politics, it’s important to remember that there are stakes involved in the outcome of a presidential election. From the future of health-care reform and the welfare state, to the environment and foreign policy, presidential elections have a profound effect on the lives and livelihoods of countless people. That Marcus is bored with 2012 is a sign that she doesn’t take that seriously enough. That...

Turnout Won't Be a Problem This Fall

(Barack Obama/Flickr)
At The Washington Post , Chris Cillizza suggests that, like the Republican Party, President Obama might have a turnout problem in the fall: A review of the states that have also held Democratic contests this year shows turnout is down sharply from the last time a Democratic president was running largely unopposed for renomination — 1996. Democratic turnout is down significantly in five of eight states that held similar contests in 1996 and 2012 (and where data are available), and six of eight overall, compared to Bill Clinton’s 1996 reelection campaign. In general, I’m skeptical that either party will have a turnout problem in the fall. As is almost always the case, partisans on both sides will close ranks when the general election rolls around, and the stakes become more clear. Indeed, the mere fact of having someone to run against will energize turnout, especially when it comes to Republicans, who are eager to drive President Obama from the White House. For now, I can’t blame...

What Does the ACA Do for You?

(Flickr/Barack Obama)
The Affordable Care Act (ACA) is the landmark piece of policy for Obama's first term. Save perhaps his response to the Great Recession, the ACA is likely to be the primary measure by which his presidency will be judged in the history books. As long as it is fully implemented, it should help millions of uninsured Americans by shifting more people onto Medicaid, providing subsidies for low-income workers, and forbidding insurance companies from excluding customers based on past illness. The Obama campaign released an interactive flow chart yesterday. One inputs their demographic data—age, sex, and income, for example—and the program spits out various ways the ACA has improved your health-care coverage. As someone who has private insurance, it showed me a list of services my insurance will now be required to cover at no extra charge and highlighted the fact that 80 percent of my monthly payments must be used on funding health service. It also informed me that, thanks to my salary level,...

Is Obama Unpopular, or Have the Polls Gone Crazy?

(White House/Flickr)
Polling on the president has been a little weird lately. According to yesterday’s The Washington Post /CBS News poll, 46 percent of Americans approve of President Obama’s performance, while 50 percent disapprove. This is on the lower bound of polling for the president, but well within the range we’ve seen over the last several months. Likewise, over the weekend, Gallup found that Obama’s approval rating rose to 49 percent—mostly on the strength of last week’s job report, which saw the economy grow by 227,000 jobs. The New York Times and CBS News registered the most dramatic change in Obama’s standing with the public. In its poll, released yesterday, Obama’s approval rating dipped to 41 percent, the lowest since last summer, when the debt ceiling debacle damaged his standing with Democrats, Republicans, and independents. Jonathan Bernstein says that this is all statistical noise, while Jonathan Chait insists that there is something here; namely, that President Obama’s message—“America...

Romney's Issue with Evangelicals

(Flickr/Gage Skidmore)
Much has been made about Mitt Romney's struggles to win over the conservative base. He's polling even or ahead in Mississippi and Alabama before tonight's primaries, but given past performances, he'd need an act of God to win a Southern state. Gingrich and Santorum splitting the conservative vote might be just such a miracle, but it still seems somewhat unfathomable given Public Policy Polling's sample that puts evangelicals as 70 percent of likely Republican voters in Mississippi and 68 percent in Alabama. That same PPP poll found that voters in these states didn't believe in evolution by large margins—60 percent in Alabama and 66 percent in Mississippi. One has to wonder how that same subsection views Romney's Mormon faith. If these voters interpret the Bible so strictly that they doubt evolution, they probably don't look too favorably upon a religion that claims Jesus reappeared in the middle of Missouri once he'd finished up in Jerusalem. Mormonism is a fast-growing religion, but...

Mitt Romney Will Bury You

(Jamelle Bouie/The American Prospect)
That Mitt Romney has a massive war chest is obvious at this point, but on occasion, it still comes as a surprise to see how much he outspends his opponents. This chart from Buzzfeed shows the extent to which Romney has buried his competitors: This is one reason I’ve always been reluctant to predict success for any of Romney’s competitors in the Republican primary. The ability to spend this much money is a huge advantage, and while it doesn’t guarantee victory, the only challenge could come from someone with deep pockets, deep party support, a superior organization, or both. As it stands, Mitt Romney has been the only candidate to fit either bill, which is why it’s always been safe to bet on his eventual victory.