Elections

Wall Street Backs One of Its Own

Flickr/Matthew Knott
Bankers are supposed to be the personifications of economic reasoning, but anyone looking at the financial reports of the presidential candidates and super PACs that have come out this week might conclude that there’s more to their political calculations than dollars and cents. Indeed, what these reports fairly shout is that Wall Street’s political picks have been swayed by offended egos and tribalism. Of course, there’s a straight dollars-and-cents rationale for the bankers' flight from Barack Obama to Mitt Romney. Obama wants to raise taxes on the rich; Romney wants to lower them. But the sheer extent of Wall Street’s support for Romney suggests that there’s even more in play than that. As Sam Stein and Paul Blumenthal of the Huffington Post have documented , Goldman Sachs employees, who gave Obama more than a million bucks in his first White House run, gave Romney $106,000 in the final quarter of 2011 and Obama just $12,000. Citigroup’s bankers, who gave Obama $730,000 in 2008,...

Donald Trump Endorses Mitt Romney

Flickr/Gage Skidmore
Even if Mitt Romney hadn’t appeared on stage to collect it, there is nothing good that can come of Donald Trump’s endorsement of the former Massachusetts governor. Not only is the real-estate mogul unpopular with the country at large but he is thoroughly associated with the “birther” conspiracy—the belief that President Obama is not actually a natural-born citizen of the United States. Indeed, it’s hard to imagine why Romney would even want the endorsement—Trump isn’t a political force and doesn’t provide much in the way of supporters. At most, Trump has nice words to say about Romney, calling him “tough,” “sharp,” and “smart” in his remarks. That the likely Republican presidential nominee would actively court Trump—Huffington Post reports that the two have had several meetings—smacks of desperation more than anything else. The good news is that the public doesn’t actually pay attention to the presidential race at this stage of the game. By the fall, when the general election begins...

Super PAC's Little Guys

AP Photo
Federal Election Commission super PAC filings proved largely anti-climactic when the figures were released Tuesday. Suspicions were confirmed that Jon Huntsman's largest benefactor was his father, who chipped in 70 percent of the funds for the PAC supporting his son. And Wall Street bankers have poured millions of dollars into Mitt Romney’s campaign. Restore Our Future, the super PAC backing Romney that pummeled Newt Gingrich in Florida, had, according to the commission’s figures, countless individual contributions of hundreds of thousands of dollars. The group raised $17,947,952.77 off 199 donors in the second half of 2011. That levels out to an average donation of more than $90,000 per person. But, interspersed among the six-figure donations, were eight checks written for $100 or less. Three more people donated between $100 and $1,000. Who exactly were these people who believed that their $100 donation would make a difference among contributions from Wall Street figures like John...

The Success of Romney's Health-Care Pander

Governor Mitt Romney signs Massachusetts health care reform in 2006.
Last year, at the University of Michigan, Mitt Romney gave a speech on health care to address his prior support for the individual mandate—the linchpin for the Affordable Care Act and Romneycare in Massachusetts. The core of his speech—and of his message on health care since then—was that it’s unacceptable for the federal government to require health insurance for its citizens. As he said : Our plan was a state solution to a state problem. And his is a power grab by the federal government to put in place a one size fits all plan across the nation. Of course, this isn’t true. The Affordable Care Act maintains the private health-insurance market and requires people to buy into it if they don’t have insurance or qualify for Medicaid. If the ACA is a “one size fits all" plan, than by dint of similarity, Romneycare is the same. It’s for that reason that, at the time, I was skeptical of this whole maneuver. There was no way that conservatives could really believe Romney when he made the...

Candidates in Glass Houses

AP Photo
ORLANDO, FLORIDA —No one—save perhaps journalists —is more disappointed than Democrats by Newt Gingrich's poor Florida finish. The former House speaker's continued relevance and attacks on Mitt Romney has provided great news fodder. As Romney's path to the nomination becomes easier by the day, Democrats have gone searching for new strategies to paint the Republican front-runner as a weaker candidate than he actually is. Their newest strategy is to suggest that Romney's success in Florida is nothing more than a monetary imbalance that he can't carry through to the general election. “Mitt Romney’s victory tonight in the Florida GOP primary comes as no surprise—Romney and his Super PAC outspent his nearest opponent by running 13,000 ads to Newt Gingrich's 200, carpet-bombing the airwaves with negative ads," Democratic National Committee Chair Debbie Wasserman Schultz wrote in a press release. "In fact, Romney’s campaign has already spent more on negative ads than John McCain did during...

Newt's Vegas Odds

AP Photo
By one measure, at least, Nevada should be Newt Gingrich’s kind of state. Like the Newtster himself, it’s grown comfortable with divorce, having had the highest divorce rate of any of the 50 states in a succession of decennial Census reports. In a state full of weather-beaten tumbleweeds, Newt’s peregrinations should be distinctly no big whoop. Whether a man can build his campaign on his divorce record isn’t likely to be tested by the former speaker, however. In the state’s Republican caucuses coming up on Saturday, Gingrich’s base is clearly made up of the same Tea Party activists who inflicted Sharron Angle on state Republicans in 2010’s Senate contest. But caucuses don’t reflect or necessarily reward anger. They reward organization, of which Gingrich, by all available evidence, has none in Nevada, unless we count Sheldon Adelson. Both Mitt Romney and Ron Paul, by contrast, have more clearly defined constituencies behind them and, more important, actual organizations. Romney’s core...

Gingrich Campaign Math

ORLANDO, FLORIDA —"I think Florida did something very important coming on top of South Carolina," Newt Gingrich said last night after the results of his loss had already been confirmed. "It is now clear that this will be a two person race between the conservative leader Gingrich and the Massachusetts moderate." This is Gingrich's new line of defense: Mitt Romney may win elections but he has yet to prove he can win a majority of Republican votes. Gingrich used a similar variation during his press briefing on Sunday, arguing that the combination of support for him and Santorum dwarfed Romney's polling lead. Once Santorum dropped out, Gingrich implied, he would gain the full backing of the true conservative vote, and any remaining messy details would be sorted out through a brokered convention. The finals results bore out a different story. As expected, Romney won Florida by a wide margin. But it was such a wide margin that he did manage the feat that Gingrich had termed impossible less...

The Public Likes Populism

At the same time that liberals have praised President Obama for his embrace of populist rhetoric, mainstream pundits have attacked him for “divisiveness.” In October, David Brooks criticized Obama’s newfound populism as “ misguided ”—“It repels independents,” he wrote—and more recently, William Galston warned that his focus on inequality “may well reduce his chances of prevailing in a close race.” And while it’s true that the Democratic base loves this rhetoric, it’s also true that it has a home among moderate and independent voters, who are increasingly uncomfortable with the income stratification of American society. In a recent poll from CBS News and The New York Times , 55 percent of Americans agreed with the Democratic contention that the rich pay less than their fair share in taxes. And while 52 percent of Americans believe that capital gains and dividends should be taxed at the same rate as ordinary income, this amounts to a significantly higher tax rate than the status quo—...

His Own Worst Enemy

If Mitt Romney has a big problem in the Republican primary, it’s himself. The former Massachusetts governor can’t seem to keep his foot out of his mouth, and has—through misstatements—portrayed himself as a cold and heartless shill for the 1 percent. Here are some of the greatest hits: “ Corporations are people , my friend.” “I’m running for office for Pete’s sake !” “I like being able to fire people .” “I should tell my story. I’m also unemployed .” When heard in their full context, most of these aren’t as bad as they sound. But, as John Kerry learned in 2004, voters aren’t that attuned to the context of politicians, especially when they say things that leave a bad first impression. On CNN last night, Romney deepened this problem with another tone deaf comment which, fairly or not, will reinforce the image that he is a defender of the wealthy: “ I’m not concerned with the very poor . We have a safety net there. If it needs repair, I’ll fix it. I’m not concerned about the very rich,...

Behold the Power of Newt

ORLANDO, FLORIDA —Newt Gingrich has publicly pledged to have the single most productive day in presidential history. Gingrich has taken to listing his first-day proposals during recent stump speeches, but he promised to take it a step further when he spoke last night. He promised to release a new Contract With America during his non-concession speech— "a personal one between me and you"—that would detail his plans once he enters office. "We're going to put this together in a way that you will be able to see in writing with my signature, and you'll be able to hold me accountable," Gingrich said. For Gingrich, it's not enough to promise voters that you'll bring change to Washington—you have to bring about that change in the span of a few hours. By my assessment, it seemed like far too ambitious of a plan, just given the taxing schedule of inauguration, what with changing tuxedos between each ball and whatnot. But Gingrich offered a rebuke to my timekeeper's cynicism last night. "All of...

Primary Battle Weary

Last night’s victory speech was familiar terrain for former Massachusetts governor Mitt Romney. Instead of asserting his conservative credentials or swiping at his Republican rivals, Romney focused his fire on Obama, with an extended attack on his leadership. “Mr. President, you were elected to lead, you chose to follow, and now it’s time for you to get out of the way," Romney said. This speech was his pivot to the general election—a generic message that can appeal to disgruntled voters and disaffected supporters of the president. And with his big, double-digit win in the Florida Republican primary, it makes sense to return to this terrain. Romney has regained the momentum he lost in South Carolina, and reestablished himself as the GOP’s presumptive nominee for president. The problem for Romney is that this should have happened much sooner. The conventional wisdom surrounding presidential primaries—at least, since 2008—is that competitive contests make for a better general election...

Gingrich Campaigns Until the Last Minute

CELEBRATION, FLORIDA —A candidate's election-day schedule can sometimes be as good a predictor of the results as polling. This is the case with Mitt Romney and Newt Gingrich on Florida primary day. Romney, whom polls forecast will walk away with a large victory today, hosted an early morning rally in Tampa, then took the afternoon off. Gingrich, on the other hand, kept his day packed, crisscrossing central Florida to try to scrounge up extra votes. Yesterday, the Gingrich campaign ditched its normal bus for a chartered plane. Even with jet fuel behind him, Gingrich couldn't keep with his schedule; he was at least an hour late to most of his events yesterday. Today, his campaign stayed on schedule, much to my surprise. I arrived (late) at Fred's Southern Kitchen in Plant City about 20 minutes after Gingrich's bus had pulled away but, according to one bystander still milling about, I didn't miss much. Gingrich had rolled through greeting each table and briefly interacted with each voter...

Gingrich Goes After Goldman

ORLANDO, FLORIDA —Newt Gingrich often rails against the establishment elites who have conspired to sink his campaign. Sometimes it is Mitt Romney; others times he targets the liberals (an unlikely tag-team combination), but there is always someone to blame other than himself. I heard a new formulation of this theory at his "Crossing the Finish Line Rally" in Orlando last night. The event, held on the final eve before the primary, was intended as a pre-victory rally of sorts but took a much more subdued tone, as Gingrich's standing in the polls has evaporated over the past week. But angry Gingrich was in true form, lashing out at his opponent's vast wealth and the conspiracy to prevent Gingrich from gaining power: Goldman Sachs is a company that has taken billions from the American taxpayer, and they had a handpicked candidate in 2008 named Barack Obama. They have a handpicked candidate this year named Mitt Romney. They want to make sure that they keep the establishment in charge so...

And One More Thing from Newt

TAMPA, FLORIDA —Newt Gingrich yesterday laid out an ambitious plan for his first 24 hours, speaking before a geriatric crowd in the Villages. His first day in office would include signing a repeal of three separate bills—because of course the weight of his victory would compel Congress to work past their differences for his grandiose vision—and a series of executive orders. He upped the ante on Monday in Tampa, adding even more items to this already-busy hypothetical agenda. "I would sign an executive order authorizing construction as of that day," he said, referring to the new conservative hot-button issue of the Keystone pipeline. An executive order mandating an embassy in Jerusalem was included as well. Gingrich's most severe condemnation was saved for the Obama administration’s decision to include birth-control coverage as part of the basic requirements for health-insurance companies. He referred to his Catholic faith and said that Obama was violating the tenets of the...

Newt's Old-Time Religion

LUTZ, FLORIDA — On the last Sunday before the Florida primary, Newt Gingrich bowed his head at Exciting Idlewild Baptist Church, a megachurch in a suburb north of Tampa. As the remaining Republican candidates scramble to reach as many voters as humanly possible before Tuesday's all-important primary, every chance to preen before a captive audience is a golden opportunity. And no audience is more glued to their seats than devout Christians on a Sunday. Most parishioners appeared unaware that a celebrity was scheduled to be in their midst. When Gingrich stepped off his bus, reporters formed a swarm that enveloped him as he rushed inside the sanctuary. He walked in quickly, ignoring the media flock as he huddled in close conversation with the church's senior pastor, Ken Whitten. Gingrich made no remarks once inside the church, but he sat in the front center pew where the thousands of congregants could see him sing and sway. When Pastor Whitten recognized Gingrich, the church cameraman...

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