Elections

Try Again Next Time

AP Photo/APTN
The most you can say about Indiana Governor Mitch Daniels response to the State of the Union is that it was better than Bobby Jindal’s attempt in 2009. To be fair, responding to the State of the Union has never been an easy task. The president has the advantage of pomp, circumstance, and ritual. At best, the opposition party can present a simulacra of these things—see Virginia Governor Bob McDonnell’s response in 2010—and hope that the actual message is strong enough to reach viewers. The problem for Daniels is that the Republican message just isn’t very compelling. Other than its usual prescription—cut taxes on “job creators”, cut regulation, cut spending—the GOP doesn’t have a plan for the problems facing the economy. It has no interest in regulating Wall Street (and in fact, wants to return to the glory days of 2008), it has no interest in providing support for lower-income families, it has no interest in bolstering public services (other than the military), and it sees class...

Other Things You Can Do with Rich People's Tax Dollars

On the heels of a State of the Union that promises to address income inequality and a broken tax system, National Journal reports on the Democratic plan to revive a surtax on annual incomes greater than a million dollars: Democratic members of a conference committee working on a long-term extension of a payroll-tax holiday and other programs will urge a surtax on incomes of more than a million dollars a year to pay for the bill when talks officially start today, said Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., on Tuesday. It should be said that if Democrats are going to push a tax increase—even a popular one—they should aim to do a little more than just offset the cost of stimulus. Unemployment is still above 8 percent and the bond markets are happy to lend us money at historically low rates. Rather than offset the cost, we should just pay for the payroll-tax holiday with debt and use the funds raised by a millionaire’s tax to boost food stamps and unemployment insurance. Even better,...

Mitt Romney's Entitlement Problem

Jamelle Bouie/The American Prospect Mitt Romney address a crowd in Columbia, South Carolina. Obviously, Mitt Romney’s tax returns are gold for the Obama campaign, which can accurately describe the former Massachusetts governor as emblematic of the extreme wealth disparities in the United States. His income of $20.9 million in 2011—nearly all of it from profits, dividends, or interest from investments—is a staggering amount of money. For context, as Bloomberg ’s Richard Rubin points out , “In 2008, according to the IRS, the median adjusted gross income was $33,048, which Romney made in less than a day.” Thanks to the Occupy movement—with the help of opportunistic politicians—income inequality is on the political agenda, and in this environment, immense wealth is a huge political liability. A smart candidate would use this fact and retool his message away from the glories of free-market capitalism and toward one that—at the very least—acknowledged that Americans were uncomfortable with...

None of the Above

Mitt Romney cruised through 2011 on the idea that he was the most electable conservative candidate. And, for the first two weeks of 2012, it looked as if he were about to prove it. He won a narrow victory in the conservative stronghold of Iowa and a landslide in the more moderate New Hampshire. But that’s when everything changed. Opponents began to question his record and his ideological bona fides, with attacks on his former company, Bain Capital, and his past as a moderate governor of Massachusetts. His victory in Iowa slipped away after a recount, and voters in South Carolina rejected him—by a double-digit margin—in favor of Newt Gingrich, a son of the South. More important, Romney handled himself poorly throughout, with a major fumble on the issue of his tax returns, and his low, low tax rate ( 13.9 percent on an income of $45 million, if you were wondering). In a little more than a week, Romney lost his lead in the Palmetto State, lost the state itself, and lost his lead in the...

All the Taxes Owed

AP Photo
Mitt Romney's reluctance to reveal his income and tax information received center-stage attention once again at last night's debate. After weeks of immense scrutiny and criticism from his opponents, Romney caved and agreed to release his tax returns from 2010 and the projections for his 2011 return. "I pay all the taxes owed. And not a penny more," Romney said at the debate. "I don't think we want someone running for president who pays more taxes than he owes." Thanks to leaks from Reuters , we now know Romney's exact figure: $6.2 million over the course of 2010 and 2011 . That's an unimaginable sum to most Americans, but it represents a pittance of Romney's annual earnings, which total more than $45 million over those two years. He paid an effective tax rate of just 13.9 percent last year, with the majority of his income taxed at the capital-gains rate of 15 percent. That's about the same level as a couple making less than $70,000 per year. To Romney's credit, he might not chip in...

Quiet Time

AP Photo/Paul Sancya
Whether intentionally or not, NBC News handicapped Newt Gingrich by asking the audience to stay quiet during the Republican presidential debate in Tampa, Florida. In South Carolina, the audience was a source of energy for Gingrich. With their whoops and hollers, they emboldened the former House speaker and cowed his competitors. By contrast, without an obvious sign of support from the crowd, Gingrich was surprisingly vulnerable to Mitt Romney’s attacks on his record. And as the candidate with the most to lose in Florida, Romney was relentless, aggressively pressing Gingrich on his ties to Freddie Mac. Here’s the exchange in full: Because there wasn’t an overall direction to Romney’s attacks, it’s hard to say that there was a knock-out moment. But in a state hard hit by the foreclosure crisis, it’s enough for Romney to raise the issue and present Gingrich as an inside man for an industry that ruined life for thousands of Floridians. What’s more, this exchange illustrated the extent to...

Dark Horse Victory

AP Photo/Matt Rourke
In one of the most startling turnarounds in presidential-primary history, Newt Gingrich scored a double-digit victory in South Carolina over Mitt Romney on Saturday. When the week began, Romney was coming off an easy win in New Hampshire and had a comfortable-looking lead in every state poll. Every political forecaster in America saw him as the inevitable Republican nominee. But his worst debate performance of the campaign on Monday night was followed by a week of fumbles that gave the lie to his campaign’s legendary “discipline.” Romney, cast as a “vulture capitalist” and out-of-touch one-percenter—in a state with high unemployment—could not even muster a clear answer to questions about releasing his tax returns. Gingrich, who finished fourth in both Iowa and New Hampshire, eased up on his denunciations of Romney’s record at Bain Capital—with the damage already done—and made the most of his local knowledge from next-door Georgia to deliver rabble-rousing performances at Monday and...

No One Cares About the Affair

Jamelle Bouie Former House Speaker Newt Gingrich speaks to a crowd in Mt. Pleasant, South Carolina. Mt. Pleasant, South Carolina —One of the larger tourist landmarks in the Charleston-area is a decommissioned warship that’s been converted to a museum. Naturally—as a “grandiose” person—this is where Newt Gingrich held his final rally before the South Carolina primary. Due to bad weather, the event was moved below the flight deck into a hangar. The delay was annoying for reporters—and early birds—but it was great for attendance; by the time Gingrich came to the stage, the hangar was packed with people. Gingrich was introduced by the Speaker of the South Carolina House of Representatives—who recently endorsed the GOP hopeful—and General James Livingston, who praised the former House Speaker as someone who knew how to “kill the enemy.” As for the actual speech, it began with a group of Cub Scouts, who he brought on stage, and a heckler. The person yelled at Gingrich to release his ethics...

Vice Presidents for Romney

The final few days before the South Carolina primary have become all about Newt Gingrich's apparent last minute surge and Mitt Romney's inability to grapple with questions regarding his personal wealth. If momentum carries through, Gingrich should probably finish ahead of Romney in tomorrow's primary. But Romney will remain the clear frontrunner for the overall nomination. Don't believe us in the pundit class? Just look at where Republican elites are headed. Virginia Governor Bob McDonnell shows up on almost every shortlist of potential vice presidential candidates and, as Jamelle pointed out earlier , he endorsed Romney this afternoon. Almost every rising star of the Republican Party has attached themselves to Romney's campaign. Just glance at the list of nine possible VPs The New Republic gathered from talking to Republican insiders. Five had endorsed Romney while the others (save Nevada Governor Brian Sandoval) have decided to sit out the endorsement game. John Thune and Rob...

Bob McDonnell Endorses Romney

Virginia Governor Bob McDonnell—a rising star in the Republican Party—has endorsed Mitt Romney for president. Here’s McDonnell in his own words : “President Obama’s lack of leadership experience is now clear—he has failed to turn around the economy and end the gridlock in Washington. Mitt Romney used his leadership ability in a politically difficult environment to balance the budget every year, cut spending and taxes, and create jobs. He is a results-oriented conservative. This is the type of record that conservatives like me are honored to support—we need a leader like Mitt Romney in the White House to enact effective change that will put our country back on the right path and Americans back to work.” For anyone who has followed McDonnell, this doesn’t come as a big surprise. The Virginia governor shares a certain pragmatism with the former Massachusetts governor, and is firmly ensconced within the Republican Party establishment. Indeed, like Romney, McDonnell marries a regressive,...

The Misfits

Jamelle Bouie Texas Congressman Ron Paul talks to a small group of supporters in North Charleston, South Carolina. North Charleston, South Carolina —Ron Paul seems to have a thing for airports. Of the two rallies I’ve attended for the Texas congressman, both have been in airport hangars on the outskirts of a major city (in this case, Charleston). But while the first event was packed with supporters, this one had far fewer attendees—excluding press, I counted 80 people, which was barely enough to surround the stage where Paul spoke. More important, as with Paul supporters in other states, these voters weren’t typical Republicans, if they were Republicans at all. Alexandra (she declined to give her last name), for example, was a traveling nurse who just came back from assignment in Jordan. While abroad, she didn’t pay much attention to the Republican primaries and saw this as the best opportunity to see what Paul had to say. Her big issue? She wants someone who can help reduce student-...

Inside The Mind of a Conservative Billionaire

I was on the road for a few hours last night and unfortunately missed out on the latest round of "So You Think You Can Beat Barack Obama". Stereotypical liberal that I am, my car radio was instead tuned to NPR and I caught this fascinating interview with billionaire investor Foster Friess. Friess is one of a handful of rich conservatives reshaping campaign finance. A Rick Santorum supporter, Friess has reportedly provided most of the funds for the Red, White and Blue Fund, the super PAC buying ads on Santorum's behalf. Back when candidate specific super PACs began popping up last year, there was concern that billionaires such as Friess would keep their favored candidate funded with no public scrutiny. Super PACs have looser filing requirements than the actual candidates, only filing reports twice a year and if they wanted these billionaires could funnel money through various organizations, obscuring the original source. Instead, many such as Friess and Gingrch supporter Sheldon...

Fighting Words

AP Photo/David Goldman
For the first question of tonight’s Republican debate in Charleston, the moderator, CNN’s John King, questioned Gingrich on the allegations made by his ex-wife that he wanted an open marriage. Immediately, Gingrich ripped into King, CNN, and the news media. “I think the destructive, vicious, negative nature of much of the news media makes it harder to govern this country, harder to attract decent people to run for public office, and I am appalled that you begin a presidential debate with a question like that,” declared the former House Speaker. The audience roared in support, John King looked chastened, and it’s no exaggeration to say—as several outlets rushed to proclaim—that this was the moment Gingrich won the debate. But this sort of lashing out is par for the course for Gingrich. At Monday’s debate, he attacked moderator Juan Williams for questioning the racial insensitivity of Gingrich’s rhetoric; he got a tremendous bounce from South Carolina voters as a result. That the former...

Romney and Off-Shore Bank Accounts

Life must be good at the Obama campaign's Chicago headquarters these days. They can sit back and idly watch as Republicans do their job for them. This is around the time that a presidential reelection campaign would begin zeroing in on the best strategy to use against their general election opponent, but the GOP field has already settled on the narrative against frontrunner Mitt Romney. Instead of a primary defined by Romney's dreaded authorship of Massachusetts's health mandate or his wavering stance on abortion, Romney's opponents have unloaded on his "vulture capitalism" and glee at handing out pink slips. The spotlight was directed on Romney's hesitance to release his tax returns at the debate earlier this week, and will surely be raised again tonight when the candidates gather in South Carolina. Obama for America isn't taking the Republican implosion for granted though. In a conference call with reporters earlier today, campaign officials ripped into Mitt Romney as out of touch...

Secretary of Defense Palin

Newt Gingrich has staked out a string of positions over the course of the campaign that should be enough to disqualify him from holding the nation's top political office. Gingrich can't grasp the concept of separation of powers and believes the president should overrule court decisions he dislikes willy-nilly. He's in favor of child labor and peppers his speeches with race-baiting language. About the only thing Gingrich gets right is his desire to reinvest in space research. But this statement might resonate with voters more than any of those disqualifiers: Certainly, she’s one of the people I’d call on for advice,” Gingrich said in an interview with CNN’s Wolf Blitzer. “I would ask her to consider taking a major role in the next administration if I’m president, but nothing has been discussed of any kind. And it wouldn’t be appropriate to discuss it at this time. Gingrich was speaking of his new supporter Sarah Palin, one of the most disliked public figures even in this era of general...

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