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.
Critics of the young people sleeping on cardboard at Occupy Wall Street argue the next generation should engage in the political process, not merely protest it. But some very politically engaged young people in Lowell, Massachusetts, are revealing that the political system doesn’t exactly welcome their engagement.
Earlier this year, 1,500 members of the United Teen Equality Center (UTEC) launched a campaign in Lowell to lower the voting age to 17 for city elections. The entire effort, from fundraising, to door knocking to lobbying legislators, was organized and led by the teens. They made an eloquent case for lowering the voting age.
Rick Perry's struggles with the GOP base can largely be traced back to the debate in late September in which he called opposition to tuition assistance for illegal immigrants "heartless." Given his subsequent drop in the polls, he is now contemplating skipping future debates. But for liberal audiences, the most chilling moment of Perry's brief debate history came when he defended Texas' status as the country's execution leader.
When Republicans gained control of state legislatures across the country in 2010, they began a systematic effort to restrict voting access, disenfranchising likely Democratic voters in the process. Five states passed strict ID laws, which will require voters to present a form of government-issued photo identification to get their ballot on Election Day.
The political corner of the Internet shared a nice laugh yesterday about Herman Cain's latest campaign ad. Cain's chief of smoking chief of staff Mark Block went on Fox News to explain the video. Megan Kelly asked if it was directed at farmers or workers in Detroit, rather than the West- and East-coast liberals in the media (contra the newsrooms staffed by chain smokers where I've worked).
"I tell you, you walk into a veterans' bar in Iowa and they're sitting around smoking, and we are resonating with them," Block said.
You must watch Herman Cain's latest campaign ad, via James Fallows. It starts off as a typical dry commercial with Cain's chief of staff hyping his candidate, but gets great right at the 40-second mark:
Yesterday I detailed how the leading figures of Iowa's evangelical community have all dilly-dallied about picking a favorite presidential candidate. As if on cue, one of those major players announced that he would be moderating one of the more bizarrely formatted debates of a modern presidential campaign. Rep. Steve King will referee a “modified Lincoln–Douglas debate” between Newt Gingrich and Herman Cain in Texas on November 5.
He dropped precipitously in recent polls after conservatives began to question his stance on illegal immigration, but most political pundits still think Rick Perry has a strong chance at winning the GOP presidential nomination. Perry's still in the running in part because of the relative weakness of the rest of the field. Mitt Romney, who looks like the consensus candidate, has made a career of straying from conservative dogma, including passing universal health care as governor of Massachusetts. And the candidates who have stuck close to the Tea Party line, Michele Bachmann specifically, are mostly unserious contenders, whose campaigns appear predicated on book sales rather than governance.