Elections

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...

Back to Iowa

AP Photo/Manuel Balce Ceneta
The Republican Party of Iowa released their final tally of a meaningless number today. According to the certified totals of Iowa caucus votes, Rick Santorum in fact finished ahead of Mitt Romney by 34 votes. But there's a catch: the party is missing results from eight precincts that cannot be certified. There is no way to ascertain if those votes would have given Romney the lead. Still, by any measure, that 34-vote Santorum edge counts as an essential tie. The bigger catch is that none of it matters. The Iowa caucuses are a straw poll, with no actual delegates selected through the vote. After the presidential preference poll at the start of each individual caucus, attendees are elected to serve as delegates to the county convention; a smaller group of those will be sent on to the state convention and eventually the national convention as delegates. Many caucus sites choose to portion delegates based upon the proportion of vote totals for each candidate, but most voters peel away after...

Out of The Quiet Rooms

AP Photo/John Amis
Even the most disciplined candidate can't get through an entire presidential campaign without uttering at least one or two gaffes, those emblematic statements journalists will mention again and again to provide vivid illustration of his or her character defects. Few candidates are more disciplined than Mitt Romney, but the likely Republican nominee has already built up a small library of such verbal misfires, which could become the signposts of a most enlightening and overdue discussion on which we will now embark. If we're lucky (and Romney is unlucky), that discussion will move beyond the oversimplifications we've gotten used to, and demand that we re-examine some very basic ideas about our economy, like what "business" really represents, how capitalism creates its winners and losers, and what government might do about it. In recent days, Romney has added some doozies to his growing list of cringe-worthy comments. In June, the man worth an estimated $200 million joked to a group of...

Evangelical Ballot Stuffing

An endorsement from a group of 150 social conservatives over the weekend should have been a huge gain for Rick Santorum's campaign. The South Carolina primary—Santorum's last real shot to block Mitt Romney's waltz to the general election—is right around the corner, and 60 percent of the Republican primary electorate in 2008 was evangelical or born-again Christians. Yet it's hard to see how exactly this endorsement will play out. The group as a whole did not commit resources to boosting Santorum's bid. It remained unclear Saturday afternoon if the attendees who entered the weekend supporting Newt Gingrich (or the few misbegotten souls still clinging to Rick Perry) would switch their ties and commit to Santorum as the anti-Romney of choice. Now, tales of dissent among the conservative rank and file are already starting to leak out. According to the Washington Times , a "civil war" is already under way following the Texas meeting: The meeting was called to avoid a continued division...

Mitt Romney the Serial Killer

Stephen Colbert announced last Thursday that he would form an exploratory run for the president in South Carolina. But, much as his real counterparts acted like true candidates long before their campaigns became official, Colbert's faux presidential campaign has begun to follow the lead of the real campaigns. He appeared on ABC's Sunday show The Week yesterday, and his super PAC (now officially controlled by Jon Stewart) has released a negative ad against Mitt Romney. The ad calls Romney "Mitt the Ripper" for his killing spree against corporations since they are, after all, people. Narrated by John Lithgow, the commercial turns Romney's words against him and ends with an image of Romney superimposed next to a wood chipper that chews up companies taken over by Bain and spits out money on the other side. Colbert himself is not mentioned; instead, the ad urges voters to turn against Romney, showing a sample ballot with the only two options being "Mitt Romney" and "Not Mitt Romney," the...

A Real Instance of Voter Fraud

I normally try my best to ignore the latest Blair Witch film sting from conservative provocateur James O'Keefe, he of ACORN and Planned Parenthood fame. But O'Keefe's new gotcha video unfortunately dips its toes into my beat, so I'll briefly grant him some of the media attention he craves. O'Keefe sent his lackeys to New Hampshire earlier this week to collect ballots on behalf of now-deceased registered voters. The video shows a string of instances where members of his group Project Veritas headed to a polling location and deceived poll workers on their identity. Once the ballot was procured, they would express befuddlement that they were not required to present a photo ID and awkwardly stumble back to retrieve their IDs despite the protestations of the poll workers. Ignoring the snooze value of the ten-minute film (the repeated script becomes crystal clear just a minute in), it also doesn't prove the claims made by Republicans to justify their restrictive voting measures. It's true...

A New Candidate?

For fans of the horse race, this presidential election comes up a little short. The remaining contests are worth watching to see how the Republican Party's competing factions reconcile the fact that they must put aside their differences and support Romney if they hope to defeat Barack Obama, but any semblance of drama disappeared once Romney won the first two nominating states. He now leads the polls in the upcoming primary states. Thank god for Stephen Colbert. A recent Public Policy Polling survey showed that 5 percent of South Carolina Republicans would support the fake news host if he were a presidential candidate. That's 1 percent more than Jon Huntsman and falls within the margin of error for Rick Perry and Ron Paul. On last night's Colbert Report, the comedian hinted to his fans that he might have something up his sleeve, winking at a "major announcement" for Thursday night's show. “This just got real,” Colbert said. “I’ve got to ask, what do you think, nation? Should I run for...

Vulture Capitalists at the Lizard Thicket

Rick Perry had a hard time answering questions about unemployment in South Carolina Wednesday.
Jamelle Bouie Rick Perry on the trail at the Lizard Thicket restaurant in South Carolina Wednesday. Lexington, South Carolina —If Rick Perry’s travel schedule is any indication, he has a real affinity for small Southern chains that tout their “real country cooking,” and serve a laundry list of desserts, cured meats, and fried poultry. This morning’s stop at the Lizard Thicket restaurant in Lexington, South Carolina, a short drive away from Columbia, the state’s capital. “We don’t endorse any of the candidates,” said Sara Krisnow, whose family owns the franchise, “This is more of a public service.” Unlike his Monday event in Anderson, where there was too much space and too few people, this was held in more intimate surroundings—a small, closed off section of the establishment. As such, it seemed livelier, even if there weren’t as many people in the audience. And perhaps as a result, Perry seemed less subdued than he did on Monday. As for his remarks, Perry didn’t venture far from his...

An Ax to Grind

AP Photo/Mike Carlson
Cable-news pundits rejoiced a week ago when Rick Santorum drew Mitt Romney into an essential tie for first place in the Iowa caucuses. For all the ups and downs throughout the fall, this election has been inherently boring. Until Iowa, Romney had inched along unremarkably to the general election while a rotating group of talking heads ran nominal presidential campaigns in order to boost their fees on the lecture circuit. But then Rick Santorum arrived in the spotlight and won an actual vote, not just front-page headlines. Finally, we could train our sights on someone who could, just maybe, make Romney work for the nomination, pushing him out of the general-election comfort zone that he had coasted on all last year. Unfortunately for those invested in an extended horse race, the Santorum surge hasn't panned out. His campaign was an abject failure in New Hampshire last night, even under the arbitrary rules of the expectations game, finishing a distant fifth. Turns out, despite his weak...

The Romney Campaign Heads South ... of the Border

AP Photo/Chris Carlson
The most Mexican man in the world. Mitt Romney won the New Hampshire primary last night with 39.3 percent of the vote, but 11 hours ago, the Twitter handle @MexicanMitt won 100 percent of the Twitterverse's heart (rough approximation). The fake Twitter feed—most likely inspired by the fact that George Romney, the candidate's father, was born in Mexico, giving Mitt Romney the option of dual citizenship —already has more than 300 followers, and, in less than a day, has provided more exciting rhetoric than Mitt Romney has said during his entire career. Starting off strong with the tweet, "Corporations are peoples, my amigos!" and segueing right into, "You know how you can tell I am Mexican? Because I take the Americans jobs!" moments later, it's hard not to take the self-proclaimed "Most Mexican Man in The World" seriously. Romney's stance on immigration won't win over the Hispanic voters that Republicans need if they want to have a strong showing in November, so @MexicanMitt will...

The Tough Sell

AP Photo/Charles Dharapak
Nashua, New Hampshire— Mitt Romney is the sort-of acceptable man in this year’s Republican field. His strong victory here yesterday was rooted in his support from all quadrants of the Republican Party. He carried 40 percent of the voters who told exit pollsters that they supported the Tea Party movement, a far higher percentage than anyone else in the field. (Ron Paul finished second with 22 percent of Tea Partiers.) Romney also led the field among voters who said they were neutral toward the Tea Party. Only among voters who said they opposed the Tea Party—and that was just 17 percent of yesterday’s Republican electorate—did he come in second, to Jon Huntsman. Romney also carried all but one income category, doing best among voters whose annual income exceeded $200,000. The only income category he lost was those voters whose annual income was less than $30,000, a group won by Ron Paul. Paul’s voters were disproportionately young, male, low-income, unmarried—and not self-described...

Ads and Debates Rule the Day

Yesterday, I speculated that the traditional dynamic of the early states weeding out the also-ran candidates could be upended this cycle by the increased reliance on debates and super PACs. Last night, Mitt Romney won a resounding victory, yet no candidates are rushing to exit stage left this morning. In fact, all have packed up their bags to head south, either to South Carolina or Florida. The exit polls from last night show that the debates mattered as much as any other factor for voters in New Hampshire—whom the candidates showered with a level of personal face time no upcoming state's voters will be granted. A full 84 percent said the debates played an "important" role in their vote yesterday, and 52 percent of all voters said it was a "very important" part of their decision-making process. Just half of the New Hampshirites who turned out said they had been contacted by one of the candidate's campaigns. Advertising, however, clearly helped shape the script; 72 percent in the exit...

The Spoils of War

AP Photo/Charles Dharapak
Manchester, New Hampshire— This year’s Republican primaries look increasingly less like a battle and more like a mopping-up action after the fight. The dominant fact of the 2012 GOP contest is the complete absence of plausible alternatives to Mitt Romney. When those plausible alternatives either failed to show up (Mitch Daniels, Chris Christie—though Christie’s manner is probably too thuggish to achieve genuine plausibility) or showed up and turned instantly implausible (Rick Perry), the contest was over even before it began. Ron Paul? Jon Huntsman? Rick Santorum? Newt? Compared to the rest of the field, Romney looks like a giant—which is why the turnout in tonight’s primary and last week’s caucuses was altogether underwhelming. Jon Huntsman’s attempt to anoint himself the Comeback Kid of this year’s New Hampshire primary took place in a small, jam-packed restaurant on Elm Street, Manchester’s main drag. It was a sub-Clintonian performance, however. Huntsman’s talk was too short and...

It's the Money, Honey

AP Photo/Brian Bianco
Mitt Romney's march to the GOP nomination became even more likely last night after he thumped everybody else in the New Hampshire primary. Now the guesswork turns to South Carolina with the campaign press cadre picking up their bags and hopping on the next flights to Charleston and Columbia. But the bigger prize comes later in the month when Florida's 50 delegates are doled out. Mitt Romney already holds a commanding double-digit polling lead in the Sunshine State. That head-start matters more than in other states thanks to the prevalence of absentee and early voting in the primary. And now Romney's allies are chipping in to ensure that the month ends on a good note for the former Massachusetts governor. The Washington Post reports that Restore Our Future, the super PAC backing Romney's bid, has committed $3.6 million to a Florida ad buy while his opponents keep all their attention trained on South Carolina. It would make no difference if Santorum or Gingrich overcame their current...

Could Super PACs Prolong the Race?

Republicans have allocated just 40 delegates between Iowa and New Hampshire. In terms of the math, neither state is essential to boosting the candidates to the required 1,144 delegates. Rather, the first two states of the GOP nomination contest have traditionally winnowed the field in years; finishing near the bottom of the pack pushes the candidates off the front page of newspapers, and fickle donors flee to spend their dollars on a more likely winner. Iowa already succeeded in forcing Michele Bachmann out of the race , and tonight's results in New Hampshire may cause others to follow suit. On the other hand, the number of debates and the influence of unfiltered money from super PACs might allow candidates to stick it out longer than in years past. Ground organizations have played little role in this election; Rick Santorum had spent the most time in Iowa, and Jon Huntsman essentially lives in New Hampshire these days, but neither received a bump until the media started paying...

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