Elections

The George Washington Candidate

For a time, it looked as though Newt Gingrich would be the Romney alternative that the religious right and Tea Partiers would coalesce around. Now Rick Santorum has taken that spot after a string of victories in primaries last week and a huge rise in national polls. In a new ad, Santorum challenges Gingrich on another front: Which candidate can claim the most historical gravitas . The ad features a series of quotes over soaring orchestral music as images of Santorum flash across the screen. "I adore Rick Santorum's conviction," the ad quotes Mike Huckabee, despite the former Arkansas governor's neutral stance on the 2012 race. "Santorum … one of the 25 most influential evangelicals in America," the ad quotes Time . But the best quote is pulled from a now forgotten former Fox News host. "'Santorum is the next George Washington,' ~ Glenn Beck." Republican candidates always rush over one another to claim the mantle of Ronald Reagan, and they gleefully highlight their history as the party...

Comedian In Chief

Public Policy Polling has been a boon for political journalists over the past few years, partially for their extensive and accurate numbers—they were the only ones noting the rise of Rick Santorum in Minnesota last week—but also for their sense of humor. In addition to surveying the major political races, PPP tackles the all-important topics such as which NFL player is more popular than all of the presidential candidates (Tim Tebow of course ) or how Stephen Colbert would perform in the South Carolina Republican primary. When the latter question produced a 5 percent result for Colbert—putting the comedian ahead of former Utah Governor Jon Huntsman—he rolled out a joke candidacy that culminated with a joint rally with Herman Cain in Charleston. Now it seems that PPP has found another celebrity who registers a solid base of support. Rosanne Barr, who recently announced that she would be seeking the nomination of the Green Party, drew 6 percent of the vote when PPP polled the national...

Republicans' Deceptive Payroll Tax Compromise

(Flickr/Gage Skidmore)
Republicans finally came to their senses yesterday and realized they were waging a losing battle with their opposition to a payroll tax extension. The two-month extension Congress passed in December was set to expire by the end of this month, and Republicans were adamant that any further extension be paired with equal spending cuts. Democrats balked, instead suggesting a surtax on millionaires that the Republicans would never accept, and another last minute legislative showdown appeared inevitable. Then out of nowhere yesterday afternoon Congressional Republicans announced that they would drop their resistance: “Because the president and Senate Democratic leaders have not allowed their conferees to support a responsible bipartisan agreement, today House Republicans will introduce a backup plan that would simply extend the payroll tax holiday for the remainder of the year while the conference negotiations continue regarding offsets, unemployment insurance, and the ‘doc fix,’” said GOP...

The Inexplicable Rise of Rick Santorum

(Gage Skidmore/Flickr)
(AP Photo/Elaine Thompson) Republican presidential candidate, former Pennsylvania Sen. Rick Santorum answers questions at a news conference at the statehouse Monday, Feb. 13, 2012, in Olympia, Wash. A s recently as last month, I couldn’t have predicted that Rick Santorum would be leading national polls for the Republican presidential nomination. That’s not to say that I didn’t think about it, but it seemed unfathomable. Not only does Santorum have the dubious distinction of having lost a re-election race by 17 points , but he’s been synonymous with extreme social conservatism for at least a decade. In 2002, he blamed sexual abuse in the Catholic Church on “secular liberalism” and “moral relativism,” and in the following year, gained national notoriety for comparing same-sex marriage to “man-on-child” or “man-on-dog” sex. Even now, with his full-throated attack on contraceptives, he insists on alienating the vast majority of Americans who don’t hold to an idealized version of Victorian...

Republicans Risk Their Future in Opposing Gay Marriage

(Flickr/Marissa Babin)
Marriage-equality advocates notched a major win yesterday when Washington became the seventh state—and just the second west of the Mississippi River—to legalize same-sex marriage. There was less jubilation when, on the same day, the New Jersey Senate passed a marriage-equality bill by a 24-to-16 margin. The legislation is expected to pass the state Assembly when it comes up for a vote later this week, but Governor Chris Christie has promised to veto the bill when it comes across his desk. The Senate vote didn't meet the two-thirds threshold to override the governor's veto, likely leaving same-sex marriage stalled in the Garden State until the next crop of legislators are elected. Christie's likely veto is a clear attempt to gain stature among national Republicans rather than appeal to New Jersey voters. A Quinnipiac poll last month found that New Jersey residents favor legalizing same-sex marriage by a 52-to-42 percent margin. But Christie pictures himself as a national figure poised...

Ron Paul's Endgame

(Jamelle Bouie/The American Prospect)
(Jamelle Bouie/The American Prospect) Ron Paul speaks to an audience in Charleston, South Carolina. In the race for delegates in the Republican presidential primary, Ron Paul isn’t ahead , despite his solid support in nearly every contest. The Texas congressman has 18 delegates to Newt Gingrich’s 29, Rick Santorum’s 71, and Mitt Romney’s 105. But as The Washington Post' s Felicia Sonmez reports , these results don’t tell the whole story: [S]ome caucus states in the current GOP race award delegates in a process that’s completely separate from the presidential preference poll. That means that a candidate could in theory win the caucus-night straw poll – as Romney did on Saturday – but lose the battle for the state’s delegates. Ron Paul’s strategy, she notes, is to dominate the delegate-selection process, so that he wins delegates that—if the vote were binding—would have gone to the winner of the actual caucuses. What this means is that Paul could have significantly more delegates than...

Obama's Fact-Checkers

(Flickr/The White House/Pete Souza)
The Obama campaign announced Monday morning that it would launch a new initiative termed Truth Team designed to combat Republican misrepresentation of the president's record. It's the successor to the 2008 campaign's Fight the Smears website, which corrected the common myths—such as his birth certificate or secret Muslim faith—through e-mail chains that year. "The GOP candidates are spending a huge amount of time attacking President Obama—no surprise," Deputy Campaign Manager Stephanie Cutter wrote in an e-mail to supporters. "But instead of basing their attacks on our differences of opinion, they've chosen to run on claims about his record that just aren't true." The new website is subdivided into three sections: AttackWatch, KeepingGOPHonest, and KeepingHisWord. The first blog item criticizes Romney's economic plan as one that "helps millionaires and hurts the middle class" (filed under KeepingGOPHonest), followed by a string of favorable Obama accomplishments, such as sanctions on...

Santorum Takes It to the Top

(Flickr/Gage Skidmore)
(Jamelle Bouie/The American Prospect) F or a while now, I’ve been convinced of Mitt Romney’s eventual triumph in the Republican presidential primary. It’s not that he was the most well-liked or conservative candidate—we have years of evidence to show that neither is true—but that he was the only candidate with a campaign that could win. So far, however, Republicans have done everything they can to avoid the Romney coronation: They made Rick Santorum a viable player with a win in Iowa; they elevated Newt Gingrich with South Carolina; and after a stop in Florida, where Romney pummeled his opponents with negative advertising, they have returned to Santorum with wins in Minnesota, Missouri, and Colorado. When I wrote about those earlier in the week, I was convinced that they wouldn’t mean much, since Santorum hasn’t been able to capitalize on the momentum generated by his wins. This time, however, might be different. In the latest national survey of Republicans by Public Policy Polling,...

Will the Real Citizens United Please Stand Up?

(Photo: Patrick Caldwell)
CPAC, DC—The Citizens United case is back in the news this week with the Obama campaign's announcement that they would coordinate to help raise funds with the super PAC Priorities USA. As the presidential campaign ramps up, it's easy to forget what the actual Citizens United organization is: a mini-film studio with a conservative bent. The group is all over CPAC this week, airing their films in the CPAC Theatre, hosting a blogger briefing Wednesday, and sponsoring a panel Thursday morning titled "Advancing the Pro-Life Movement through Media.” And of course, they also have a booth selling DVDs of their various films in the CPAC vendor basement. (The American Prospect/Patrick Caldwell) Citizens United displays its greatest hits. I caught up with the group to see which films had sold the most copies in the conservative crowd. " The Gift of Life is always very popular," the young woman selling DVDs told me, mentioning their film featuring Mike Huckabee relaying various inspirational...

The Libertarian Romantic Thriller

(Photo: Patrick Caldwell)
REPUBLICAN CENTRAL, DC—Every Republican presidential nominee is speaking in CPAC's main ballroom today except Rep. Ron Paul. He sent his son, Sen. Rand Paul, in his stead last night and the libertarian's message is being spread—if not always explicitly—down in the CPAC dungeon of booths. (The American Prospect/Patrick Caldwell) Filmmakers have been marketing "Silver Circle" to comic book fans and conservatives. Set in 2019 during the aftermath of an economic collapse, the animated film "Silver Circle" is a "fun thriller romance," according to producer/director Pasha Roberts. I walked up to this booth expecting the typical Paul friendly organization arguing against fiat money, but was instead treated to behind the scenes clips of actors on a green screen stage edited with shots of the completed footage, fully animated in a manner evoking the rotoscoped effect of "Waking Life" but far more halting and amateurish in appearance. "Silver Circle" follows the soon-to-be true story of anti-...

Keep Conventions Conventional

Unless there’s a psychic shift in the Republican Party soon, this past Tuesday evening the campaign for its presidential nomination became sui generis . On its face, the race conforms to the establishment-versus-insurgency template that’s characterized past contests, such as the 1976 GOP race in which Ronald Reagan nearly took the nomination from sitting incumbent Gerald Ford, and the 1980 race in which Edward Kennedy couldn’t liberate Jimmy Carter of the Democratic nomination, so he stole the party’s heart instead. The dynamic in both cases was that once the party dutifully resolved to remain in its marriage to the dour Gerald Ford or Carter, it had one last doomed fling with heartthrobs Reagan and Kennedy in order not to forget who it really yearned for. What makes the current race singular, however, is that Mitt Romney is the weakest and least convincing establishment front-runner since Walter Mondale and that the insurgency is fractured. Insurgencies are purist by definition and...

Bishops, Republicans Get Served

The administration turns the contraception controversy into a political win.

(AP Photo/Susan Walsh) President Barack Obama, accompanied by Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius, announces the revamp of his contraception policy requiring religious institutions to fully pay for birth control, Friday, Feb. 10, 2012, in the Brady Press Briefing Room of the White House in Washington. L ike my colleague Scott Lemieux, I was a little worried when the Obama administration announced that it would present a compromise on its recent decision to require full contraceptive coverage from employers, including those with religious affiliations, like Catholic hospitals and schools. It’s not as if the public is opposed to the decision—as I noted yesterday, 55 percent of Americans agree that “employers should be required to provide their employees with health-care plans that cover contraception and birth control at no cost.” This includes 58 percent of Catholics and 52 percent of Catholic voters. Anything that moved away from the administration’s prior commitment...

Catholic Men at CPAC Oppose Birth Control

(Photo: Patrick Caldwell)
CPAC, D.C.—The controversy around the Obama administration's decision to mandate birth-control coverage in health insurance has dominated the talk at CPAC. "You may not agree with what that religion agrees. That's not the point. The point is, the First Amendment still applies," Marco Rubio said in his early morning address on Thursday. A group called Confronting Religious Persecution in America was primed to take advantage of the latest controversy. They're a Catholic men's organization that favors the conservative interpretation of social morals. "We have a desire to fight in a peaceful manner," said James Bascom, who stood with perfect posture, "to defend the Church, to defend the teachings of the Church, and to defend the remnants of Christian civilization that are being undermined and being destroyed in our society." (The American Prospect/Patrick Caldwell) Bascom, of Confronting Religious Persecution in America, spoke out against the birth control clause in the Affordable Care...

Gold and Silver: Taking Heavy Metal Literally

(Photo: Patrick Caldwell)
CPAC, DC—Bouncing between Republican campaign events over the past few months, I've often run into GOP voters who wish they could support Ron Paul, but just can't mark the box next to his name. They love his End the Fed, slash every government regulation take on the economy, but despair over his isolationist foreign policy. I've met none that exemplify that split more than Travis Englert, who I spoke with yesterday deep in the bowels of CPAC. Hidden in the very back corner of the basement, Englert was manning the booth for Procinctu, a group that he just launched on Wednesday. Their booth might have been out of the main path, but it certainly stood out among the traditional mix of conservative groups. Englert rocks the shaved head looked, ditching the typical CPAC suit for a black button down. Heavy metal music blasted from his booth, and the group's logo features a cartooned shirtless man wearing a headband and rifle across his back. (The American Prospect/Patrick Caldwell) What...

CPAC Boothapalooza Part 1

(Photo: Patrick Caldwell)
CPAC, D.C.—Day one of the Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC) was full of members of Congress palling around with white nationalists, conservatives offering dating advice, and Marco Rubio ripping into the president for considering birth control an essential health-care service. Day two is set to be dominated by talk of the 2012 race, with Rick Santorum, Mitt Romney, and Newt Gingrich all slotted to speak in the main ballroom of the Marriott Wardman Park hotel on Friday. The real fun of CPAC lies in the basement labyrinth of booths where conservative groups of all stripes hawk their wares. In addition to covering the above-ground speeches, over the course of the day I'm going to profile a few of the more colorful vendors hidden away from the light of day. First up is HSP Direct, a mail fundraising firm that is working for Santorum this cycle. For a candidate who isn't particularly known for pulling in the money or an extensive organization, HSP sure was proud of its...

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