Elections

Ron Paul's Threat to Gingrich

With his vast trail of scandals and long list of enemies, Newt Gingrich is unlikely to win the Republican presidential nomination, even if he’s leading the polls. But if you were to imagine a path to the nomination for the former House speaker, it would begin in Iowa. A strong win in the Iowa caucuses would provide Gingrich with the momentum necessary to place well in New Hampshire (or win it, under the right circumstances). With the momentum of two primaries behind him, Gingrich would cruise to victory in South Carolina and Florida and finish January as the presumptive nominee. Iowa is a must-have for Gingrich, which is why Ron Paul’s surge—he is tied with Gingrich in the latest survey from Public Policy Polling—is so dangerous. A Ron Paul win in Iowa would both derail Gingrich and help Mitt Romney as he navigates through the New Hampshire primary. In that sense, Paul is Romney’s greatest ally in the Republican presidential primaries. If Paul can keep Gingrich from building momentum...

Ron Paul Ties Gingrich in Iowa

GRINNELL, IOWA—That sure didn't last long. The Newt Gingrich boomlet appeared to have at least a bit more staying power than the month-long GOP love affairs with Michele Bachmann, Rick Perry, and Herman Cain. Instead, it might already be over. A new survey from Public Policy Polling puts Gingrich dead even with Ron Paul in Iowa, a crucial state that Gingrich will need to win if he hopes to clinch his party's nomination. Gingrich notches just 22 percent support in the poll, with Ron Paul in second place at 21 percent. The survey, conducted between December 11 and December 13, encompasses the days immediately following the last GOP debate. Gingrich's likability plummeted during that time. When PPP polled Iowans the previous week, the former speaker had a net favorability of 31 percent; that's now dropped to just a 12 percent margin, with 52 percent of caucus voters having warm feelings for Gingrich and another 40 percent having negative views. Mitt Romney placed third in the poll with...

No One Can Win the Republican Nomination

AP Photo/Eric Gay
With the air going out of the Newtster’s balloon—not surprisingly, as everyone who has ever worked with him (possibly, everyone who has ever met him) has declared him too unstable and egomaniacal to win—the latest smart-money bet in Iowa is Ron Paul, whose libertarian delusions render him unelectable as well. Mitt Romney, having entered that phase of the campaign where he has to campaign among actual people, is trending downward, too. That leaves Jon Huntsman, who can take votes from Romney but not likely from anyone else, and Rick Perry, who can still boast of impressive credentials but who’s still saddled with an unimpressive brain. None of these guys can win, yet one of them must, unless the gods decree that most unlikely of outcomes, a deadlocked convention. None of these candidates has been substantially damaged by his rival candidates. Their unelectability is the result of their own failings and marginalities—theirs, and their party’s, which has required of its nominees a...

No Labels Comes to Washington

For its panel on “mak[ing] Congress work” this morning, No Labels—a group that bills itself as “a voice” for the “silent majority”—assembled a group of current and former lawmakers to solve the problems of partisanship and polarization. Among the members present were Senators Joe Lieberman, Joe Manchin, Bill Nelson, and Dean Heller; Congressman Jim Cooper; former Senator Evan Bayh; former Congressman Micky Edwards; and David Walker, the former comptroller general. There was a standard issue list of bipartisan reforms: an end to negative campaigning against fellow members, filibuster reform, pay for performance, and nonpartisan primaries. If these sound unremarkable, it’s because they are. Even if the large crowd (it filled a chamber in one of the House office buildings) was enthusiastic, there’s something banal about an event where politicians speak in gauzy platitudes—“Back in the day, friendship mattered more than party, and common purpose mattered more than ideology,” Evan Bayh...

Putting the Brakes on Voter Supression

Voters in most states have little recourse to combat the onslaught of restrictive voter-ID laws Republican majorities have passed in 2011. For the most part, they'll have to wait until the 2012 election to replace their legislators and hope that these laws (such as photo-ID requirements and repeals to same-day registration) can be taken off the books. But a number of states will tackle voter suppression directly via ballot referendums. Last month, both Maine and Mississippi tested restrictive voting laws through popular votes; in Maine, voters overruled their legislators and reinstituted same-day voter registration, a major win for voter-rights advocates. But in Mississippi, things took a turn for the worse; voters approved a constitutional amendment requiring photo identification for access to the ballot. Ohio is up next after organizers gathered more than 300,000 signatures to put a referendum on the ballot next year. The state's Republican majority had passed severe restrictions to...

Upright and Alright

Rick Perry finally found a sense of vigor and cowboy swagger when he took the debate stage at Drake University this weekend. In previous debates, the Texas governor either stumbled his way through inept and forgetful answers, or would just assume a sleepy gaze during the second half with nothing to add to the proceedings. But in the latest contest, he ripped into Mitt Romney, instigating the night's most memorable moment when Romney reached his hand over and offered a $10,000 bet against Perry. Where'd this new fire come from? In an interview with the Des Moines Register 's Kathie Obradovich Perry hinted at one possibility: My back is great. I’m back running again for the last six weeks. I think part of the reason you have seen a somewhat different candidate on the debates is my health, and (I’m) both physically and mentally just back in the game. You have fusion on your back, and it takes you a while to get back on your game… I would suggest to you that I was pretty fatigued. No...

Trading Places

I missed this last week, but a recent Gallup survey shows the public’s disdain for the current Congress and its members: A whopping 76 percent of Americans do not believe that most members of Congress deserve to be reelected. This is in addition to Congress’ historically low approval ratings — 13 percent approval in the last Gallup survey — and the public’s intense dislike of Congress; 64 percent of Americans rate the ethics and honesty of congressmembers at low or very low. To repeat a point I’ve made several times over the last few months, there’s a fair chance that we’ll see an outright reversal in the partisan composition of government next year. In other words, Republicans would walk away with the Senate and the White House, while Democrats would retake the House. Even if Democrats keep the Senate or the White House, the public is clearly dissastisfied with Congress — something has to give.

Supreme Court Could Tilt US House Majority

The US Supreme Court issued a surprise stay late Friday evening that in effect could decide which party controls the US House majority after the 2012 election. A little over two weeks ago, a three-judge panel in San Antonio threw out new congressional maps drawn by the Texas legislature earlier this year. One of the fastest growing states in the country, Texas gained four additional US House seats after the 2010 census. Most of that growth can be attributed to the state's booming Hispanic population, which now represents almost 40 percent of the state. Yet when the Republican legislature went to redraw the maps, they gerrymandered the new seats to favor their party and shut the minority population out. Civil rights groups appealed and convinced the federal court to create a more representative map, increasing the number of majority-minority districts from 10 to 13, giving Democrats a strong possibility of gaining three of the four new House seats next year. Texas Attorney General Greg...

Calm, Cool, and Collected

AP Photo/Charlie Neibergall
There are plenty of reasons to remain skeptical of Newt Gingrich's surge over the past few weeks. Sure, he's ahead in recent polls out of Iowa, South Carolina, and Florida. But Republican voters have proved fickle this election, bouncing from one candidate to the next gaffe after gaffe. After his campaign almost ran out of money and his staff fled over the summer, Gingrich had one of the thinnest field operations of any candidate—it was so disorganized that he won't even be on the primary ballot in Missouri after missing the filing deadline. But Gingrich hasn't been subject to much scrutiny, thanks to the Thanksgiving news slowdown and a break from the debates. When the candidates gathered in Des Moines on Saturday night, it was just the second debate—and the first one unrelated to foreign policy—since Gingrich entered the spotlight, and the candidates were bound to attack the front-runner. For a candidate who had spent most of his time at debates arguing with the moderators'...

A Rare Moment of Hope For Santorum

While most of the Republican presidential candidates have bypassed the typical ground game route, Rick Santorum has practically moved to Iowa, hoping that he can shake enough hands to convince the state's social conservatives that he is the real deal. But so far, it hasn't paid any dividends. He wallows near the bottom of Iowa polls, never breaking out of the single digits. He's set to make a "major announcement" today, and if early leaks are correct, it's a big endorsement for his campaign. According to The Hill 's Daniel Strauss, Iowa Secretary of State Matt Schultz will endorse Santorum's campaign. Schultz is a Tea Party favorite in the state, after he won a highly contested Secretary of State race last fall, knocking off the Democrat who had held that position. He's used his office to promote many of the causes popular among the grassroots right such as photo ID bills. Democrats successfully blocked that bill, but Iowa still suffered as a part of the 2011 wave of voter supression...

So Much For That Donald Trump Debate

Once Newt Gingrich accepted the invitation to Donald Trump's debate, the oh-so-wise political pundit class predicted (well, I predicted ) that what was supposed to be a sideshow event would turn into a full-on debate. After all, Newt is currently leading the polls, so what candidate would pass on the opportunity to attack the former House speaker exactly one week before the Iowa caucuses? Turns out, it's an offer most of them felt fine refusing : Michele Bachmann has officially said “no” to the Donald Trump-moderated Newsmax debate scheduled for later this month… this leaves just two candidates— Newt Gingrich and Rick Santorum—who plan to show up at the Dec. 27 event in Des Moines. Mitt Romney, Jon Huntsman, Rick Perry, Ron Paul have all declined to attend. Perry became the latest to decline Trump’s invitation on Thursday. Beyond owning up to my own mistaken predictions, it's interesting that Gingrich will be debating Santorum one-on-one, a format Gingrich has favored of late. He went...

That Didn't Take Long

Yesterday I noted that the pro-Mitt Romney Super PAC Restore Our Future was launching its ad campaign on a positive note. Sure, their commercial started off by attacking Barack Obama's early career as a community organizer, but it refrained from vilifying Newt Gingrich. That was somewhat unexpected; all signals indicate that Romney's campaign has entered panic mode over Gingrich's unexpected rise in the polls. But disparaging an opponent can backfire. So far the Romney campaign has avoided going negative. The Super PAC, on the other hand, has free reign to impugn Gingrich's integrity and Romney can disavow any influence on the ad (as his campaign must, since legally Super PACs and candidates cannot coordinate their efforts). It didn't take long for Restore Our Future to take the predictable turn. A new anti-Gingrich ad showed up online last night that attacks Gingrich's "baggage." The former House speaker has been accused of ethics violations, took...

So It Begins

The 2012 Republican nomination has been defined as much by what it lacks as its actual substance. At the start of the year, it was about a lack of any official candidates. Unlike the last presidential election, when Tom Vilsack announced his candidacy just after Thanksgiving 2006, and both Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama were running by February 2007, no one wanted to take the early plunge this year. Gary Johnson was the first to officially enter the field in April this year, and most candidates didn't file their paper work until May or June. Then the story was about all the candidates that lacked the requisite ambition to enter the field, as everyone from good on paper candidates (John Thune or Mitch Daniels) to media celebrities (Sarah Palin or Chris Christie) all ignored their pleading supporters and took a pass. The fall was primarily defined by the absence of a real challenger to Mitt Romney. Republican voters cycled between various flavors of the month before settling on Newt...

Money Changes Everything

It's Iowa poll week, and yet another survey shows Newt Gingrich leading the state. A poll from The New York Times /CBS has Gingrich topping the field at 31 percent, followed by Mitt Romney and Ron Paul, who are essentially tied with 17 percent and 16 percent support, respectively. Those numbers track with other results released earlier this week, though things get more interesting below the topline stats. Mitt Romney might still be trailing Gingrich, but his recent Iowa campaigning could be starting to pay off. He attracts the most support (18 percent) when respondents were asked which candidate is their second choice. If Gingrich's surge starts to falter when the candidates all gang up on him in the coming debates, Romney might pick up some support. Another interesting finding: Iowa may not be the paradise for social conservatives it was thought to be. Just 9 percent of Iowa Republicans listed "social issues" as their most important issue, with "economy and jobs" gobbling up 40...

Campaign Drags Down Public Opinion of Republicans

President Obama's re-election effort is on shaky ground by most accounts. The president's approval rating hovers in the mid-40s, a level far below the presidents who secured second terms. The latest unemployment figures finally dropped below 9 percent, but the job market is still not growing at the pace it needs to in order to rebound before the election, and things could become dire if Europe does not fix its financial instability. Still, Obama's political team shouldn't feel like giving up quite yet. A generic Republican averages just a 1-point lead over the president. Things look even better when the president is paired with a specific Republican, where he trumps Romney by 1 percent, Gingrich by 6 percent, and Perry by a 10-point spread. As voters begin to tune in to the Republican primary election, that edge will likely grow even larger. A new poll from the Pew Research Center shows that the Republican primary has helped drag down public opinion of the GOPers. Of those surveyed,...

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