Paul Ryan, the supposed champion of fiscal restraint among right-wing Republicans, has put his colleagues in an awkward bind. His budget includes a host of unpopular provisions, and if implemented, would eviscerate almost every part of the government except defense, health care, and Social Security by 2050 according to the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities. Yesterday, all but 10 House Republicans entered their name in the congressional record as supporters of the bill, providing Democrats with ample material for negative campaigning this fall.
Presidential elections tend to suck up all the air in an election season, and the (probable) Romney-Obama race is already the dominant plotline seven months away from Election Day. But as the tribulations of Obama's first three years and office made evident, the fate of Congressional races often dictate the direction of policy.
Republicans' gains in the 2010 midterms paired with a year of redistricting has likely entrenched their House majority for at least another term. And Democrats entered the year with an uphill battle in the Senate. The party must defend 23 seats compared to just 10 for Republicans.
Now that Mitt Romney has effectively won the Republican presidential nomination, major figures within the party have come out to endorse him and push the other candidates out of the race. Romney’s latest endorsement comes from House Budget Chairman Paul Ryan, who—on Fox and Friends this morning—warned that the GOP primary could become “counterproductive” if it doesn’t end soon:
“We need to coalesce as conservatives” around a nominee, Ryan said. “The longer we drag it out the harder it is to win in November. … I am convinced that Mitt Romney has the skills, the tenacity, the principles and the courage to put America back on track."
I'm of the same mindset as Salon's Alex Pareene: it's far, far too early to begin 2016 speculation. Political prognosticating is a dangerous game; it's hard to know what lies on the horizon several months from now, let alone several years. A few years ago a star governor of South Carolina seemed like a probable Republican candidate until he took a few too many hikes on the Appalachian trail. Or six years back, when the junior Illinois senator seemed like a far more likely Democratic candidate in 2012 or even 2016. Hell, we don't even know if the Republicans will have a competitive primary in 2016 or if Mitt Romney will gather the forces for a reelection bid.
Republicans haven't been quite as eager to moralize against contraception after Rush Limbaugh gave voice to their true feelings, but Democrats aren't ready to let their argument that the GOP is waging a war on women slip by the wayside. Mitt Romney, a candidate who rarely seems comfortable when the discussion strays from the economy, is hoping that the issue will become a non-factor once he officially dismisses Rick Santorum and heads to the general election. Barack Obama clearly has a different view. The president issued a new subtle attack yesterday in a video where he directly addresses supporters of the Planned Parenthood Action Fund.
Reporters and Republicans alike have finally come to their senses and begun to treat Mitt Romney as the presumptive nominee. Republican officials such as Jeb Bush and Kevin McCarthy have recently endorsed Romney, and a Rick Santorum victory in a southern state (Lousiana this past weekend for those keeping track) no longer sets off a round of speculation on whether Romney might be derailed.
Tea Partiers descended on the Capitol Tuesday afternoon to voice their disapproval of Obamacare as the Supreme Court debated the constitutionality of the individual mandate, which will require citizens to purchase health insurance or else face a nominal fee once the bill has been fully implemented in 2014. Initially a conservative solution—originating at Bush's favorite think tank The Heritage Foundation—the mandate has come to symbolize conservative distaste with the bill that will expand coverage to millions of currently uninsured Americans.
It’s obvious that the GOP is beginning to panic about their poor performance with Latino voters. The Hill, for example, reports that Senate Republicans are working on a watered-down version of the DREAM Act, in an attempt to win back some Hispanic support. Senators Jon Kyl and Kay Bailey Hutchinson are working on one variation, while the GOP’s Great Latino Hope—Senator Marco Rubio of Florida—is working on another. Both are expected to be unveiled when Mitt Romney official wins the Republican presidential nomination.
The Afghanistan War is on shakier ground with each passing day. The Obama administration has been eying the conflict warily for some time, and the massacre of Afghani citizens by an errant soldier has forced the White House and its NATO allies to re-evaluate the conflict and its potential end date. According to reports, the Obama administration is weighing if it should speed up the withdrawal of the troops before the 2014 exit date. The 33,000 sent over as part of the surge in 2010 are scheduled to depart next summer, but that will leave 68,000 troops on the ground, and the administration is still considering whether to heed the advice of military leaders to leave the troops in place or to pack up and admit that the fight has become an impossible quagmire.
During the February 22 Republican primary debate in Arizona, moderator John King of CNN set up a question about global instability and the president’s ability to affect gas prices by noting that “the American people often don't pay much attention to what's going on in the world until they have to.” The next day, Politico media blogger Dylan Byers flagged the question, describing it “as a comment that warranted explanation” even though it was “not necessarily wrong.” Later that day, King sent Byers a statement defending his question, claiming that he “did not ‘suggest’ and
A crowd of protesters outside the Supreme Court on the first day of ACA hearings (Photo: Patrick Caldwell)
The Supreme Court opened hearings today on the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act—PPACA if we're going to be technical—but more commonly known as Obamacare. The six hours slotted for oral arguments are spread out across three days, and while the constitutionality of the individual mandate is the main issue at stake, there will be a host of other topics discussed, ranging from severability (whether the rest of the law can stand if the mandate is struck down) to whether Congress was within its bounds when it redefined Medicaid eligibility to include swaths of new people currently uninsured.
Even with his own sense of grandiosity, I doubt even Newt Gingrich truly believes a brokered convention is on the horizon. Mitt Romney, while still a weak candidate for the general election, is working his way steadily up to the required delegate count, and the leaders of the Republican Party—such as possible White Knight Jeb Bush—are throwing their lot behind Romney.
But Gingrich isn't quite ready to drop the line, and his reasoning for why a brokered convention would help his party has become specious to a hilarious degree. Yesterday he suggested that it'd help Republicans because a brokered convention would just be so much darn fun to watch. Via GOP12, here's what Gingrich said on CNN:
Like Greg Sargent, I think Mitt Romney’s Etch A Sketch gambit will work in the general election (though not so much if he’s elected president). Yes, his rhetoric is identical in substance to that of his opponents, but through tone and demeanor, Romney has managed to keep his moderate credentials, and few people within the mainstream media have bothered to challenge them.
Karl Rove might end up with the bulk of that money (Flickr/Sachyn)
The Wall Street Journal caught up with Harold Simmons for a profile yesterday. Simmons—the Contran Corp. owner worth an estimated $10 billion—is primed to be one of the more influential figures of the 2012 campaign. He's not running for public office nor is he working for any particular campaign. Instead he'll be among the small batch of elite billionaires pouring vast sums into Republican races. Simmons told the Journal that he intends to spend $36 million before the end of the year. He's already spent $18 million on super PACs so far, easily making him the highest dollar donor of the current campaign.
Like Paul, I'm convinced that any candidate who doesn't support marriage equality will instantly be disqualified as a plausible Democratic presidential nominee following Obama. Acceptance for same-sex marriage is growing rapidly across all ideological divides, and is particularly pronounced among liberals. In an alternative reality where the Democrats had an open primary in 2012, Obama's "evolving" stance on same-sex marriage would no longer pass muster in the Democratic base.