Commentary Magazine


Topic: Election 2012

Obama Trails Romney in Election Matchup

Despite the hand-wringing in Republican circles about the current frontrunners, both Mitt Romney and Rick Santorum are still statistically tied with President Obama in a general election matchup, according to a Gallup poll out today. Romney leads Obama, 50 percent to 46 percent, while Obama leads Santorum, 49 percent to 48 percent. Both matchups are within the margin of error.

The poll indicates that the brutal primary battle between Romney and Santorum hasn’t noticeably hurt either candidate with general election voters. In fact, the Romney-Obama matchup numbers have been remarkably stable since August, while Santorum’s have improved considerably. This is despite the fact that Obama’s approval ratings on the economy have been creeping upward recently:

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Despite the hand-wringing in Republican circles about the current frontrunners, both Mitt Romney and Rick Santorum are still statistically tied with President Obama in a general election matchup, according to a Gallup poll out today. Romney leads Obama, 50 percent to 46 percent, while Obama leads Santorum, 49 percent to 48 percent. Both matchups are within the margin of error.

The poll indicates that the brutal primary battle between Romney and Santorum hasn’t noticeably hurt either candidate with general election voters. In fact, the Romney-Obama matchup numbers have been remarkably stable since August, while Santorum’s have improved considerably. This is despite the fact that Obama’s approval ratings on the economy have been creeping upward recently:

Looking ahead, four in 10 said they expect the economy to get better in the next year and a third said they think the number of unemployed people in the U.S. will decrease, the highest share on either question since last spring. A quarter of those surveyed said they expect the economy to get worse over the next 12 months, while 31 percent said it would stay the same, the poll found.

As optimism has risen, Obama has received a corresponding bump in his approval rating for handling the economy. Forty-eight percent now say they approve of how he’s handling it, up 9 points from December.

This should be a concern for the Obama campaign. If the GOP circus during the past few weeks hasn’t boosted his general election chances, and his rebounding economic approval ratings aren’t doing the trick, then what exactly will help him?

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Will 2012 Be a Referendum on Mormons?

This past week, the Mormon Church, and Mitt Romney, came under fire when it was discovered that the parents of Simon Wiesenthal were proxy-baptized by the Church. In 1995, the Church of Latter-day Saints, more commonly known as the Mormon Church, outlawed the baptisms of anyone outside of their members’ ancestors in response to outrage over their baptisms of Holocaust victims (which Wiesenthal’s parents were). In an apologetic statement released after the Wiesenthal baptisms became known, the Church explained that a rogue member had submitted the names without the knowledge or consent of leadership and that there would be action taken to ensure it wouldn’t happen again.

Immediately after the baptisms hit the headlines calls came for Romney to condemn the action, from Elie Wiesel to top leadership of the Simon Wiesenthal Center, pushing the story onto front pages. Given that the Church had already officially prohibited the baptisms of Holocaust victims, there was little for Romney to do but condemn his own Church, publicly, with no chance of accomplishing anything but further embarrassing his faith.

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This past week, the Mormon Church, and Mitt Romney, came under fire when it was discovered that the parents of Simon Wiesenthal were proxy-baptized by the Church. In 1995, the Church of Latter-day Saints, more commonly known as the Mormon Church, outlawed the baptisms of anyone outside of their members’ ancestors in response to outrage over their baptisms of Holocaust victims (which Wiesenthal’s parents were). In an apologetic statement released after the Wiesenthal baptisms became known, the Church explained that a rogue member had submitted the names without the knowledge or consent of leadership and that there would be action taken to ensure it wouldn’t happen again.

Immediately after the baptisms hit the headlines calls came for Romney to condemn the action, from Elie Wiesel to top leadership of the Simon Wiesenthal Center, pushing the story onto front pages. Given that the Church had already officially prohibited the baptisms of Holocaust victims, there was little for Romney to do but condemn his own Church, publicly, with no chance of accomplishing anything but further embarrassing his faith.

What kind of statement was expected of Romney? There was outrage not only about these baptisms, but proxy-baptisms in general. Was he supposed to call his own religious ritual offensive and cast judgement upon it? On Bill Maher’s show following the controversy Maher pretended to perform an “unbaptism” on Romney’s deceased father-in-law. The Hollywood Reporter reports,

Donning a sorcerer’s hat and wielding a magic wand, Maher then produced a black and white photograph of Davies, on which he performed his mystical ritual. The brief ceremony was made complete with references to “Laverne and Shirley,” “Harry Potter” and “The Blair Witch Project.”

“By the power granted in me by the Blair Witch,” he declared, “I call upon the Mormon spirits to leave your body the f*** alone.”

There was no outcry, no outrage. For some reason, it’s become acceptable to criticize the Mormon faith, and with Romney’s stature as its most famous member, it has become increasingly common.

Imagine if these sorts of statements were made about Jewish, Muslim or Christian practices. Was Joseph Lieberman asked to condemn actions of his own faith as forcefully when he was on the ballot? Was he expected to cast shame on the Jewish faith, its practices and customs? If nothing else, Romney’s candidacy will expose the American public’s perception of the Church of Latter-day Saints, the largest and most influential religion born on our soil. In the event Romney manages to secure the GOP nomination, we’ll be seeing nine more months of this. It could get ugly.

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Romney’s Biography Is Not Enough

The Romney campaign is now turning its attacks on the GOP candidate, Rick Santorum, who poses a greater threat to the former Massachusetts governor than any so far. Will it work? Perhaps, though I doubt it will work as well as the attacks on Newt Gingrich. The criticisms of the former House speaker succeeded because they seemed to conform to reality, with Gingrich himself confirming concerns about his emotional state and erratic style. It won’t be as easy to portray Santorum as a faux conservative, especially when the charge is being leveled by Romney, who has his own history of deviations from conservative orthodoxy. There’s also a chance Romney’s tactics will begin to backfire (which is what the Santorum campaign is hoping for in putting out this ad).

At some point, though, Romney has to begin making an (effective) affirmative case for his nomination. That remains his chief weakness so far – the inability to tie his campaign to a great cause. Right now, Governor Romney’s reflex is to rely on his biography, to portray himself as a successful businessman, a competent fixer, and a man who has never worked a day in his life in Washington. That simply isn’t enough. Both John McCain and Bob Dole had far more vivid and moving life stories than Romney – and they were wiped out by Bill Clinton in 1996 and Barack Obama in 2008.

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The Romney campaign is now turning its attacks on the GOP candidate, Rick Santorum, who poses a greater threat to the former Massachusetts governor than any so far. Will it work? Perhaps, though I doubt it will work as well as the attacks on Newt Gingrich. The criticisms of the former House speaker succeeded because they seemed to conform to reality, with Gingrich himself confirming concerns about his emotional state and erratic style. It won’t be as easy to portray Santorum as a faux conservative, especially when the charge is being leveled by Romney, who has his own history of deviations from conservative orthodoxy. There’s also a chance Romney’s tactics will begin to backfire (which is what the Santorum campaign is hoping for in putting out this ad).

At some point, though, Romney has to begin making an (effective) affirmative case for his nomination. That remains his chief weakness so far – the inability to tie his campaign to a great cause. Right now, Governor Romney’s reflex is to rely on his biography, to portray himself as a successful businessman, a competent fixer, and a man who has never worked a day in his life in Washington. That simply isn’t enough. Both John McCain and Bob Dole had far more vivid and moving life stories than Romney – and they were wiped out by Bill Clinton in 1996 and Barack Obama in 2008.

The temptation will be to rely on the Romney Death Star to do to Santorum what it has done to others. And it may work. But one can sense a growing weariness within the GOP with this approach. Romney is a smart and able man. If he believes he would be a better president than Rick Santorum (and Barack Obama), as he clearly does, then he has to find a way to make that case. He could, for example, make a persuasive case that he is the person best equipped to reform public institutions that were designed for the needs of the mid-20th century. (Our health-care and entitlement system, tax code, schools, infrastructure, immigration policies, and regulatory regime are outdated, worn down, and insanely out of touch with the needs of our time.) Playing off the line attributed to Chekhov, that you don’t become a saint through other people’s sins, the Romney campaign needs to operate from the awareness that you don’t become the GOP nominee through Rick Santorum’s earmarks or his votes to raise the debt ceiling.

Republican voters want more than that, and they are right to want it.

 

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Will Social Issues Sink Santorum?

Last week, Rasmussen Reports polled likely voters in the swing state of Ohio to gauge how the three GOP candidates matched up against President Obama. Somewhat surprisingly, Rick Santorum polled in a dead heat with Obama and Mitt Romney was slightly edged out by the incumbent president. Can Santorum withstand a full-scale assault on his conservative social values as the GOP frontrunner until the November elections and keep that edge?

Throughout his candidacy, Santorum has made a point to emphasize his pro-life, pro-family platform. He has made controversial comments on gay marriage, the role of women in the military, abortion and contraception which have been, until recently, largely ignored by the media and voters. While the GOP base may not mind his focus on social conservatism, liberals in the news and entertainment media will see his comments as so abhorrent they may take it upon themselves to ensure his campaign is over before it starts.

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Last week, Rasmussen Reports polled likely voters in the swing state of Ohio to gauge how the three GOP candidates matched up against President Obama. Somewhat surprisingly, Rick Santorum polled in a dead heat with Obama and Mitt Romney was slightly edged out by the incumbent president. Can Santorum withstand a full-scale assault on his conservative social values as the GOP frontrunner until the November elections and keep that edge?

Throughout his candidacy, Santorum has made a point to emphasize his pro-life, pro-family platform. He has made controversial comments on gay marriage, the role of women in the military, abortion and contraception which have been, until recently, largely ignored by the media and voters. While the GOP base may not mind his focus on social conservatism, liberals in the news and entertainment media will see his comments as so abhorrent they may take it upon themselves to ensure his campaign is over before it starts.

For the first time since his failed 2006 reelection campaign for Senate, journalists are pouring over Santorum’s book It Takes A Family and picking out what, in their minds, are the most offensive parts. Santorum is currently under fire for comments in the book (which he attributes to his wife) that discuss how “radical feminists” have devalued women who choose motherhood over going into the work force. With journalists at every major news organization waiting on their own copies to arrive since Santorum’s unlikely sweep last week, there will certainly be more potentially explosive tidbits from the book. The year after the book’s release, we saw the most conservative excerpts of the book quoted in and out of context in his opponent’s attack ads, and many analysts have cited these as a contributing factor in Santorum’s 18-point loss, a historic margin for an incumbent Republican Pennsylvania U.S. senator. In Business Week, G. Terry Madonna, a polling expert and public affairs professor at Franklin & Marshall College in Lancaster, explained, “Santorum was putting an emphasis on the cultural issues, which didn’t sit well with independent, suburban swing voters in this state.”

recent poll conducted by Winthrop University of South Carolina residents showed almost 30 percent were unable to name Joe Biden as our vice president. How many Americans would be able to understand Santorum’s comments on the possibility of states banning contraception were based on the premise of states’ rights verses a Draconian desire to institute a Catholic theocracy in the United States? When Salon.com‘s warnings that “Rick Santorum really is after your birth control” go mainstream along with a Santorum candidacy, would a Santorum campaign outspent in advertisements and reviled in the liberal media be able to withstand the firestorm and clearly explain the nuances of his social conservatism?

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Dershowitz: I Can’t Vote for Obama Unless He Cuts Ties with Media Matters

Harvard Law Professor Alan Dershowitz, who was a key supporter of Obama in 2008, told WOR710 today that he could not vote for President Obama’s re-election unless the president cuts ties with the controversial anti-Israel group Media Matters. He also warned that Obama’s association with Media Matters – which was raised by the Daily Caller in an investigative series this week – will lose him support in the pro-Israel community:

Let’s have a full and open debate on this, but to the extent that the Obama administration associates with these bigots [at Media Matters], they’re going to lose a lot of support among Christians, Jews and others who think that American support for Israel is in the best interest of the United States…So don’t confuse these bigots with liberals. They’re not. They’re extremists, they’re way, way beyond the pale. And any association with the Obama administration is going to hurt the Obama administration. There is not enough room under the big tent for people like me…and the bigots of Media Matters. The Obama administration is going to have to choose. …

I could not vote for anyone who has anything to do with Media Matters, that’s clear. That’s just clear as can be. I will take an oath here that I will not vote for a candidate that has any direct association with Media Matters. That’s like asking me to vote for Hezbollah or asking me to vote for Hamas or asking me to vote for the Fascist Party. I won’t do it…That association has to stop. Just in the same way that President Obama totally terminated his association with the Reverend Wright, he has to terminate any association with Media Matters and with the intellectual thugs who are behind it.

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Harvard Law Professor Alan Dershowitz, who was a key supporter of Obama in 2008, told WOR710 today that he could not vote for President Obama’s re-election unless the president cuts ties with the controversial anti-Israel group Media Matters. He also warned that Obama’s association with Media Matters – which was raised by the Daily Caller in an investigative series this week – will lose him support in the pro-Israel community:

Let’s have a full and open debate on this, but to the extent that the Obama administration associates with these bigots [at Media Matters], they’re going to lose a lot of support among Christians, Jews and others who think that American support for Israel is in the best interest of the United States…So don’t confuse these bigots with liberals. They’re not. They’re extremists, they’re way, way beyond the pale. And any association with the Obama administration is going to hurt the Obama administration. There is not enough room under the big tent for people like me…and the bigots of Media Matters. The Obama administration is going to have to choose. …

I could not vote for anyone who has anything to do with Media Matters, that’s clear. That’s just clear as can be. I will take an oath here that I will not vote for a candidate that has any direct association with Media Matters. That’s like asking me to vote for Hezbollah or asking me to vote for Hamas or asking me to vote for the Fascist Party. I won’t do it…That association has to stop. Just in the same way that President Obama totally terminated his association with the Reverend Wright, he has to terminate any association with Media Matters and with the intellectual thugs who are behind it.

Click the last link over to BreitbartTV for the full audio to hear Dershowitz give the history of the Jewish dual-loyalty charge that’s now being used by Media Matters writers. As an interesting aside, Dershowitz also explains that he discovered Media Matters was using anti-Semitic tropes after he saw them quoted by a Holocaust denial group that regularly spams his email box.

Could Media Matters become as toxic for Obama as his association with Rev. Wright was in 2008? As far as I recall, Dershowitz is the first to make that comparison. In many ways, Media Matters’ rhetoric is just as offensive as the garbage Wright was preaching. The difference is Media Matters has extensive ties within the Democratic Party. Even if Obama disassociates from the group, he can’t count on his fellow Democrats to follow suit. He also can’t discount the fact that Media Matters has a lot of sway with the progressive left. His re-election campaign will require support, and potentially even coordination, with the group.

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Should Gingrich Drop Out?

Newt Gingrich’s arguments for telling Rick Santorum to drop out of the presidential race last month are starting to boomerang on him. The National Review wonders whether it would be better for the Republican Party if Gingrich hung it up and endorsed Santorum:

It is not clear whether Gingrich remains in the race because he still believes he could become president next year or because he wants to avenge his wounded pride: an ambiguity that suggests the problem with him as a leader. When he led Santorum in the polls, he urged the Pennsylvanian to leave the race. On his own arguments the proper course for him now is to endorse Santorum and exit.

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Newt Gingrich’s arguments for telling Rick Santorum to drop out of the presidential race last month are starting to boomerang on him. The National Review wonders whether it would be better for the Republican Party if Gingrich hung it up and endorsed Santorum:

It is not clear whether Gingrich remains in the race because he still believes he could become president next year or because he wants to avenge his wounded pride: an ambiguity that suggests the problem with him as a leader. When he led Santorum in the polls, he urged the Pennsylvanian to leave the race. On his own arguments the proper course for him now is to endorse Santorum and exit.

There’s actually a much stronger argument for Gingrich to drop out now than there was for Santorum to drop out before Florida. Unlike the former House speaker, Santorum is far less likely to self-destruct.

If Gingrich dropped out, it would also significantly boost Santorum’s chances of winning the nomination. A Public Policy Polling survey from last week found that national Republican support for the former Pennsylvania senator would jump to 50 percent, far outpacing Romney at 28 percent.

Even from Gingrich’s perspective, dropping out makes the most sense. If his desire to stay in the race is driven mainly by a personal vendetta against Romney, then he could do more damage outside the race than inside. And if he’s running for egotistical reasons, then stepping down, endorsing Santorum, and becoming a kingmaker could satisfy that purpose, too.

Of course, there’s always the chance Gingrich still actually thinks he has a shot at the nomination and the presidency. If that’s the case, he may stick it out until the bitter end.

But that scenario is looking increasingly unlikely. With his campaign cash dwindling and his top donor closing his wallet, Gingrich is quickly running out of options. It’s certainly possible for him to stay in the race without any money – after all, he managed to do it for the better part of his campaign. But the howls from conservatives for him to drop out will only start getting louder as time goes on. He can either slog through the primaries, broke and antagonizing pro-Santorum conservatives, or he can magnanimously step aside, endorse Santorum, and play the role of the big hero. Say what you will about Gingrich, but he’s no dummy, and he knows a good opportunity when he sees one.

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Obama’s Budget a “Re-election Plan”

President Obama released his annual budget today, and it’s already being blasted by the GOP as chock full of gimmicks and faulty accounting. Sen. Jeff Sessions, ranking Republican on the Senate Budget Committee, called the plan “one of the most spectacular fiscal cover-ups in American history.”

According to the Republicans on the committee, it includes $1.9 trillion in new taxes, adds $11 trillion to the debt, and includes a net increase of spending over the current projections. It also falsely claims to cut the debt by $4 trillion but only reduces it by $273 billion, say Republicans:

  • It does not count the cost of replacing the $1.2 trillion sequester (spending reduction plus interest savings) required under current law. This is plainly true because the president eliminates the reductions required by the law that he signed and replaces it with tax increases. Then he fails to score the cost of repeal, a monumental deception.
  • It counts the inevitable winding down of the war costs in Afghanistan—all of which is borrowed—as $1 trillion in spending reduction; and
  • It buries the $522 billion cost of freezing the Medicare physician update in the baseline, without identifying any source of funds to pay for it.
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President Obama released his annual budget today, and it’s already being blasted by the GOP as chock full of gimmicks and faulty accounting. Sen. Jeff Sessions, ranking Republican on the Senate Budget Committee, called the plan “one of the most spectacular fiscal cover-ups in American history.”

According to the Republicans on the committee, it includes $1.9 trillion in new taxes, adds $11 trillion to the debt, and includes a net increase of spending over the current projections. It also falsely claims to cut the debt by $4 trillion but only reduces it by $273 billion, say Republicans:

  • It does not count the cost of replacing the $1.2 trillion sequester (spending reduction plus interest savings) required under current law. This is plainly true because the president eliminates the reductions required by the law that he signed and replaces it with tax increases. Then he fails to score the cost of repeal, a monumental deception.
  • It counts the inevitable winding down of the war costs in Afghanistan—all of which is borrowed—as $1 trillion in spending reduction; and
  • It buries the $522 billion cost of freezing the Medicare physician update in the baseline, without identifying any source of funds to pay for it.

On a conference call today, House Budget Committee Chair Paul Ryan slammed the president’s plan as a purely political move that does nothing to address the country’s fiscal problems. “This is not a fiscal plan to save America from a debt crisis,” said Ryan. “It’s a political plan for the president’s re-election.”

According to Ryan, the plan will lead America to the point of painful forced austerity. Sessions, who was also on the call, said the idea that “next year the United States could be like Greece” may not be so far off.

Ryan promised that House Republicans will address the debt crisis in their budget plan, and said they will present the public with a clear choice between congressional Republicans and the Obama administration.

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Odds Still in Romney’s Favor

It seems like every time I declare Mitt Romney to be in the catbird seat, he does everything in his power to disprove me. But last night, the former Massachusetts governor outdid himself, having been swept by Rick Santorum in contests in Minnesota, Missouri, and Colorado. And it isn’t simply the fact that Romney lost; it’s the magnitude of his losses. Governor Romney finished third in Minnesota with 17 percent of the vote total, behind both Ron Paul (27 percent) and Santorum (45 percent). In Missouri, Romney lost to Santorum by a staggering 30 points (55 percent v. 25 percent). And in Colorado, a state Romney won in 2008 with more than 60 percent of the vote, Santorum bested him by five points (40 percent v. 35 percent).

Conn Carroll of the Washington Examiner points out that in both Missouri and Minnesota, a state Romney won in 2008, he did not win a single county. (There are 114 counties in Missouri.)

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It seems like every time I declare Mitt Romney to be in the catbird seat, he does everything in his power to disprove me. But last night, the former Massachusetts governor outdid himself, having been swept by Rick Santorum in contests in Minnesota, Missouri, and Colorado. And it isn’t simply the fact that Romney lost; it’s the magnitude of his losses. Governor Romney finished third in Minnesota with 17 percent of the vote total, behind both Ron Paul (27 percent) and Santorum (45 percent). In Missouri, Romney lost to Santorum by a staggering 30 points (55 percent v. 25 percent). And in Colorado, a state Romney won in 2008 with more than 60 percent of the vote, Santorum bested him by five points (40 percent v. 35 percent).

Conn Carroll of the Washington Examiner points out that in both Missouri and Minnesota, a state Romney won in 2008, he did not win a single county. (There are 114 counties in Missouri.)

The odds of winning the nomination are very much in Romney’s favor, in part because Newt Gingrich is doing his nemesis the favor of hanging around, with the result (potentially) of denying Santorum the mano-a-mano contest with Romney he needs. On the other hand, Santorum might well supplant Gingrich as the conservative alternative whether Gingrich stays or leaves the race. Many scales have fallen from many eyes in recent days, and it’s becoming obvious to more and more GOP voters that Rick Santorum is a far stronger (and more reliably conservative) candidate than Newt Gingrich. If Santorum were to knock off Romney in Michigan, then the trajectory of this race could change in a hurry.

Now a word about both Romney and Santorum.

It’s not a state secret that Romney has not yet been able to make the sale with the conservative base of his party. The resistance to him isn’t an intense dislike, at least from most on the right. It’s more of a wariness, a lack of comfort, a sense the former Massachusetts governor isn’t in his heart a true or reliable conservative. Whether that’s fair or not, it’s a real challenge for Mitt Romney to overcome — and as we saw last night, he’s far from overcoming it.

But there appears to be more to it than that. Governor Romney reassures many GOP voters, but he inspires few of them. And as he surely must know, politics is, at least in large part, about winning people’s allegiance and loyalty. They want to believe they are part of more than a campaign; they want to believe they are part of a great cause. And most people right now can’t tell you what great cause the Romney campaign represents.

It’s too easy for commentators to pile on candidates after a bad showing, as Romney experienced last night, and forget their strengths, of which Romney has many. He’s a fine, and at times a first-rate, debater. He’s shown fluency when it comes to the issues. He’s a man of personal decency and moderate temperament. He’s shown the capacity to lift his game when necessary. And he’s disciplined and focused. But right now there’s a weakness at the core of the campaign, and the Romney team would be wise to understand what that is.

It would of course be a huge error to try to turn Romney into someone he’s not. What he needs to do is to build a compelling narrative around his genuine strengths. I’ve written before the great challenge facing America today is reforming public institutions that were designed for the needs of the mid-20th century. Our health care and entitlement system, tax code, schools, infrastructure, immigration policies, and regulatory regime are outdated, worn down, and terribly out of touch with the needs of our time. This has impeded economic growth, impaired the creation of human capital, and put us on the path toward an unprecedented fiscal crisis. Each of these public institutions needs to be improved and modernized, requiring structural reforms on a large scale. It seems to me that Romney, by virtue of his experience and skill sets, can make the case he’s the person best equipped to lead this effort.

Now a word about my former Ethics and Public Policy Center colleague Rick Santorum. Rick has shown impressive resilience, having won over voters almost literally one at a time. He’s very intelligent and well-informed; he’s mostly stayed clear of the Romney v. Gingrich fight, focusing on the issues rather than personal foibles of the other candidates; and he’s shown the ability to be an outstanding prosecutor for his case (as when he’s gone after RomneyCare). Santorum can also claim to be a “conviction politician,” including when those convictions were politically costly.

What Santorum has also done, and probably hasn’t received enough credit for doing, is to recalibrate his tone. At points early on during this campaign, he came across as too intense, too cock-sure, too impatient and righteous in his zeal. Those things, it’s important to say, were the result of a man of deep convictions and an admirable fearlessness. But it at times made him unsympathetic and not easy to embrace. But that began to change right around December, and he’s now projected a warmth and human quality that’s quite appealing. Even if Santorum doesn’t win the GOP nomination, he’s reestablished himself as an important and influential figure within conservatism.

For now, though, this primary race – at times fascinating, volatile, engaging and dispiriting –continues. And whoever emerges victorious will have a slightly better than even shot at becoming America’s 45th president.

 

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Does Obama Really Need a Super PAC?

Yesterday, there was news the Obama campaign would be starting a Super PAC before the 2012 election. Alana posted about it, stating: “After blasting Super PACs as the source of everything evil in politics for the past two years, the Obama campaign has suddenly done an about face and openly started working with one. But, as Jim Messina stressed on the campaign blog last night, it’s not because Obama wants to. No, it’s because he needs to, in order to win the election. And as we all know, winning is more important anything, especially principles and personal integrity.”

Today, on the Politico website, a poll asked visitors: “What do you think of President Obama’s decision to throw his support behind a Super PAC?” Of the respondents to this incredibly unscientific poll, 59 percent of people thought: “It’s necessary. He can’t win with one arm tied behind his back.”

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Yesterday, there was news the Obama campaign would be starting a Super PAC before the 2012 election. Alana posted about it, stating: “After blasting Super PACs as the source of everything evil in politics for the past two years, the Obama campaign has suddenly done an about face and openly started working with one. But, as Jim Messina stressed on the campaign blog last night, it’s not because Obama wants to. No, it’s because he needs to, in order to win the election. And as we all know, winning is more important anything, especially principles and personal integrity.”

Today, on the Politico website, a poll asked visitors: “What do you think of President Obama’s decision to throw his support behind a Super PAC?” Of the respondents to this incredibly unscientific poll, 59 percent of people thought: “It’s necessary. He can’t win with one arm tied behind his back.”

Without Super PACs, how much of a disadvantage would Obama really be in a general election? In July, the Huffington Post reported Obama’s record-breaking fundraising numbers–$86 million in just three months, which outpaced the total fundraising by all the Republican challengers combined by more than double.

As evidenced by last night’s Rick Santorum sweep, the Republican primary battles are likely to be drawn out and expensive for all three possible nominees. While money doesn’t necessarily buy victory (again, as evidenced last night by the cash-strapped Santorum campaign), it does help buy firepower like the Obama campaign’s 30-minute long informercial at the end of the 2008 election.

Going into the general election, whomever the Republican nominee is, will be at an incredible financial disadvantage. The Obama campaign is going to have a fundraising edge over his opponent that will make the race appear to be between David and Goliath.

The decision to take Super PAC money will likely only increase Obama’s exponentially larger coffers by a few fold. As Alana discussed, that could be more damaging in further alienating the far left who have spent the last two years calling the Citizens United ruling the most dangerous to the political process and freedom in decades. It opens yet another opportunity for the GOP to call Obama on yet another broken promise, highlighting his hypocrisy on yet another issue.  The response to the Super PAC decision is an opportunity for the nominee and the party. It’s an admission that Super PACs aren’t as unethical as they have been portrayed during the past two years and that Obama once again plays by his own set of rules. If Obama wants to make this election premised on class warfare, the Republican nominee can, and should, point out who the unprincipled one percent of the race is at every given opportunity.

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Santorum’s Advantages

As Jonathan discussed earlier, today is a big day for the campaign of Rick Santorum. He is in position to possibly win two out of tonight’s three contests. He will also take with him some momentum from the support he has won from conservative media, most notably the recent endorsements from Michelle Malkin and Hot Air’s Ed Morrissey.

Those endorsements are important in part because they help Santorum build a certain narrative: that he can best unite the party. At this point in the process, being the “not-Romney” is less of a draw than it was before Mitt Romney began winning big in the Northeast, South, and West. Luckily for Santorum, Romney has turned his fire on the former Pennsylvania senator, which makes the argument that Santorum is the “not-Romney” without Santorum having to do so himself. Santorum simply doesn’t have the time or money left to build campaign momentum on the claim he belongs in second place. He does have two advantages, however.

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As Jonathan discussed earlier, today is a big day for the campaign of Rick Santorum. He is in position to possibly win two out of tonight’s three contests. He will also take with him some momentum from the support he has won from conservative media, most notably the recent endorsements from Michelle Malkin and Hot Air’s Ed Morrissey.

Those endorsements are important in part because they help Santorum build a certain narrative: that he can best unite the party. At this point in the process, being the “not-Romney” is less of a draw than it was before Mitt Romney began winning big in the Northeast, South, and West. Luckily for Santorum, Romney has turned his fire on the former Pennsylvania senator, which makes the argument that Santorum is the “not-Romney” without Santorum having to do so himself. Santorum simply doesn’t have the time or money left to build campaign momentum on the claim he belongs in second place. He does have two advantages, however.

First, Santorum has turned one of his earlier weaknesses into an asset. In the past, he has too often gone on the defensive, especially around reporters. This made him seem thin-skinned. We might have expected the intense pressure, long hours, and negative atmosphere of this campaign, as well as the health scare of his daughter, Bella, to exacerbate that quality. Instead, he has seemed to get calmer, sharper, and more patient as the campaign has dragged on. It has not gone unnoticed, as Morrissey wrote:

Santorum has demonstrated a level of personal integrity in this race that outshines the rest of the field.  Santorum has campaigned with blue-collar Reagan Democrats in mind, pushing for an economic plan that would revitalize manufacturing and small business.  He could easily have tipped over into class-warfare populism while Gingrich and Romney bashed each other over their work at Bain and Freddie Mac in order to ingratiate himself with that sector by playing on latent envy. Instead, he defended capitalism and both of his competitors on the campaign trail more effectively than either could defend themselves. In contrast, Romney keeps demonstrating a lack of fluency in conservative politics and philosophy, while Gingrich has conducted a personal, angry campaign that threatens to reinforce every negative stereotype about conservatives, both at times putting themselves and their ambitions above the party they seek to lead.

The other advantage for Santorum is his outstanding debate preparation. The next debate is in two weeks. If Santorum can get a couple of big wins tonight, he will ride a wave of free media until then. At that point, he may be neck and neck with Romney in terms of primary and caucus victories. It will look like a different race from the last time they shared a debate stage, and if Santorum bests Romney again, it will be.

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Obama Campaign Under Fire for Selling Designer Goods

The Obama campaign has yet another fundraising scandal to deal with today. This time it’s under fire for selling hideously ugly designer merchandise (seriously, that Beyonce t-shirt looks like something you’d make at day camp) at low, low prices on its website. According to the Wall Street Journal, Obama may be in violation of campaign finance laws for selling these clothes and handbags created for him gratis by celebrities and designers:

Jan Baran, an election lawyer with Wiley Rein LLP, said designers can’t ask employees to work on political projects unless they willingly volunteered their time. “Someone who is paid to do campaign work is not a volunteer,” he said. If the designer or staff are paid by anyone other than the campaign, it would be considered a campaign contribution from a company to a candidate.

The Obama campaign said the gear complies with campaign-finance rules.

“All of the designers volunteered their personal time to create these great designs,” the campaign said, and were “not underwritten with any corporate funds.”

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The Obama campaign has yet another fundraising scandal to deal with today. This time it’s under fire for selling hideously ugly designer merchandise (seriously, that Beyonce t-shirt looks like something you’d make at day camp) at low, low prices on its website. According to the Wall Street Journal, Obama may be in violation of campaign finance laws for selling these clothes and handbags created for him gratis by celebrities and designers:

Jan Baran, an election lawyer with Wiley Rein LLP, said designers can’t ask employees to work on political projects unless they willingly volunteered their time. “Someone who is paid to do campaign work is not a volunteer,” he said. If the designer or staff are paid by anyone other than the campaign, it would be considered a campaign contribution from a company to a candidate.

The Obama campaign said the gear complies with campaign-finance rules.

“All of the designers volunteered their personal time to create these great designs,” the campaign said, and were “not underwritten with any corporate funds.”

To be honest, there doesn’t seem to be much meat to this scandal. Celebrities and designers create campaign merchandise for politicians all the time. In 2008, a lot of the same designers in the WSJ piece made handbags and clothes that were sold at similarly low prices in Obama’s and Hillary Clinton’s campaign stores. So it doesn’t sound like Obama’s violating any campaign finance laws here.

But that also depends on where the merchandise was manufactured. If the shirts and bags were simply designed by Derek Lam and Diane von Furstenberg, but manufactured elsewhere by companies paid by the Obama campaign, that would probably be within the rules. But if the merchandise was manufactured by companies not compensated by the Obama campaign, that could be a problem.

That said, the story does play into narratives that Obama’s out of touch with the middle class, that he’s buddy-buddy with obnoxious celebrities, and that his campaign isn’t the grassroots-driven operation he makes it out to be. It’s especially problematic coming for him on a day when his flip-flop on Super PACs is all over the news.

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Obama Campaign Embraces Super PACs

After blasting Super PACs as the source of everything evil in politics for the past two years, the Obama campaign has suddenly done an about face and openly started working with one. But, as Jim Messina stressed on the campaign blog last night, it’s not because Obama wants to. No, it’s because he needs to, in order to win the election. And as we all know, winning is more important anything, especially principles and personal integrity:

With so much at stake, we can’t allow for two sets of rules in this election whereby the Republican nominee is the beneficiary of unlimited spending and Democrats unilaterally disarm.

Therefore, the campaign has decided to do what we can, consistent with the law, to support Priorities USA in its effort to counter the weight of the GOP Super PAC. We will do so only in the knowledge and with the expectation that all of its donations will be fully disclosed as required by law to the Federal Election Commission.

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After blasting Super PACs as the source of everything evil in politics for the past two years, the Obama campaign has suddenly done an about face and openly started working with one. But, as Jim Messina stressed on the campaign blog last night, it’s not because Obama wants to. No, it’s because he needs to, in order to win the election. And as we all know, winning is more important anything, especially principles and personal integrity:

With so much at stake, we can’t allow for two sets of rules in this election whereby the Republican nominee is the beneficiary of unlimited spending and Democrats unilaterally disarm.

Therefore, the campaign has decided to do what we can, consistent with the law, to support Priorities USA in its effort to counter the weight of the GOP Super PAC. We will do so only in the knowledge and with the expectation that all of its donations will be fully disclosed as required by law to the Federal Election Commission.

This has been coming down the line for awhile, ever since two key Obama staffers left the White House and immediately formed Priorities USA, a pro-Obama Super PAC, last April. But it makes sense that the Obama campaign would wait until the start of the general election before announcing its support for the group. Why make such a controversial announcement any earlier than you have to?

As for the backlash against the decision, it’ll probably come mainly from the left, because it’s hard for conservatives to really criticize Obama for this move. In fact, conservatives should applaud him for seeing the light. It’s nice that he’s finally come around to embracing Super PACs, even if his reasons for doing so are based less on a principled defense of First Amendment rights and more on a craven thirst for maintaining power. Way to go.

That said, it will be interesting to see how this is received on the left. After the Democrats spent years rallying their base against Citizens United, the idea that Super PACs equal evil is mentally ingrained with progressives. In fact, it was one of the biggest issues at Occupy Wall Street. Will the progressive movement turn against Obama for working with Priorities USA? Or will it be enough for them that he says he still opposes Super PACs in theory?

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The Romney Machine Rolls On

With Mitt Romney’s overwhelming victory in Nevada– he won just over 50 percent of the vote –the former Massachusetts governor has secured three double-digit wins in the Northeast (New Hampshire), the West (Nevada), and the South (Florida). He remains in the catbird seat. For him to lose the nomination would require an epic collapse. I rather doubt we’ll see it.

What makes this week marginally interesting is whether Rick Santorum supplants Newt Gingrich as the “conservative alternative” to Romney. That depends on how Santorum does tomorrow in Colorado and Minnesota, the next states that hold GOP nominating contests, as well as Missouri, which holds a “beauty contest” (the state’s official nominating process takes place later in the year). It seems to me, and increasingly to others, that Santorum is a far better figure for conservatives to rally behind than Gingrich, whose weaknesses I have dealt with at length in the past. I’ll only add that at his press conference on Saturday Gingrich looked to be seething with rage for Romney, and he demonstrated, one more time, that he simply doesn’t have the emotional balance and temperamental traits that one looks for in a president. There’s something a bit sad in watching Gingrich, who has done a great deal for the conservative cause in his life, burn up like this.

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With Mitt Romney’s overwhelming victory in Nevada– he won just over 50 percent of the vote –the former Massachusetts governor has secured three double-digit wins in the Northeast (New Hampshire), the West (Nevada), and the South (Florida). He remains in the catbird seat. For him to lose the nomination would require an epic collapse. I rather doubt we’ll see it.

What makes this week marginally interesting is whether Rick Santorum supplants Newt Gingrich as the “conservative alternative” to Romney. That depends on how Santorum does tomorrow in Colorado and Minnesota, the next states that hold GOP nominating contests, as well as Missouri, which holds a “beauty contest” (the state’s official nominating process takes place later in the year). It seems to me, and increasingly to others, that Santorum is a far better figure for conservatives to rally behind than Gingrich, whose weaknesses I have dealt with at length in the past. I’ll only add that at his press conference on Saturday Gingrich looked to be seething with rage for Romney, and he demonstrated, one more time, that he simply doesn’t have the emotional balance and temperamental traits that one looks for in a president. There’s something a bit sad in watching Gingrich, who has done a great deal for the conservative cause in his life, burn up like this.

As for Governor Romney: he’s now in excellent position to win the nomination. He’s winning elections, which is what matters. Non-Romney voters have not so far coalesced among any of the other candidates. Romney dominates among the GOP’s moderate wing, including non-Tea Party supporters and non-evangelicals. Most Republicans see him as the candidate with the best chance to beat President Obama in the fall. More than seven in 10 believe he’ll be the eventual nominee. He’s repelled every assault against him, having shown he can lift his game. And he retains a vast advantage over the other candidates in terms of money and organization.

But Romney still faces challenges. Voter turnout remains surprisingly low in most of the contests so far. He might be a bit vulnerable in parts of the Midwest. To date, he hasn’t been able to convince voters his campaign is tied to a great cause (it’s very Romney-centric right now). The cage match against Gingrich has hurt Romney’s reputation with (among others) independent voters. And nationally, Romney still doesn’t fair all that well among those who identify themselves as “very conservative” and evangelicals. It should be said, however, that Romney does quite well among those who consider themselves “somewhat conservative” and, as Jay Cost points out, Romney is actually pulling in the second-largest number of “very conservative” votes, and among all conservatives (“somewhat” and “very”), he leads Gingrich, 39 percent to 35 percent.

Where things stand at this moment, then, is that the Romney machine rolls on against a weak field. It’s hard to see how he’ll be stopped. Right now, Romney is a strong but not yet an outstanding candidate, steady and reassuring but hardly inspiring. And he needs to find a way to connect with working class voters. In short, he still needs to improve as he turns his attention to Obama, who is on the upswing. My guess is Romney will.

 

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No, Obama Hasn’t “Gotten Better With Time”

It’s easy for conservatives to get disappointed when looking at the mess of a GOP field. But then you hear interviews like this one, and think, maybe, just maybe, there’s a glimmer of hope for Republicans:

In a TODAY exclusive, Matt Lauer asked Obama about his supporters’ disappointment over his first-term performance — that they believe he hasn’t been “the transformational political figure they hoped you would be.”

“What’s frustrated people is that I have not be able to force Congress to implement every aspect of what I said in 2008,” he said.

“That’s just the nature of being president,” he said. “It turns out that our founders designed a system that makes it more difficult to bring about change than I would like sometimes.

“What I’m going to just keep on doing is plodding away, very persistent. And you know what? One of the things about being president is you get better as time goes on.”

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It’s easy for conservatives to get disappointed when looking at the mess of a GOP field. But then you hear interviews like this one, and think, maybe, just maybe, there’s a glimmer of hope for Republicans:

In a TODAY exclusive, Matt Lauer asked Obama about his supporters’ disappointment over his first-term performance — that they believe he hasn’t been “the transformational political figure they hoped you would be.”

“What’s frustrated people is that I have not be able to force Congress to implement every aspect of what I said in 2008,” he said.

“That’s just the nature of being president,” he said. “It turns out that our founders designed a system that makes it more difficult to bring about change than I would like sometimes.

“What I’m going to just keep on doing is plodding away, very persistent. And you know what? One of the things about being president is you get better as time goes on.”

Have things really gotten so bad for Obama that he’s been forced to campaign on the “Just give me a few more years, I’m starting to get the hang of this” platform?

The worst part about it is it’s completely and utterly false. His only significant legislative accomplishments came early in his presidency, when Democrats still controlled both the House and Senate. The president hasn’t figured out how to work with House Republicans, and his relationship with Speaker Boehner has only deteriorated over time. After the next 10 months, which Obama will spend campaigning against the “do-nothing Congress,” does anybody really expect the ice to melt if he wins a second term?

Obama’s apologia to his disillusioned supporters is “it’s not me, it’s the broken Washington system.” The problem is, that’s the same “broken system” these voters sent him to Washington to fix back in 2008. That excuse won’t cut it.

What’s frustrating Obama supporters isn’t that he hasn’t been able to “force Congress to implement every aspect of what [he] said in 2008.” Nobody ever expected him to “force” Congress to do anything. He was elected based on his brand as a “consensus-builder” and a “post-partisan” – his plan was to persuade, not to coerce. That wasn’t particularly difficult to do back when the people he had to win over were members of his own party. But when the public rejected Obama’s policies and handed the House over to Republicans, his great powers of persuasion were rendered shockingly ineffective. And no, the president hasn’t gotten any better at it.

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Obama’s Rhetoric Falls Flat

Daniel Henninger of the Wall Street Journal is a very good writer and a very smart man. But his claim that President Obama’s slimmed down version of his most recent State of the Union address – a speech Obama has taken on the road – is “soaring out in the country” is fairly wide of the mark.

We just learned, for example, that only 36 percent of likely voters grade the Obama administration’s handling of the economy at good or excellent, while a huge number — 62 percent — grade the president at fair to poor, with poor collecting the largest number: 45 percent. Now I recognize that people could like Obama’s speeches and disapprove of his policies. But in the end, they will (unlike 2008) cast their vote based on his deeds rather than his words. And Henninger’s claim that Obama is the “maestro” of the “inner melodies of life in America these days” isn’t something I detect when looking at polling data or, frankly, much else.

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Daniel Henninger of the Wall Street Journal is a very good writer and a very smart man. But his claim that President Obama’s slimmed down version of his most recent State of the Union address – a speech Obama has taken on the road – is “soaring out in the country” is fairly wide of the mark.

We just learned, for example, that only 36 percent of likely voters grade the Obama administration’s handling of the economy at good or excellent, while a huge number — 62 percent — grade the president at fair to poor, with poor collecting the largest number: 45 percent. Now I recognize that people could like Obama’s speeches and disapprove of his policies. But in the end, they will (unlike 2008) cast their vote based on his deeds rather than his words. And Henninger’s claim that Obama is the “maestro” of the “inner melodies of life in America these days” isn’t something I detect when looking at polling data or, frankly, much else.

I’m glad Henninger is raising warning flags, because conservatives should assume the race against Obama won’t be easy. And there are reasons to guard against soaring confidence when it comes to the 2012 election. But my own sense of things is Obama long ago lost his claim to being America’s rhetorical maestro – and while his words may play well in a pre-selected crowd in Chandler, Arizona, they have fallen flat with most Americans.

If Barack Obama wins the presidency in November, it won’t be because he stirred the hearts of Americans. It will have very little to do with any inner melodies of life in America. It will be because he succeeded in utterly destroying the reputation of his opponent.

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Dissecting Romney’s Florida Victory

1. The reach and scope of Governor Romney’s primary victory in Florida was enormous. He not only defeated Newt Gingrich by more than 14 points, Romney’s total was larger than the combined total of both Gingrich and Rick Santorum. Romney won among men and women; in all age, income, and education categories; among whites and Hispanics; among those who support and oppose the Tea Party; among those who decided early and those who decided late; and among evangelicals. Among the only categories Romney did not carry was those who described themselves “very conservative” (Gingrich carried 41 percent of the vote while Romney took 30 percent). Those who consider themselves “somewhat conservative” went for Romney 52 percent v. 32 percent for Gingrich.

Almost half the voters in Florida (46 percent) said electability was their top concern – and of that group, they preferred the former Massachusetts governor by 26 percentage points. And of the 62 percent of voters who said the economy was the issue that matters most to them, 52 percent went for Romney  v. 30 percent for Gingrich.

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1. The reach and scope of Governor Romney’s primary victory in Florida was enormous. He not only defeated Newt Gingrich by more than 14 points, Romney’s total was larger than the combined total of both Gingrich and Rick Santorum. Romney won among men and women; in all age, income, and education categories; among whites and Hispanics; among those who support and oppose the Tea Party; among those who decided early and those who decided late; and among evangelicals. Among the only categories Romney did not carry was those who described themselves “very conservative” (Gingrich carried 41 percent of the vote while Romney took 30 percent). Those who consider themselves “somewhat conservative” went for Romney 52 percent v. 32 percent for Gingrich.

Almost half the voters in Florida (46 percent) said electability was their top concern – and of that group, they preferred the former Massachusetts governor by 26 percentage points. And of the 62 percent of voters who said the economy was the issue that matters most to them, 52 percent went for Romney  v. 30 percent for Gingrich.

2. The Washington Post makes this point: “Florida, the fourth state to vote this primary season, was not only the biggest prize yet, but also the purest test of where the party stands nationally. Unlike earlier primaries in New Hampshire  and South Carolina, Florida’s contest was open only to registered Republicans; about seven in 10 voters identified themselves as somewhat or very conservative, according to exit polls.”

3. Among the key factors in Romney’s win were the debates. ABC News reports that around two-thirds of Florida voters say the debates were an important factor in their vote in yesterday’s primary. In addition, about four in 10 voters said advertising was an important factor in their vote. All told, Newt Gingrich was outspent on TV ads by as much as 5-to-1, with 90 percent of those ads negative. Gingrich was enraged by this and complained throughout the contest, trying to make it a referendum on Romney’s character. Yet as the Post reports, “voters didn’t perceive Romney as overly negative.” Thirty four percent said Romney had run an unfair campaign while an equal 34 percent said the same of Gingrich, according to exit polling.

4. Governor Romney came within a hair’s width of winning three of four states that cast votes in January. Romney won by 16 points in New Hampshire, by 14 points in Florida, and came within 35 votes of winning Iowa (out of roughly 120,000 votes cast). The only election in which he was soundly beaten was in South Carolina, where Gingrich defeated Romney by 12 points. Gingrich, on the other hand, finished fourth, fifth, first, and second in the four contests.

5. The three most important contests in February are held in Arizona, Nevada, and Michigan. In 2008, Romney won the latter two (he came in second to Arizona Senator John McCain that year). Maine, Minnesota and Colorado also hold (non-binding) contests this month, and Romney won those three races in 2008. Romney is also the clear favorite to win in most of the 11 contests that will be held on March 6 (delegates will be rewarded proportionately). It’s also worth noting there’s only one debate on the schedule for February (February 22 in Arizona).

If Mitt Romney were to lose the nomination, he would have to experience an epic collapse, unlike any we have seen. Is it conceivable this could happen? Yes. Is it at all likely it will happen? No.

The GOP primary may not be officially over. But we know who the GOP nominee will be.

Get ready for Romney v. Obama.

 

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Why Won’t Palin Just Endorse Newt?

Last night wasn’t the first time Sarah Palin has beseeched Republicans to vote for Newt Gingrich. But it was the latest step in Palin’s strange Gingrich dance, in which she defends the former speaker, praises him, calls on voters to vote for him – but stops just short of officially endorsing him. The Globe and Mail reports:

There is a curious dance Sarah Palin is doing lately with Newt Gingrich, and it goes something like this: do not formally endorse Mr. Gingrich, but on the eve of key state primaries make an appearance on Fox News TV and deliver what sounds an awful lot like an endorsement.

The former Alaska governor and vice-presidential candidate did it ahead of the South Carolina primary, saying that if she were a South Carolinian she would ”vote for Newt.” Mr. Gingrich welcomed the lift and credited Ms. Palin’s comments with helping his South Carolina campaign. “She’s an enormous help. She’s a big help in the South Carolina victory,” he told Fox News.

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Last night wasn’t the first time Sarah Palin has beseeched Republicans to vote for Newt Gingrich. But it was the latest step in Palin’s strange Gingrich dance, in which she defends the former speaker, praises him, calls on voters to vote for him – but stops just short of officially endorsing him. The Globe and Mail reports:

There is a curious dance Sarah Palin is doing lately with Newt Gingrich, and it goes something like this: do not formally endorse Mr. Gingrich, but on the eve of key state primaries make an appearance on Fox News TV and deliver what sounds an awful lot like an endorsement.

The former Alaska governor and vice-presidential candidate did it ahead of the South Carolina primary, saying that if she were a South Carolinian she would ”vote for Newt.” Mr. Gingrich welcomed the lift and credited Ms. Palin’s comments with helping his South Carolina campaign. “She’s an enormous help. She’s a big help in the South Carolina victory,” he told Fox News.

Palin has repeatedly claimed she’s simply trying to “keep the race going.” But as Allahpundit notes, this excuse has its problems:

Has any Fox News reporter thought to ask her point-blank yet whether in theory that would mean encouraging people to vote for Romney if suddenly there were a big momentum shift and Newt started winning states? Somehow it’s hard for me to imagine that, but she should at least have a chance to answer. Also, what’s the endgame here? The idea is that the race should roll on because “competition breeds success.” Fair enough; in that case, presumably undecideds in any given state should vote for whichever candidate is behind at any given moment in order to extend the primary as long as possible. Is that correct, or are we looking at a shorter timeline? I’m skeptical that there are many Republicans who want this race to go all the way to the convention while Obama builds up his arsenal, but presumably most voters are happy to let it go on a while longer. How long is optimal? Super Tuesday? A bit longer than that? I’m asking earnestly. Click the image to watch.

So why no endorsement? There are plenty of possible explanations, but two initially come to mind. First, Palin could lose whatever remains of her reputation as a “kingmaker” if she throws her weight behind Gingrich and he loses. Second, she could be holding out hope for a brokered convention – plenty of conservatives still do – and maybe thinks she could end up getting tapped for the nomination. That one’s a lot less plausible. Not only would she have to be wildly delusional, if she had presidential aspirations, why wouldn’t she have just run in the primaries?

Here’s another thought. Would an official endorsement conflict with her current role as a Fox News commentator covering the primaries? I can’t think of any of them who have made endorsements yet. Karl Rove is pretty clearly rooting for Mitt Romney, but he also hasn’t backed him officially. Palin may be able to help Gingrich more as a “neutral” analyst of the race than as an official endorser who would likely have to disclose her support on the air.

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Gingrich: Santorum’s to Blame if I Lose

The Gingrich campaign is preemptively blaming his potential loss in Florida on former ally Rick Santorum. Last Saturday, Newt Gingrich noted that Santorum was “young enough” to run in a later election, joking that “next time around is a good battle cry.” And his campaign co-chairman told CNN yesterday that “if [Santorum] weren’t in it, we would clearly be beating Romney right now.”

Today, the former Speaker continued to hammer this message on “Fox and Friends” (via HotAir):

“The longer conservatives stay split, the harder it’s going to be for us to [beat Romney],” Gingrich said on “Fox and Friends” on Tuesday. “And I think that we risk not being able to beat Obama unless we get a conservative. I have to win the nomination.”

Santorum is sapping conservative votes from Gingrich, the former House Speaker said. Santorum, appearing just moments after Gingrich, countered.

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The Gingrich campaign is preemptively blaming his potential loss in Florida on former ally Rick Santorum. Last Saturday, Newt Gingrich noted that Santorum was “young enough” to run in a later election, joking that “next time around is a good battle cry.” And his campaign co-chairman told CNN yesterday that “if [Santorum] weren’t in it, we would clearly be beating Romney right now.”

Today, the former Speaker continued to hammer this message on “Fox and Friends” (via HotAir):

“The longer conservatives stay split, the harder it’s going to be for us to [beat Romney],” Gingrich said on “Fox and Friends” on Tuesday. “And I think that we risk not being able to beat Obama unless we get a conservative. I have to win the nomination.”

Santorum is sapping conservative votes from Gingrich, the former House Speaker said. Santorum, appearing just moments after Gingrich, countered.

Would Gingrich actually be winning Florida if Santorum wasn’t in the race? Anything’s possible, but based on the latest PPP poll, it’s far from certain. Santorum is polling at 15 percent, Gingrich is polling at 31 percent, and Romney is polling at 39 percent. If Santorum disappeared and all of his supporters went to Gingrich, the former Speaker would lead Romney by seven percent.

But that’s not likely to happen. According to the poll, just 25 percent of Santorum’s supporters choose Gingrich as their second choice, which would still leave him a few points short of beating Romney. Couple that with the fact that 33 percent of Santorum’s supporters chose Romney as their second option, and that leaves Gingrich with pretty much the same gap he has now.

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The Real Reasons Conservatives Oppose Gingrich

In an intense primary battle, a lot of silly things are said. (Many of them, it turns out, are said by Sarah Palin, who seems intent on confirming every negative thing her critics have said about her.) Among them is the charge, repeated like rounds fired from a machine gun, that opposition to Newt Gingrich is based on those in the “establishment” who fear the scale of change he would bring to Washington. If you’re for Gingrich, so goes this story line, you’re for “genuine” and “fundamental” change. If you oppose Gingrich, on the other hand, you’re for “managing the decay” of America.

Except for this. The single most important idea, when it comes to fundamentally changing Washington, is the budget plan put forward by Representative Paul Ryan last April. When most massive-scale-of-change conservatives were defending Ryan’s plan against scorching criticisms from the left, Gingrich described the plan as an example of “right-wing social engineering.” It was Gingrich, not the rest of us, who was counseling caution, timidity, and an unwillingness to shape (rather than follow) public opinion. (The Medicare reform plan Gingrich eventually put out wasn’t nearly as bold and far-reaching as the one put out by Governor Romney.)

So much for Mr. Fundamental Change.

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In an intense primary battle, a lot of silly things are said. (Many of them, it turns out, are said by Sarah Palin, who seems intent on confirming every negative thing her critics have said about her.) Among them is the charge, repeated like rounds fired from a machine gun, that opposition to Newt Gingrich is based on those in the “establishment” who fear the scale of change he would bring to Washington. If you’re for Gingrich, so goes this story line, you’re for “genuine” and “fundamental” change. If you oppose Gingrich, on the other hand, you’re for “managing the decay” of America.

Except for this. The single most important idea, when it comes to fundamentally changing Washington, is the budget plan put forward by Representative Paul Ryan last April. When most massive-scale-of-change conservatives were defending Ryan’s plan against scorching criticisms from the left, Gingrich described the plan as an example of “right-wing social engineering.” It was Gingrich, not the rest of us, who was counseling caution, timidity, and an unwillingness to shape (rather than follow) public opinion. (The Medicare reform plan Gingrich eventually put out wasn’t nearly as bold and far-reaching as the one put out by Governor Romney.)

So much for Mr. Fundamental Change.

The reality is that conservative/”establishment” opposition to Gingrich generally falls into three categories. One is that if he won the nomination, he would not only lose to Barack Obama, but he would sink the rest of the GOP fleet in the process. A second area of concern is that Gingrich is temperamentally unfit to be president –he’s too erratic, undisciplined, and rhetorically self-destructive. A third area of concern is the suspicion that the former House speaker is not, in fact, a terribly reliable conservative, that he is not philosophically well-grounded (see his attachment to Alvin Toffler for more).

Some of these criticisms may be appropriate and some of them may be overstated or miss the mark. But to pretend the criticisms of Gingrich — expressed in varying degrees by commentators like George Will, Charles Krauthammer, Charles Murray, Michael Gerson, Ann Coulter, Michelle Malkin, Bob Tyrrell, Pat Buchanan, Mona Charen, Mark Steyn, Michael Medved, Hugh Hewitt, Bill Bennett, Karl Rove, Ramesh Ponnuru, Rich Lowry, Elliott Abrams, John Podhoretz, John Hinderaker, Jennifer Rubin, Ross Douthat, David Brooks, Yuval Levin, and the editorial writers at the Wall Street Journal and the Washington Examiner, to say nothing of a slew of conservative members/former members of Congress who worked with Gingrich in the 1990s –are rooted in their fear of “genuine change” is simply not credible.

I understand campaigns need to create narratives that reflect well on their candidate. But the job of the rest of us is to point out, when necessary, just how ludicrous some of those narratives can be.

 

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Election Revealing Left’s Xenophobia

Pretty much everyone seems to believe Mitt Romney’s wealth is a liability. The Democrats have united around a strategy that portrays Romney as too rich for America’s taste. Some of Romney’s rivals have sought votes there as well. The Washington Post takes another whack at Romney about his wealth. Everyone agrees on this–everyone, that is, except actual voters.

Public Policy Polling, a liberal-leaning firm, finds that Romney has seemingly overcome his tax-return foibles, consistent with what other polls have found as well. The New Republic’s Alec MacGillis couldn’t get voters on the trail to disparage Romney for his wealth, even when MacGillis admittedly called them back “and pressed further” in an attempt to get voters to change their minds and please bash Romney’s wealth. They consistently refused his entreaties, however. But delve just a bit into the PPP results and there’s an uncomfortable truth for the media:

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Pretty much everyone seems to believe Mitt Romney’s wealth is a liability. The Democrats have united around a strategy that portrays Romney as too rich for America’s taste. Some of Romney’s rivals have sought votes there as well. The Washington Post takes another whack at Romney about his wealth. Everyone agrees on this–everyone, that is, except actual voters.

Public Policy Polling, a liberal-leaning firm, finds that Romney has seemingly overcome his tax-return foibles, consistent with what other polls have found as well. The New Republic’s Alec MacGillis couldn’t get voters on the trail to disparage Romney for his wealth, even when MacGillis admittedly called them back “and pressed further” in an attempt to get voters to change their minds and please bash Romney’s wealth. They consistently refused his entreaties, however. But delve just a bit into the PPP results and there’s an uncomfortable truth for the media:

If you want a clue as to why Romney releasing his tax returns hasn’t hurt him one little bit in Florida consider this: 68% of Republicans in the state have a favorable opinion of rich people to only 8% with a negative one. Romney’s up 47-32 among those who like rich people. Here’s a simple reality: in a GOP primary it’s an asset to be rich and successful, not a liability. Attacks on Romney along those lines just aren’t going to be effective with Republican voters. Additionally only 14% of voters have “major concerns” about Romney’s overseas bank accounts, while 56% have none at all.

Republican voters just don’t hold his wealth against Romney. MacGillis had been talking to swing voters who sometimes vote Democrat and sometimes Republican. They, too, for the most part weren’t angry about Romney’s wealth. So who is? Liberals, it seems. An article in Politico a few days ago inadvertently shed more light on liberal voters’ sense of political xenophobia:

The academic standards for president have been rising since the collapse of the Soviet Union. Bill Clinton was the first Rhodes scholar. He handed the Oval Office keys to our first M.B.A. president, George W. Bush.

Barack Obama held one of the highest post-graduate honors, editor-in-chief of the Harvard Law Review. The presidential and vice presidential nominees on every Democrat ticket in the past 20 years have a post-graduate degree. This is also true of the only successful GOP ticket in this period, Bush (M.B.A.) and Dick Cheney (M.A.).

There has never been a Ph.D. president during the modern era or anyone holding two post-graduate degrees, or a medical license. President Harry Truman never even graduated from college.

The article notes that despite their education levels, Truman, Reagan, and Lyndon Johnson were the most consequential presidents of the post-war era. Could Truman, the authors wonder, even get elected today?

The answer is yes–as a Republican. As the article explains, this year’s crop of Republican candidates is extremely well educated–perhaps the best such group of candidates yet. So Republican voters are obviously not antagonistic toward the well educated. But Republicans have also pushed back against the narrative that those who were not educated at elite universities aren’t fit for higher office–and been pilloried as “anti-intellectual” for it.

As far as educational standards go, Republicans will nominate both the elite and the non-elite. They will support rich candidates or those closer to “the common man.” And a look back at polling tells you they are more likely to support a Mormon for president than Democrats are. Liberal voters, then, have an educational bias, a religious bias, and a class bias. So it’s really no wonder that mainstream media outlets and a liberal president are pushing the class warfare narrative: it turns out liberal voters are a closed-minded bunch.

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