Rick Santorum is claiming Mitt Romney and Ron Paul forged some secret backroom non-aggression pact with each other, and today a Think Progress study is adding fuel to that story. Out of the 20 debates Paul has participated in so far, he’s directly attacked the other candidates 39 times – but hasn’t once laid his gloves on Romney:
After nine months on the periphery of the Republican race, tonight’s debate in Mesa, Arizona, was Rick Santorum’s opportunity to show he deserved to be considered a frontrunner. But instead of using the occasion to build on the surge that led him to the top of the national polls, the former senator flopped as Mitt Romney and Ron Paul pounded him unmercifully from the start of the evening to its finish. By the end of the night, the grim look on his face betrayed the effect of having to explain his stands on issues such as earmarks, being a “team player” in the Senate and his support for Arlen Specter and “No Child Left Behind.” Whereas in previous debates, he had been on the attack pointing out Romney’s inconsistencies, in Mesa, it was his turn to be on the defensive.
Though Romney was far from brilliant and took his own lumps over his own hypocritical positions on earmarks and healthcare, there was little question he emerged the victor if only because Santorum came across as both long-winded and surly. If recent polls in Michigan showed the Pennsylvanian’s momentum was slowing, this debate may have put a period on his brief moment in the lead. A good night for Santorum might have helped put him over the top in Michigan and maybe even in Arizona next week and done irreparable harm to Romney’s hopes. But we may look back at this night and say this moment was not only when Santorum began to fade but also when Romney salted away the nomination.
Last night’s late-evening caucus for Jewish voters who couldn’t participate in the morning caucus due to Shabbat conflicts cranked up the typical anti-Jewish paranoia of the Ron Paul community to a new level. Not only were the conspiracy theorists out in full force on the Ron Paul fan-sites (but I repeat myself), they also showed up en masse at the special caucus, which was hosted at a school run by Gingrich-backer Sheldon Adelson:
Next came about 25 passionate speakers for Paul. In short order, the scene in the auditorium began to feel like a revival meeting for anti-government paranoiacs.
The first one accused the government of “genocide.” Another complained that Paul was the victim of media bias, as evidenced by the fact that in the GOP debates, “When they go on Ron Paul the lighting’s dimmer.” Another accused the government of “using our own men as guinea pigs.”
As Gingrich, across town, was vowing bitterly to continue his campaign, a Paul supporter was testifying: “Newt Gingrich and Mitt Romney run the two-legged race together at Bohemian Grove! There’s not a bit of difference between those two puppets! I got one word to describe my support for Ron Paul, and that is: End the Fed!”
At nutty as Ron Paul is on foreign policy, he typically tries to be consistent. But in this exchange with Newt Gingrich and Bret Baier at last night’s debate, Paul can’t even manage that. It’s impossible to understand what Paul’s position on this is – on one hand, he says he supported efforts to take out Osama bin Laden, but then says he disagrees with the actual mission that killed bin Laden because it was a violation of Pakistan’s sovereignty. How exactly were we supposed to kill bin Laden without entering Pakistan, seeing as he was living there? This is the problem with the Paul brand of foreign policy theory. It all comes crashing down when it meets reality. (Video via HotAir):
As Alana noted, Republicans are rightly concerned about Ron Paul playing a destructive role in the presidential campaign this fall. Efforts to keep him on the reservation are already beginning, and there is little doubt the significant number of delegates he may win for the party’s national convention in Tampa will have to be dealt with carefully lest they cause trouble and sabotage what will in all likelihood be Mitt Romney’s coronation.
But I think the GOP would be foolish to go too far in seeking to make nice with Paul. His followers are just as likely to vote for Barack Obama or simply stay home as they are to back Romney or any other mainstream Republican. That’s why giving Paul a prime time speech at the convention would be a disaster.
The efforts to gently guide Ron Paul out of the race while coaxing his supporters to Mitt Romney are already beginning. It’s an entertaining dance to watch, especially from conservatives like Jim DeMint, who’s been bubbling with praise this week for a candidate who he clearly thinks is a complete lunatic on foreign policy and social issues.
“I really don’t want Ron Paul to drop out until whoever our frontrunner is is collecting some of the ideas that he’s talking about,” DeMint told the Daily Caller. “I don’t know whether Ron Paul expects to be our nominee, but if Republicans don’t listen to a lot of things he talks about, I don’t see how we can become a majority party.”
Translation: “Ron Paul will never be the nominee. Never. Now banish that idea from your head, while I say some patronizing things to appeal to his supporters.”
After strong showings in both Iowa and New Hampshire, Ron Paul is starting to get some respect from the media, even if it is grudging. But while no one, not even Paul himself, seems to believe the libertarian extremist is any threat to steal the Republican nomination from Mitt Romney, there is growing sentiment that his appeal to young voters, Democrats and independents will be a problem for the GOP frontrunner in the coming months as well as the general election.
While Paul has tapped into some Tea Party support outside of his own constituency with his rigid stance against virtually all government spending, the idea that he could sabotage Romney with an unlikely third party run or that his supporters could cost the Republicans the election in November is, at best, an exaggeration. Paul’s top three finishes in the first two states to hold primaries were the result of him bring bringing out to the polls voters who are attracted to political outliers and protest candidates. Though any group, no matter how small, may prove decisive in a close election, Romney’s presidential hopes will not rest on the affections of youngsters who want to legalize pot or those who like Paul’s isolationist foreign policy. Even more to the point, as the primary season advances and Paul’s results start to decline, talk of his influence on the election will fade.
After months of campaigning, the Republican candidates face the voters in New Hampshire today. Though there’s little doubt Mitt Romney will finish first, there is plenty of uncertainty about his margin of victory and the order of finish. After being buffeted by harsh attacks in recent days, Romney’s hopes of maintaining his frontrunner status depends on a big win in New Hampshire. Though South Carolina is more of a do-or-die situation than New Hampshire for Rick Santorum, Newt Gingrich and Rick Perry, a better or worse than expected performance will heavily impact their chances of surviving in the race. As for Jon Huntsman, the New Hampshire primary is his one and only shot at making a run at Romney. With that in mind, here is our handicap sheet for the expectations for each of the candidates:
Mitt Romney: He’s taken a pounding from his rivals in the last few days, and the “like to fire people” gaffe may also hurt him. Nevertheless, the last three New Hampshire polls show him ahead by anywhere from 17 to 24 points and getting 33 to 41 percent of the vote. That’s good news for the candidate, but the bar for Romney is set very high here. Anything less than 35-40 percent of the vote and a 10-point margin of victory will be construed as a defeat. On the other end of the spectrum, a Romney vote of over 40 percent with a lead of more than 15 percent in a six-candidate race will have to be seen as a sign of strength that will help give him the momentum in South Carolina to try for an unprecedented sweep of the first three states to vote. This race is Romney’s to lose, and New Hampshire is the state where he needs to start to prove his inevitability is no myth.
Rabbi Yisroel Dovid Weiss, of the anti-Zionist haredi group Neturei Karta, has buddied up to some of the top anti-Semitic scumbags of our time. He’s been photographed at Holocaust revisionist conferences, burning Israeli flags, and warmly embracing Mahmoud Ahmadinejad.
And yesterday, he actually showed up at a campaign event for Ron Paul.
At last night’s debate, there were surprisingly few direct attacks on Mitt Romney. This morning, Newt Gingrich and Rick Santorum finally went after him, but neither was able to land a knockout punch:
Santorum began the morning’s attacks, accusing Romney of abandoning Republicans in Massachusetts by “bailing” from a difficult 2006 reelection campaign. When Romney cast his decision not to run for a second term as a selfless choice – saying he engaged in politics as a “citizen,” not a longtime official – Gingrich pounced. …
But the bad blood between Romney and his foes resurfaced before the debate was out, as Gingrich again went on the offensive – this time accusing Romney of duplicity in distancing himself from negative ads run by a super PAC funded by his “millionaire friends.”
Romney once more avoided a deer-in-the-headlights moment, though his speech was uncharacteristically halting as he explained that he wouldn’t support any attack ads that were inaccurate.
Lyndon LaRouche was a prolific writer who developed a cult-like following and eight times, between 1976 and 2004, sought the presidency, seven times for the Democratic ticket. He wrote and spoke often about the economy and spun wild conspiracy theories. For example, he said Queen Elizabeth was a drug dealer. The Nation’s Bob Dreyfuss, a LaRouche acolyte who dedicated his first book to his former boss and had it published by LaRouche’s publisher, argued in it that Bernard Lewis, perhaps the most influential living historian of the Middle East, was a nefarious force behind Ayatollah Khomeini and Iran’s Islamic Revolution.
LaRouche achieved a particularly loyal following among college students. He anchored enough of his writing in fact that the 30 percent or so that was pure bunk became, for the gullible or willingly blind, believable. His writings adhered to the idea that falsehoods spoken with conviction and precision became credible. Like Ron Paul, he certainly was consistent in his willingness to believe the worst motivations of government officials or his opponents. While LaRouche reached the pinnacle of his influence in the pre-internet age, he managed to spread his conspiracies not only through teaching classes, but also through myriad pamphlets, leaflets, and newspapers. LaRouche is still around, of course, but a conviction for conspiracy to commit mail fraud and tax code violations has undercut his credibility among the young and disaffected enough so that he has returned to purely marginal status.
S.E. Cupp at the New York Daily News makes an interesting case for why Mitt Romney benefits from his close call with Rick Santorum:
Now, prepare to see Santorum in every headline, on every news show, rising in every poll. The other candidates (what’s left of them) have him to go after him this week. And Santorum has his third place finisher, Ron Paul to attack (we got a preview of that last week). The pundits and odds makers will devote a substantial amount of airtime to hyperventilating about whether the Santorum surge can stick, and whether Paul’s rabid fans will follow him from Iowa to New Hampshire.
Mitt Romney is in a prime position heading into the Iowa caucuses tonight. But even though he’ll almost certainly finish in the top three, that doesn’t mean he can’t “lose.” Obviously, the best case scenario is Romney takes the top slot, and the second best is he finishes second to the untenable Ron Paul. A slightly worse outcome is if Romney comes in second to Rick Santorum, and the losing scenario is if he finishes in third, behind both of them.
The Washington Post sums up the impact a third-place showing would have on the Romney campaign:
Not only is Jon Huntsman’s latest attack ad on Ron Paul pretty pitch-perfect, it also comes at a great time. After watching the annual New Year’s 48-hour “Twilight Zone” marathon on the SciFi network, Ron Paul’s creepy conspiracy theories and crackpot foreign policy sound exactly like something the horror genius Rod Serling would concoct to terrify us.
Only one gripe: how could Huntsman’s team have left out this classic clip from the Reagan debate over the summer?
As the rest of the GOP field focuses on Iowa, Huntsman’s been stumping in New Hampshire, and in the latest Suffolk University survey he ties Newt Gingrich for third place, with Ron Paul in second. Huntsman currently has the state to himself, and there’s no reason to think he can’t edge out Gingrich in the quickly-approaching primary. More videos like this one can’t hurt.
Most of the recent polls have shown Ron Paul fading fast in Iowa, which is why this Public Policy Polling survey showing him, Mitt Romney and Rick Santorum in a statistical dead-heat has been greeted with some surprise today:
The Republican caucus in Iowa is headed for a photo finish, with the three leading contenders all within two points of each other. Ron Paul is at 20 percent, Mitt Romney at 19 percent, and Rick Santorum at 18 percent. Rounding out the field are Newt Gingrich at 14 percent, Rick Perry at 10 percent, Michele Bachmann at 8 percent, Jon Huntsman at 4 percent, and Buddy Roemer at 2 percent.
For years, Democrats have been on the defensive about the not inconsiderable portion of their party that was hostile to the State of Israel. But the attention and support being given Ron Paul in the Republican presidential race is giving them an opportunity to roast members of the GOP for refusing to treat the libertarian extremist as being beyond the pale of American politics. Thus, it was no surprise to read that the National Jewish Democratic Council condemned Mitt Romney and Rick Santorum for saying they would vote for Paul if he turned out to be the Republican nominee.
But to say this stance is hypocritical is an understatement. Did Jewish Democrats denounce their mainstream candidates for cozying up to racial hucksters and foes of Israel such as Jesse Jackson and Al Sharpton and pretending, as Romney and Santorum now do for Paul, that these persons were preferable to any Republican? Did they denounce their party for treating Jimmy Carter as a respected elder statesman? Of course not. Though it is troubling to see the other GOP candidates treat Paul as if he were a reasonable presidential choice, that is the way the game is played. Democrats are no more righteous in this respect than Republicans.
It has long been apparent that Ron Paul’s isolationist foreign policy has far more to do with the agenda of the anti-American left than anything resembling the ideas conservatives support. But, surprisingly, that confluence of far left and far right may also apply to his domestic concerns. As the Weekly Standard’s John McCormack reports, yesterday Paul threw a bouquet to the Occupy Wall Street movement and even compared it favorably with the Tea Party.
According to Paul, both the Tea Party and the Occupiers are citizens upset with the status quo, seek to overturn the political establishment and have far more in common than they suspect. This is, of course, nonsense. The Tea Party is about individual responsibility (remember, it started over mortgage defaulters having their bills paid by other citizens who pay their way) while Occupy is about entitlement and envy. They only look like the same thing if you are, like Paul, someone who is so obsessed with things like the Federal Reserve and opposing the defense of American interests and values abroad, that you lose perspective about how we can defend the freedom he says he believes in so deeply.
Some of the die-hard Ron Paul supporters have come up with a few imaginative ideas about the origins of the ongoing “anti-Paul smear campaign” (their term for the totally legitimate investigation into Paul’s racist newsletters). Take, for example, this comically delusional “oppo” file on Jamie Kirchick, the journalist who broke the newsletter story in 2008, that’s apparently being emailed to reporters. I won’t give it all away, but the thesis is that Kirchick and Newt Gingrich orchestrated the scandal at the behest of the military industrial complex (there are charts).
But Paul himself may have come up with an even more convoluted theory about why some presidential candidates get bad press. On Feb. 18, 2001, Paul reportedly appeared on the now-defunct Radio Free America, a talk show created by prolific Holocaust denier Willis Carto. Here’s part of the transcript of the show, which was published in Carto’s anti-Semitic newsletter in March of 2001:
Two months ago, just as Herman Cain’s campaign was about to start to unravel, I wrote that perhaps it was Rick Santorum’s turn for a surge. I was, of course, wrong. It was Newt Gingrich’s turn back at the end of October and the beginning of November to take off and to be, at least for a few weeks, something of a frontrunner. But with only days to go before voters in Iowa cast the first actual votes of the caucus/primary season, it looks like Santorum’s moment has arrived. A CNN/Time/ORC poll released on Wednesday shows Santorum surging ahead of his competitors for the social conservative vote into third place among likely caucus goers with 16 percent.
Santorum’s timing is impeccable. With Gingrich collapsing (the poll shows him fading to fourth place with only 14 percent, which is down from 33 percent less than a month ago) and Michele Bachmann’s campaign in chaos as her Iowa chairman defected to Ron Paul yesterday, the former Pennsylvania senator looks to be in excellent shape to win what he called the “conservative primary” over Bachmann and Rick Perry.