Elections

This Is Why You Can't Have Nice Things

(Flickr/Gage Skidmore)
The class of commentators who celebrate politicians outside the two-party system might finally realize their dreams of a third-party candidacy in 2012. These agitators of a middle path—typically white, upper-middle-class elites terrified of the nation's debt but ill at ease with social conservatism—have tried their hand in past years at disrupting the normal political process. In 2008, a group called Unity '08 planned to run a bipartisan presidential ticket but fell apart before the election. This "disempowered center" is back and appears primed for some serious troublemaking in 2012. Americans Elect has qualified for the ballot in 16 states and plans to reach all 50 before November. Founded by *investment banker Peter Ackerman, the group has raised at least $22 million to bankroll this third-party run. Their candidate will be selected through online balloting rather than the normal caucus/primary slog, and the only requirement is that the ticket must be split between a Republican and...

New Results, Same Race

(Flickr/Gage Skidmore)
Rick Santorum might be the media darling of the day after his clean sweep in last night's three elections. But that likely won't mean much for his future electoral prospects. Those three elections did not actually award any delegates—two (Minnesota and Colorado) were nonbinding caucuses, and the Missouri primary has been termed a beauty contest, with the states' delegates actually selected by another vote later this spring. Much like Iowa, these were small-scale contests where Santorum's town halls could win over enough votes to tip the scales. These were also the first contests where the Romney super PAC stayed largely on the sidelines, running few ads. That won't be the case in the remaining two February contests; Arizona and Michigan are large states where TV ads and traditional campaign infrastructure will trump grassroots appeal. After those states vote, the nomination finally ditches its state-by-state progression and becomes a truly national primary on Super Tuesday. Every poll...

Santorum's Missing Ingredient

Despite the fact that Mitt Romney chose not to compete in Missouri and Minnesota—and spent little time in Colorado—his loss last night in all three states, to Rick Santorum, has been spun by the media as a terrible wound for the former Massachusetts governor. MSNBC’s Michael O’Brien described the results as “upsetting” to Romney’s status as the front-runner, while The Washington Post said that it would slow Romney’s march to the nomination. For The New York Times , this race was an “ upset ” that “raised fresh questions about Mitt Romney’s ability to corral conservative support.” The reality, however, is that it did none of those things. This seems to go by the wayside whenever a new “anti-Romney” emerges, but it remains true that Mitt Romney has the most support within the Republican Party, the largest fundraising base, and the largest, most experienced organization. Of the candidates, he’s the most skilled at the process of running for president—which, admittedly, doesn’t say much —...

Minnesota Not So Nice

(Flickr/J. Stephen Conn)
My home state of Minnesota holds its caucus today, and no one really knows how the election will turn out. Public Policy Polling rolled out numbers last night that gave Rick Santorum a decent lead with 33 percent of the vote followed by Mitt Romney at 24 percent, Newt Gingrich at 22 percent, and Ron Paul bringing up the rear with 20 percent. Besides PPP there has been little polling in the state, and tracking numbers on Sunday had all of the candidates clustered together, so it's really anyone's guess how the caucus vote will roll in tonight. It's a nonbinding caucus, so the results themselves won't play a role in delegate math. The narrative tomorrow will be about whether Santorum has capitalized on Gingrich's missteps to gain momentum and reposition himself as the anti-Romney alternative. The more interesting story is the state of the Republican Party in Minnesota—yet another contest in a potential swing state for the general election—giving us a glimpse at how each candidate's...

Follow the Leader

Jamelle Bouie Supporters of former Massachusetts governor Mitt Romney cheer as he takes the stage. The most important thing about conservative activist Erick Erickson’s latest lament for the Republican presidential field isn’t his declaration that he would endorse the “sweet meteor of death” over any of the current candidates. It’s that, in the same segment, he resigned himself to supporting the eventual nominee in the general election. Put another way, liberals who expect conservatives to stay home are fooling themselves. Despite low turnout in the Republican presidential primaries and the overall lack of enthusiasm for Mitt Romney—the GOP’s likely nominee—the simple fact is that when the general election comes, Republicans will energize themselves into voting for the party’s choice. You can already see it, as prominent conservative figures begin to line up behind Romney’s candidacy. Put another way, John Kerry wasn’t a particularly thrilling nominee, but liberals were so angry with...

New Name, Same Old Thing

Flickr/Maitri
Among political scientists, it’s well known that the “independent voter” is a myth . When pressed, the large majority of voters lean Democratic or Republican and tend to vote like partisans, consistently supporting their party of choice. The only difference between a strong partisan and a “weak partisan leaner” is that the latter are reluctant—for whatever reason—to place themselves in one camp or the other. Over the last few years, this myth of the independent voter has taken hold among political journalists and others outside of academia. In its latest report on the 2012 election, centrist Democratic think tank Third Way perpetuates it. Instead of straightforwardly noting that the Obama campaign needs to reach for Democratic leaners, they’ve constructed the “Obama Independent,” which is basically the same thing: In 2008, President Obama won 52% of Independent voters.1 All signs point to an even bigger role for them in 2012; in fact, our recent analysis of voter registration numbers...

Miracle in Vegas

Flickr/Gage Skidmore
On Saturday night, as CNN’s wall-to-wall coverage of the Nevada caucuses was wilting from lack of anything to cover (candidates had yet to appear, vote totals were both low and unchanging, commentators had nothing to say), the network decided to air the one caucus still ongoing: the post-Shabbat Vegas caucus that the state GOP had set up to accommodate those observant Jewish Republicans who couldn’t turn out till the sun set. But the caucus was unbearable. Under caucus rules, the moderator was compelled to call on anyone who raised his or her hand to speak, and an inordinate number of Ron Paulistas, when duly recognized, droned on about the apocalypse to come now that we no longer peg the dollar to gold. (Of course, we ceased such pegging during Richard Nixon’s presidency, so the apocalypse has been a long time comin’.) When one speaker finished, another rose to repeat the previous speaker’s points—so much so that the event’s moderator politely suggested that if prospective speakers...

Conservatives Ditch Corporate Spending After Eastwood Ad

(Flickr/Sachyn)
Conservatives spent Monday being outraged about the Chrysler Super Bowl ad featuring Clint Eastwood. They were upset that the great Western hero and former Republican would highlight Detroit manufacturing, which they argued was an implicit endorsement of Obama's policies. “I was, frankly, offended by it,” Karl Rove said on Fox News. “I'm a huge fan of Clint Eastwood. I thought it was an extremely well-done ad, but it is a sign of what happens when you have Chicago-style politics, and the president of the United States and his political minions are, in essence, using our tax dollars to buy corporate advertising." "The commercial’s theme was more closely informed by Barack Obama’s recent SOTU call for the country to put aside its differences and march to the president’s tune than by the rugged individualism that one usually associates with the star who played Dirty Harry and The Man with No Name," National Review 's Charles C.W. Cooke wrote . I was more ambivalent. It's nice to see...

House Republicans Pretend to Care About Black Women

Mother Jones ’ Nick Baumann reports that House Republicans have turned their attention to abortion rates among African American women: A House GOP memo obtained by Mother Jones argues for a controversial “prenatal discrimination bill” by referring to “black abortions” as distinct from abortions in general and claiming that “abortion is the leading cause of death in the black community.” […] [B]ackers of Franks’ bill, including Rep. Lamar Smith (R-Texas), the powerful chairman of the judiciary committee, have pointing to a supposed epidemic of abortions based on the race of the fetus—an argument that dominates the memo below. More than anything, I find this hilarious; as I said on Twitter , the notion that black women are having abortions because of the race of the fetus is absolutely nonsensical. Even if this were true, however, it’s clear that this doesn’t come from a place of concern. If House Republicans were genuinely worried about the African American abortion rate, they would...

The Birthers Are Back in Town

For most people, the “birther” conspiracy—centered on the belief that Barack Obama wasn’t a natural-born American citizen—ended when the president released his long-form birth certificate to the public last April. Birther claims were always bogus, but the release of the birth certificate was supposed to nail the coffin shut. For a while, it did. According to YouGov’s Adam Berinsky, the proportion of Americans who said that Obama was born in the United States rose from 55 percent before April 2011 to 67 percent afterward. Likewise, for Republicans—the group most likely to believe the conspiracy—the number who said Obama was born a citizen increased from 30 percent to 47 percent. Still low, but a real improvement. Recently, Berinsky polled the question again, focusing on Republicans to see if their attitudes have changed in the ten months since the president released his birth certificate. Far from getting better, Republicans have actually doubled-down on the belief that Obama is...

Mitt Romney: Liberal Economist

(Flickr/Gage Skidmore)
Say you’re a presidential candidate shifting to the general election after your place as the party's nominee seems firmly settled. The entire logic of your candidacy has been built on business experience as the answer to an economic downturn, and you plan to assail the community-organizer president for not understanding how the private sector works. A high rate of unemployment is your friend. Voters will be dissatisfied enough with the general state of their lives that you should easily waltz past the incumbent president without having to do the tricky work of laying out your own vision for the country. Except, after a year of laying the groundwork for this sort of campaign, the economy slowly begins to recover. Things are certainly not in good shape, but the trend lines are beginning to move in the right direction and people are once again hopeful. That's the unenviable situation Mitt Romney has found himself. He is on the verge of dismissing his Republican opponents, and a string of...

Halftime in America

Not only was this Chrysler ad the best of last night, but—as I noted on Twitter during the Super Bowl—it was an excellent pitch for President Obama’s re-election bid: While it’s hard to make a bad advertisement with Clint Eastwood, this would be good even without “ The Man With No Name .” The basic message is straightforward— it’s “halftime in America.” Yes, the country suffered a major setback four years ago, but we have the strength and reserve to press forward on the current path and succeed. There are two things that make this a surrogate ad for the Obama campaign. First, is the idea that we shouldn’t give up now, where “give up” means “elect a Republican president.” Indeed, Obama used similar language in his pre-game interview with NBC News anchor Matt Lauer. “I deserve a second term, but we’re not done,” said Obama. “The key right now is to just make sure that we don’t start turning in a new direction that could throw that progress off.” The second thing, as befitting a car...

The Revolution Will Not Be Televised

AP Photo
This was supposed to be the year of Ron Paul. Sure, no one outside his band of misfit supporters expected Paul to come anywhere close to winning the Republican nomination, but he was on a path to be the spoiler of the race. His baseline support had apparently ticked up since 2008—the rise of the Tea Party brought new love for his career-long opposition to the Federal Reserve—and the Texas congressman had used those intervening four years to develop the most ruthlessly efficient organization combined with an enviable budget of any of the candidates—except for maybe Mitt Romney. His path was set: Paul could consistently finish somewhere around 20 percent in most state primaries, rarely enough to win but still respectable. That's a low enough total to push most candidates out of the race eventually, but Paul is committed to his ideological purity, not the Republican Party. He'd likely carry on past the outcries from the Grand Old Party's establishment. While that might not secure the...

What Happens in Vegas

Flickr/califrayray
The next stop on the national humiliate Newt Gingrich tour lands in Nevada tomorrow when, if recent polls have even an ounce of truth, Mitt Romney will trounce the competition. Every survey this week has Romney up by staggeringly wide margins. Public Policy Polling's latest numbers have Romney doubling Gingrich and gathering support from 50 percent of Nevadans. The Las Vegas Review-Journal' s numbers aren't quite as rosy for the former Massachusetts governor; Romney tops Gingrich by only a 20 percent margin. The polls that give Romney a dominating lead can probably be trusted given his performance in the state last time around. The real question is who finishes in second. All of the factors that make a caucus state hard to accurately poll are the ones that lend themselves to outsize turnout among Paul supporters—organization and enthusiasm. Even though the latest polls put Paul in solid double-digits behind Gingrich, it won't be too surprising if Paul in fact finishes second tomorrow.

A Blockbuster Jobs Report

AP Photo/Madelyn Ruggiero
Earlier this morning, Nate Silver argued that 150,000 was President Obama’s “magic number” for job growth, in part, because 150,000 is the dividing line between a bad report—where the economy isn’t growing fast enough to keep up with population—and a decent one, where it is. If the economy could generate that many jobs on a monthly basis, then Obama is on OK footing for the election in November. Today’s report blows that magic number out of the water. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the economy created a whopping 243,000 jobs in January, with upward movement in nearly every sector of the economy, other than the government (public-sector jobs fell, again, by 14,000). What’s more, job growth for the last two months was revised upward, from 100,000 to 157,000 for November, and from 200,000 to 203,000 for December. Unemployment has fallen to 8.3 percent, the lowest it’s been since February 2009. Indeed, for the first time in a long time, all of the indicators are in the right...

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