I love this Santorum ad.
Watch how Amadinejad’s face is replaced with Obama’s for just a split second.
Santorum’s all class.
I love this Santorum ad.
Watch how Amadinejad’s face is replaced with Obama’s for just a split second.
Santorum’s all class.
Last week’s Limbaugh fiasco was the culmination of a month of hell for the Republican party.
It started with the Obama administration’s decision that employers would now be required to provide contraception coverage for women in the health plans they provided. As part of this ruling, there was an exception given to churches, but not to charities or schools affiliated with churches. The Republican presidential candidates quickly jumped on this one, with Newt in the lead, declaring that the Obama Administration had basically “declared war on the Catholic Church.” In reality, it wasn’t as dramatic as Newt made it out to be, since there are similar laws in 28 states and 20 of those states (including Mitt Romney’s Massachusetts) do not exempt Catholic affiliated institutions.
Still, not much penetrates the Republican bubble, and to a party that still contains people who are fighting the social battles that were settled 50 years ago, this seemed like a good issue to start a partisan debate over. As one of their first actions, Darrell Issa’s House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform, convened a panel to discuss the issue. The panel consisted of 6 male clergy members of varying faiths. Democrats requested to let Sandra Fluke, a law student at Georgetown, speak but were told that she would not be able to speak since the hearing was about “religious freedom” not contraception. Democrats were quick to pounce on the ridiculous scene of an all male panel discussing a contraception mandate, with Democratic Senator Patty Murray saying that “it was like stepping into a time machine and going back 50 years.”
The Obama Administration responded with what could only loosely be defined as a “compromise” measure: instead of requiring the church affiliated organizations to negotiate with providers to offer contraception, the health plans themselves would be required to extend this coverage. Surprisingly, this new measure was enough to split the Catholic community, with Sister Keehan of the Catholic Health Organization declaring that it resolved the controversy while the Bishops continued to protest. On an issue that close to 98% of Catholics disagree with the Church’s teaching, this was enough to take the pressure off of the Administration.
But Republicans decided to press their luck and they quickly coalesced around a provision offered by Senator Roy Blunt, who proposed a broadly written provision that would allow any employer to refuse to provide any health coverage for treatments that they had “a moral objection” to. As many pointed out, this amendment would effectively gut the Health Care Law, in theory allowing employers to refuse to provide coverage for any number of things including immunizations, HIV treatment, pre-natal care for unmarried mothers as long as they could claim any moral objection to the treatment.
On February 28, Mitt Romney won the Michigan primary. The very next morning he was asked his position on the Blunt Amendment and responded “I’m not for the bill, but look, the idea of presidential candidates getting into questions about contraception within a relationship between a man and a women, husband and wife, I’m not going there.” It took him about an hour and a half to flip-flop on this one. “Of course I support the Blunt Amendment” Romney said later that day, protesting that he just misunderstood the question.
Blunt added his provision to a Highway Funding Bill and Harry Reid called his bluff, scheduling a day’s worth of debate on the measure. Amazingly, only one Republican senator voted against the Amendment, effectively putting them all (including two who are facing reelection in swing states) on record against public opinion in a debate that was increasingly defined as being about contraception.
To be fair to the Republicans, if you don’t think that the government ought to be mandating any health care, then it follows that you wouldn’t want government to force employers to provide health insurance that somehow violated their morals, but that was becoming a hard position to defend since Republicans have a long history as the party of moral scolds, the Republican Presidential “Front Runner” of the week was on record publically stating his opposition to contraception, and the Virginia Legislature was simultaneously debating whether to require what is referred to as a “trans-vaginal ultrasound” before they could get an abortion in the Commonwealth. Still, despite the public black eye, this might have been a plausible argument.
That is until Rush Limbaugh opened his big fat mouth.
Speaking on his radio show he attacked Sandra Fluke, the Georgetown student who was denied the ability to speak before Congress on the contraception issue. Limbaugh called Fluke a “prostitute” and “a slut” for arguing that women should be allowed access to contraception under their health plans and said that his proposition for her was that they could have access to those contraceptives if they posted videos of themselves having sex online. In a brilliant political move, as the outrage spread, President Obama called Fluke just as she was about to appear on Andrea Mitchell’s show on MSNBC to inquire about her wellbeing and tell her that her parents should be proud of her.
This, of course, was a blatantly political move, but it worked in a number of ways for Obama. First, it cemented the belief of most people that this debate was more about women’s rights than religious freedom. Second, it guaranteed that most prominent Republicans would be given the choice of repudiating Limbaugh (and angering the legion of dittoheads that decide Republican primaries), or put them in the ridiculous position of defending Limbaugh’s statements. Third, it put Obama on the side of every parent of girls (no matter what their gender), and fourth, it once again elevated the misogynist Rush Limbaugh as the face of the Republican party. On Meet the Press last week, Savannah Guthrie suggested that the gesture on the part of the president might have been a “a bit of an oveerreach” but Republican Mark Halperin called it like he saw it: “classic triangulation” and “a brash political move.”
Limbaugh complained last week that Democrats were doing a good job of “pretending they don’t have a sense of humor,” but I think that, if anything, Obama’s move proves that they do.
Rush just doesn’t appreciate that, this time, the joke’s on him.
Here’s Joe Scarborough on how Rick Santorum’s lack of discipline cost him a historic chance at derailing Mitt Romney’s nomination. Although the media will continue to pump up the upcoming contests, Santorum’s loss on Tuesday increasingly make it look as if Mitt Romney will go on to win this thing.
When Santorum should have been talking about his grandfather’s working-class roots, he was talking instead about your wife’s birth control pills. When he should have been connecting with blue-collar Catholics, he was instead insulting their martyred president. And when Mr. Santorum should have been talking about how the grandson of a coal miner graduated college with two advanced degrees, he instead mocked the aspirational idea that we should send more of our kids to college.
Or, as Bill Maher said in a slightly more impolitic manner, “the only thing more popular than Kennedy is fucking and college, and he attacked those too.”
Santorum had something good going. His working class midwest roots, passion and Catholicism were a contrast with Romney’s Ivy League “vulture capitalism” experience and fundamental uncomfortability in his own skin. As a frustrated GOP operative said “All Santorum had to do to win Michigan was turn his Iowa speech into a fucking TV ad and stick to it on the stump.” But Santorum couldn’t keep the focus on the economy, because that’s not really his passion. He’s a rabid cultural conservative at heart and he couldn’t hide it.
If Romney lost in Michigan, all of the political discussion this week would have been on how Romney had shown fatal weakness and how GOP establishment members were plotting to sabotage his candidacy in order to nominate someone else at a brokered convention. Instead, the conversation is about how Santorum could have collapsed so spectacularly, why Romney keeps sabotaging himself with gaffes and flip flops after key wins, and why the GOP is arguing about issues that were settled by the American people over 50 years ago. To be sure, Romney doesn’t like this narrative either, but it sure as hell beats “how do we get rid of this stiff?”
And so, the last non-Romney falls. Certainly, Santorum and Newt may continue to dog Mitt for the months leading up to the convention, but it’s increasingly likely that Mitt will be taking on President Obama in November.
As I write this, we’re just over an hour away from poll closings in the state where Mitt Romney was born and the nation waits to see if he might lose, thereby throwing the race for the Republican nomination wide open. The race is so tight that Nate Silver’s election prediction model has forecasted a tie.
In an attempt to prolong the nomination process, Marcos Molitsas has started Operation Hilarity, which encourages Democrats to cross party lines and vote for Santorum in the Republican primaries. Some labor groups have jumped on Molitsas’ bandwagon, encouraging their members to vote for Santorum and against Romney. In a tight election, this could be the difference.
This Republican campaign has been an absolute disaster for the party, most recently with nominal front runner Mitt Romney averaging close to 3 gaffes a week in his attempt to seem like a regular guy, Rick Santorum continuing to squander the opportunity he has been given by consistently betraying his extreme worldview and President Obama’s approval numbers continuing to increase.
Still, Alex MacGillis sounds a note of caution, pointing out that the emergence of a Republican White Knight (Jeb Bush, Chris Christie, Mitch Daniels or Paul Ryan) would be the worst case scenario for Democrats and that they should just let the wounded Romney win the nomination. Being a glass-half-empty person by nature, I’m sympathetic to this argument, but (for a number of reasons) I just don’t believe that’s going to happen this year and I’m willing to take the chance.
So I’ll be on my couch tonight with a big bowl of popcorn saying “Go Rick, Go.”
Let’s keep this baby going.
Just one of the totally off the wall things that Rick Santorum has said over the past few days, including saying President Obama’s political positions are based on a “phony theology…not a theology based on the Bible” and comparing voting for Democrats in this election cycle to early 1940′s appeasement of Hitler.
Add that to Santorum’s past comments about contraception and women in combat, last week’s House hearing on health care, birth control and religion, where only men were called to testify, the “trans-vaginal ultrasound” bill proposed by the VA legislature, and the comments by Santorum’s Sugar Daddy that women wouldn’t need to worry about contraception if they just kept their legs closed. It almost seems like the GOP is intentionally trying to lose this election.
I’m sure they’ll be fine, though. Women can’t be much more than 50% of the electorate this year, right? As long as they can get close to 100% of the men, they should be fine.
Watching Morning Joe’s Friday morning show, I had a real sense that the last South Carolina debate (and the Newt surge that was accompanying it) was a real turning point in this primary process. I knew that Newt’s surge would make the Republican nomination process drag on, but I also knew that he couldn’t win the nomination and I had assumed that this would mean that Romney would be the eventual nominee by default.
But watching Joe Scarborough talk about how he has been talking to “the most powerful conservative movers and shakers” in the party, and that “every single one I’ve spoken to is trying to figure out a way to get to a brokered convention,” I got the sense that the outcome could be very different. Mark Halperin’s suggestion that (presumably, once this possibility becomes more overt) “we might see favorite sons get on the ballot in order to block anyone from accumulating enough delegates to get a majority” confirmed that this was more than just a possibility and that some party elites were already planning for such an eventuality.
Post-South Carolina’s drubbing of Romney, Nate Silver has some musings on whether this year will break the “momentum of early state victories propels the winner to victory” pattern. Of course, political junkies speculate on this possibility almost every time there is a contested primary process, but Silver draws on the work of Rhodes Cook and argues that it is not inconceivable for this race to break the mold of previous races.
Romney just had a horrible twelve days, and it’s certainly possible that he bounces back in Florida, regains his momentum and makes all this discussion seem quaint in a few months. But it’s also possible that the wounds he sustained over the past few weeks may increasingly make him look like a fatally flawed candidate. This, combined with conservative dislike of him, could be enough to push Tea Party folks to risk it all in order to deny him the nomination. This is, after all, the party that lost the Senate in 2010 by nominating people like Sharron Angle, Christine O’ Donnell, John Raese and Ken Buck.
As has been the case for every early state to date, we’ll watch the next primary for signs of what’s to come. As Silver notes, “South Carolina alone is not enough to be paradigm-breaking. But if (Gingrich) follows it with a win in Florida, all bets are off.”
Here are just a few of the things that happened in GOP Presidential Politics this week.
Facing an urgent need to rally around a candidate other than Romney, a group of social conservative evangelical leaders met in Texas and decided to endorse Rick Santorum. They did this just as Republican voters in South Carolina started to rally around Newt Gingrich as the alternative to Romney, effectively affirming the Radical Right’s marginal status in a GOP process that always gives lip service to their cause, but never lets their looney candidates get elected.
On Monday, John Huntsman dropped out of the race and endorsed Mitt Romney, leading most people to ask “Is John Huntsman still running for president?” Mitt Romney was particularly grateful for the endorsement and expressed that gratitude by largely ignoring his former rivals endorsement, acknowledging it only with a written statement released by his campaign in the afternoon.
Later that night, Gingrich stole the show at the South Carolina debate, with his condescending response to Juan Williams’ questions about Newt’s outrageously racially charged statements on food stamps and black people’s work ethics. The exchange brought condemnation from familiar liberal quarters, but the rabid South Carolina crowd ate it up with a great big spoon, giving Newt an extended standing ovation. Newt and the other candidates hammered away at Romney, who gave halting answers to questions on topics ranging from his tax returns to his hunting habits. Under pressure, Romney agreed that he would release his returns in April.
This, in turn, led to another in a series of stumbles from Romney on Tuesday when he explained that his effective tax rate was “closer to the 15% rate” because most of it came from capital gains.
It’s probably closer to the 15 percent rate than anything. For the past 10 years, my income comes overwhelmingly from investments made in the past, rather than ordinary income or earned annual income. I got a little bit of income from my book, but I gave that all away. Then, I get speakers fees from time to time, but not very much.
That “not very much” number turned out to be $374,000, which-if you’re keeping score at home is about 9 times what the median South Carolinian makes a year.
On the same day, Sarah Palin said on Fox News that, if she were voting in South Carolina, she would vote for Newt, in order to “keep this thing going,” since four years ago we made a mistake with having a candidate “that was not vetted to the degree he should have been” (I swear to God she said that).
But in a GOP primary process that has been entertaining (if nothing else) today was what Politico called the campaign’s wildest day. This morning, Rick Perry announced that he was suspending his campaign and endorsing Newt. Soon after this news broke, it was revealed that Newt’s 2nd ex-wife Marianne told ABC News that when Newt told her of his affair with Callista (whom he eventually married) he had requested an “open marriage” so that he could continue to keep Callista as a mistress while he was married to Marianne. Also, this morning it was announced that Rick Santorum actually won the Iowa Caucuses and Mitt Romney graciously called him (more than two weeks later) to concede the election.
John King apparently thought it would be a good idea to start the debate this evening with a question about Newt’s “open marriage” proposal and Newt once again used the “blame the media” argument that always works so well with GOP audiences, and again led to a standing ovation from the audience. Most pundits agreed that Rick Santorum out-debated Gingrich, but I am willing to bet that 90% of newscasts across America led with Newt getting a standing ovation for taking yet another debate moderator to the woodshed.
Within a half hour after the debate ended, Newt had surged from a 40% favorite to win the South Carolina Primary to a 65% favorite on Intrade and Nate Silver’s South Carolina forecast now shows Newt pulling even with Romney and ranks him as a 62% favorite to win South Carolina.
Not a bad week at all for the former Speaker, but more importantly, a terrible week for the presumptive nominee.
Fresh from his victories in Iowa and New Hampshire, Mitt Romney now heads to South Carolina, which will either have the effect of effectively wrapping up the nomination for him, or presaging a long, drawn out primary process.
South Carolina has a deserved reputation as the most brutal states in the Republican presidential nominating process and could potentially pose serious problems for Mitt Romney. As Steve Kornacki notes:
On paper, the state embodies all of the demographic realities and intraparty dynamics that have made him such a tough sell to the party base. If Romney’s Mormonism really is a deal-breaker with the religious right, we will find out. About 60 percent of the state’s GOP primary universe is composed of evangelical Christians, a group that Romney has struggled with in both of his presidential campaigns. The state is also the unofficial capital of Tea Party Republicanism, with its emphasis on ideological purity and intense suspicion of the party establishment. Romney, with his economically moderate past and reputation as the “next in line” guy, reeks of the type of Republican South Carolina conservatives turned on in 2010. His Yankee roots surely don’t help, either. No wonder Romney won just 15 percent in the state in 2008 — by far his worst showing in any early contest that year.
Still, perhaps more important for the tenor of the campaign in South Carolina is the desperation of his rivals. Rick Perry and Newt Gingrich know that this could be their last stand, and despite growing unease about their tactics among national Republican politicians, have continued to make Romney’s tenure at Bain Capital a top topic on the campaign trail. Newt is also out with the commercial above (did I mention abortion?) appealing to social conservatives by bringing up Romney’s flip flopping on the Holy Grail of Christian conservative politics, abortion rights.
The latest polls show Mitt Romney leading a fractious GOP field in South Carolina, and if he wins decisively, it will be increasingly difficult for his rivals to continue their campaigns. Gingrich, meanwhile, is hoping he can capitalize on a potential Romney stumble in South Carolina. If Romney loses, it will allow Gingrich to argue that he has a glass jaw and can’t be trusted to take on Obama.
Fasten your seatbelts, folks.
Here’s Nate Silver on how Hunstman has the momentum, but may lack the time to capitalize on it.
I loved this exchange on Morning Joe. If you go to the last five minutes you can watch Harold Ford comparing Hunstman to a football player who looks great on paper, but just can’t keep up with the other players at the combine. Also, Joe Scarborough commenting on Huntsman unfathomable decision to reply in Chinese when challenged by Romney for being too soft on China…
Because there’s nothing that gets the Republican base as fired up as speaking Mandarin….
I almost fell out of my chair watching that one.
Mika Brezinski is quick to defend Huntsman, but Scarborough points out that “Ron Paul could explain the details of delivering a baby, but you don’t want him to so that on the stage…”
I have been impresssed by Huntsman at times, but he seems a bit too tepid for a Republican party that likes their tea hot and it’s hard to hard to see where Huntsman goes next if he clocks a 2nd place finish in New Hampshire. That being said, if his father continues to write checks, he may have the ability to stick around for a little while.