Similar to Rick Perry’s embarrasing performance last week, this is actually difficult to watch.
This guy’s in way over his head.
Similar to Rick Perry’s embarrasing performance last week, this is actually difficult to watch.
This guy’s in way over his head.
As has been widely reported in the media today, six months after I (along with the rest of the country) wrote him off, Newt Gingrich is having some success positioning himself as the latest “Not Mitt Romney” candidate.
As Nate Silver showed last week, over the last two months, Gingrich’s trend lines are the best in the Republican field, and while he still trails both Cain and Romney, he is clearly on the upswing while Cain and Romney seem to be fading a little. Meanwhile a raft of new polling released in the past few days confirms that surge, with one poll even showing Newt leading the Republican field.
I have to admit that I didn’t watch the foreign policy debate on Saturday. I watched Rick Perry’s self-immolation on Wednesday and I just couldn’t bear to watch any more on Saturday. Like most, I think Perry’s meltdown marks the death knell of his already faltering campaign.
Meanwhile, Herman Cain continued to do what he has done in every debate, which is to repeat “NINE-NINE-NINE” at every possible turn. I’m no expert at predicting how Republicans judge candidates, but I think it is becoming more and more evident that, in Cain’s case, the Emperor Wears No Clothes. And while constantly repeating “NINE-NINE-NINE” might be a great way of getting attention, at some point voters are going to expect you to take it to the next level. It’s not clear to me that Cain has a next level. As Mike Murphy tweeted after the foreign policy debate, and Mark Halperin seconded, Cain’s answers always seem to be a mile wide and an inch deep.
What’s interesting about a switch to Newt is that, as Mark Halperin pointed out last week, Gingrich may be the person most likely to become the alternative to Romney, but he’s also the least likely to beat Romney. Gingrich brings a treasure trove of political liabilities to the presidential race. And given that only about 5% of GOP voters in a recent poll rated Gingrich as the most likely to beat Barack Obama, the swing to Gingrich seems to indicate that Republicans might be done searching for a viable alternative to Romney and are now just looking for a credible protest vote to cast.
The bottom line is that, despite Mitt’s yearlong stagnation in the polls and the fact that he’s the last choice of so many conservative Republicans, the paucity of credible alternatives puts him in a pretty good position. The self inflicted wounds of Perry and Cain over the past few weeks have just amplified this advantage.
All in all, a pretty good couple of weeks for the Romney camp.
I often riff of the arguments I have with my conservative uncle in this space, but sometimes I’ll write an e-mail to him that can almost be posted in it’s entirety.
This one is from a conversation about Obama’s re-election prospects and whether or not the right track/wrong track numbers doom him. Also, my uncle asked the question about why I was making fun of Herman Cain in my last post on the Republican nomination process and made some comment about how much more qualified Cain was to be president than Obama:
My response (only slightly edited) follows:
By that same rationale, do you think that, since the Teabagger Congress is polling at 9% approval (worse than Pelosi!) they will also be “soundly defeated”?
It’s not unthinkable (and how cool would it be to have Nancy sitting back in that seat?)
But I’m sure those 91% of people just don’t understand that these guys are the righteous ones and ignoring the economy, dismantling Medicare and shutting down the government at every turn is the patriotic thing to do. After all, the economy can recover after Obama is out. The “1st priority” now is to make sure that Obama’s not reelected.
Count me as one of the 75% that thinks things are going in the “wrong direction.” A radical bunch of reactionaries have taken control of one house of Congress and the filibuster has effectively neutered the “Democratic controlled” Senate. As China continues to invest in the long term growth of their economy, Republicans insist that any investment in America that is funded by the government (because corporations don’t build bridges or dams) is “giving away money to Obama’s cronies” (sound familiar?)
Taxes are lower than they’ve been in 50 years, but raising taxes in order to balance the budget is a non-starter for the Tea Bag Congress that’s exercises veto power over all legislation. All of the balancing of the budget has to be cuts in government (but not including defense, cause wars and occupying countries we already defeated in war is apparently free). Bank bailouts are not allowed, but either is getting rid of the conditions that caused those bailouts (you’ll have to explain that one).
Meanwhile, the top 1% increased their wealth by 275% in the past 40 years and the bottom 20% increased theirs by 18%. I’m sure it will all trickle down eventually, but…
The Wrong Track is right and unfortunately, there’s very little that Willard M. Romney can do about that.
Obama’s in trouble now, but don’t count him out. Romney better offer more than what the Republican Congress has offered (which might not be that hard, since that is basically nothing) if he wants that job.
Regarding Herman Cain:
As (someone who has talked at length) about the importance of defending America, you wanna elect a guy who doesn’t know what a neo-conservative is? Whether he is a neo-conservative or not, don’t you think it’s important that he understands the fundamental debate over foreign policy that the country has engaged in over the past 10 years?
On abortion, he was coached to say that he was “absolutely pro-life,” but he apparently doesn’t understand what that means because he says that “it’s a woman’s choice.” Again, whether he’s pro-life or not isn’t the point. But if you are pro-life, then by definition, the only choice women have is pregnancy or jail. It’s not their choice. The government’s chooses. And it is strange that you would run for President of the United States and not understand the most divisive social issue in this country in the past 40 years.
Assuming that someone with his experience is not dumb, the only conclusion is that he is intellectually lazy. So lazy that he hasn’t even brushed up on the basic issues that we have been debating as a society for the past decades. These issues are not tricky, not like the president of Uz-becki-becki-becki-stan (another awesome Cain-ism). They are the the basic issues we have been debating for the past presidential elections.
You had a nice one on the Chauncey Gardiner deal, but Cain’s not much different. He started this thing to sell some books and make some money and suddenly he finds himself polling first. But instead of ramping up his organization in Iowa, New Hampshire and South Carolina, he’s in Alabama and Tennessee selling his book.
He doesn’t seem to want to be president that much, but if you guys are dumb enough to nominate him, I’ll be happy to help Barack Obama kick the crap out of him in the General Election.
By the way, all of that stuff about Obama being “unqualified” might have worked four years ago, but Obama’s been the president for 3 years, and the only thing that prepares you to be president is…being president… so you can throw that argument out the window. By election time, he’ll have been a US Senator for 4 years and the President Of The United States for 4 years. That makes him vastly more “qualified” to be the president than anyone of those yahoos running on the Republican side.
Except maybe Michele Bachmann.
That’s the lady I want with her finger on the button.
A few weeks ago, when Chris Christie dropped out of the Republican race for President and endorsed Mitt Romney, I was going to write a post called “Republicans Fall in Line,” talking up how the Republicans, true to form, were finally falling in line behind the front runner. Two weeks later, it’s not clear that this is not what’s happening. Despite the fact that the Republican establishment increasingly thinks Romney is the best candidate to take on Obama, the Republican electorate hasn’t got the message. And if there is a main theme of this contest it’s this one: Republican voters don’t like Mitt Romney and they’re not yet ready to fall in line behind him.
This repeating pattern has to be frustrating for Romney: challengers keep emerging, then fading away, and then, just when Romney thinks he’s gaining some momentum, someone else steps up. For the past…well, really…four years, the media and the base were focused on Sarah Palin as the likely challenger to Romney, but it became increasingly evident that she was just taking advantage of the media’s fascination with her to increase her brand image and make more money. Michele Bachmann looked like she was going to grab the mantle of “real conservative” against Romney’s moderate conservatism when she won the Iowa Straw poll, but then Republicans took a closer look at her, realized she was crazy and moved on. Perry was the next to step up, but his inability to form a coherent sentence proved an impediment to the nomination. The last domino seemed to have fallen when Chris Christie officially announced that he wasn’t running and endorsed Romney a few days later.
The next round of polling brought yet another surprise: pizza magnate Herman Cain surged ahead of Romney. Cain is an interesting candidate. He has a very impressive resume: humble beginnings, Masters Degree in Mathematics, worked for the Navy as a ballistic missile analyst, Vice President of Pillsbury, President of Godfather’s Pizza Chain, Chairman of National Restaurant Association, Kansas City Federal Reserve President(!). After a career as a business executive and running a lobbying organization, Cain joined up with liberal boogeymen the Koch brothers in 2005 and ran their Americans for Prosperity organization, which eventually provided significant funding and organization for the Tea Party Movement.
If you haven’t been around a TV lately, Cain has been hawking his “9-9-9″ tax plan which basically abolishes the current income, corporate, social security and Medicare tax structure and replaces it with a 9% income tax, a 9% corporate tax and a 9% national sales tax. Cain never misses an opportunity to promote the plan and has been such a shameless salesman for his plan that Republican challenger John Huntsman quipped that he thought it was the price of a pizza.
The main problem with the 9-9-9 plan is what’s actually in it. Under the original plan proposed by Herman Cain, 84% of Americans would receive a tax increase. Cain announced recent changes in his plans under which people in areas of high poverty would receive exemptions from the tax increases he is proposing for the rest of America, but this still leaves most people in the beleaguered middle class getting hit with new tax increases. To top it off, Cain provides a new revenue source for the Federal Government, which actually isn’t such a bad idea, but which Republicans see as anathema, citing the history of the income tax itself, which started as a 7% levy on the top bracket in 1913 and five years later at the height of World War I turned into a 77% tax.
As Cain has received more media scrutiny he has begun to stumble as well. In what can perhaps best be described as a terrible, horrible, no good, very bad week, Cain stumbled in a number of interviews last weekend. On Meet the Press, he struggled to explain the basic questions about the net sales tax costs people would be paying under his plan, didn’t seem to understand the term neo-con, and disavowed as “a joke” a statement he had made just the day before about putting an electrified fence at the border. Soon after, this cringeworthy interaction between John Stossel and Cain emerged, where he gives such a convoluted explanation of his position on abortion that he leaves his co-panelist open mouthed on the set next to him. I still can’t tell what Cain’s position is, but I’m pretty sure he’s pro-choice, even if he doesn’t say so officially.
On ABC’s This Week, George Will gave an answer to the question that a lot of pundits who are paying close attention to the race have asked: is Cain actually running for President or is he just trying to sell more books? Will’s response was that
we’re having a kind of Andy Warhol primary where everybody is leader for 15 minutes and Cain’s turn today but it’s not clear that Cain has staying power. He’s not running for president, sort of strolling for president without an infrastructure. It’s pretty and cute and nice but whether or not it works we can be doubtful.
In fact, political pundits have noticed that Cain seems more interested in promoting his book than in winning the Republican nomination, noting that he hasn’t been to Iowa since August while the other candidates are blanketing the state.
With apologies to Hagen Dazs Black Walnut, it is clear that Herman Cain is just the latest guy in this field to benefit from not being Mitt Romney. The only question I have is who will the flavor of next month be, Rick Santorum?
Perhaps I shouldn’t be making any predictions (I was sure it would be Hillary vs. Giuliani in 2008), but I’m pretty positive Romney gets the nomination. Republicans almost always fall in line, but if last week’s debate was any indication, this could be an ugly process for Romney. The other candidates smell blood in the water and they hammered Romney last week. Meanwhile, Perry looks dead in the water, but his campaign is sitting on $15 million at last count and he could still win some primaries, especially throughout the South where he has natural advantages. Bachmann is trying to re-caputre her former spot as most likely challenger and Santorum, who some say landed the best shots on Romney last week, feels like it’s his turn to be the not-Romney candidate. Meanwhile, Romney has nothing but nice things to say about Cain, because he feels confident in a two way race against him.
I thought Romney turned in another good debate performance last week, but Perry did get under his skin enough for him to come up with what may be the line of the campaign so far “I can’t have illegals working on my property…I’m running for president for Pete’s sake!” Even if Romney continues to turn in good debate performances, an extended campaign means that he will increasingly be pulled to extreme positions as the process continues, and more contentious debates give him more chances to stumble, making him a weaker general election candidate.
Obama’s gonna need a lot more than that to win re-election, but a Republican electorate so against voting for Romney that they put Herman Cain in first place is a good start.
Caught the Republican a couple of nights ago and a fair amount of commentary on it in the last few days.
Aside from all the nutty shit that was said, here’s a few quick takes on the candidates and their individual performances:
If you watched cable news in the last two days, you know that Tim Pawlenty fell flat on his face Monday night. As is usually the case, the news out of these debates isn’t what the candidates had to say, but the atmospherics. Pawlenty came out strong against Romney on Fox News Sunday, calling Obamacare “Obamneycare” in an interview, but demurred when asked to repeat the taunt to Romney’s face at the debate.
I get the general idea: it’s the first debate in New Hampshire, on Romney’s turf, he didn’t want to introduce himself to the country by savaging Romney, etc. But if you have this great line, why would you preview it on Sunday if you weren’t willing to use it on Tuesday? And even if you didn’t want to use it, you could just pivot and say: Mitt Romney’s going to need to explain to the American people over the next 17 months why he was in favor of a plan that Obamacare was based on and an individual mandate that is anathema to so many people on the Right. By talking tough on Sunday, but then being polite on Tuesday, Pawlenty looked mealy mouthed and innefectual.
So far, Laurence O’ Donnell had the best explanation I’ve heard for Pawlenty’s strategy: he’s already angling for the Veepstakes and he doesn’t want a bunch of “voodoo economics” YouTube video’s floating around out there.
Whatever the reason, Pawlenty missed a great opportunity to show that he is a viable alternative to Romney in a party that is clearly looking for one.
Michelle Bachmann hit the big time this week. Just two and a half years ago, she was a relatively unknown Congresswoman until she suggested on Hardball that there should be a media “expose” into people (like Barack Obama) who were serving in the House and Senate to see how many were “pro-America and how many were anti-America.”
Matt Taibbi had the best line on Bachmann I’ve heard, when he said that that he saw a man houghing glue out of a paper bag on the subway who was making more sense than Michelle Bachmann.
But cute as a button, paranoid as hell, and dumb as rocks is a recipe for success in the Obama-Age Republican party. Last year, Michelle Bachmann raised $13 million dollars, more than any Congressman, including Boehner. Bachmann now somehow finds herself in the unlikely position of the only quasi-viable wingnut social conservative that can evoke passion in the race.
Herman Cain & Newt Gingrich
There’s nothing like watching a member of one of the most historically discriminated against social groups explain how it’s okay to discriminate against another group of people. Cain twisted himself into a rhetorical pretzel trying to explain why he previously said that Muslims need not apply for positions in his administration.
Cain said that he was not talking about all Muslims: “We have peaceful Muslims, and then you have militant Muslims. I was thinking about the ones that are trying to kill us.”
Understandably wanting to change the subject, Cain pivoted to something he knew would get a hand out of the Republican crowd: “Secondly,” Cain said “ I do not believe in Sharia law in American courts. I believe in American laws in American courts, period.”
Nice try Herman, but the question was whether you would be confortable with a Muslim in your cabinet or as a federal judge, not whether you would be comfortable with appointing a terrorist intent on harming America to your cabinet.
It fell to Mitt Romney to be the reasonable one in the exchange:
Well, first of all, of course, we’re not going to have Sharia law applied in U.S. courts. That’s never going to happen. We have a Constitution and we follow the law. No, I think we recognize that the people of all faiths are welcome in this country. Our nation was founded on a principal of religious tolerance. That’s in fact why some of the early patriots came to this country and we treat people with respect regardless of their religious persuasion.
But Newt Gingrich doubled down on Cain’s Islamophobia. he interrupted the debate to interject:
…Now, I just want to go out on a limb here. I’m in favor of saying to people, if you’re not prepared to be loyal to the United States, you will not serve in my administration, period.
Way to take a stand, Newt.
Then he took it a step further, channeling Joseph McCarthy and comparing Muslims to Nazis and Communists:
We did this in dealing with the Nazis. We did this in dealing with the Communists. And it was controversial both times and both times we discovered after a while, you know, there are some genuinely bad people who would like to infiltrate our country. And we have got to have the guts to stand up and say, ‘No.’
You’re all class, Newt.
Where’s Rudy Guiliani when you need him?
The “father” of the Tea Party, Paul probably has more convictions than anyone up there, but in 2008 he was just another guy who Rudy used to tee off on the fact that he was the Mayor of New York during 9-11. This was Paul’s punishment for suggesting that our foreign policy might have had something to do with 9-11.
Paul was up to his old tricks again on Monday, somehow finding a reason to turn every question into a rant about the Federal Reserve and the Gold Standard.
Seriously, what is this guy doing up there?
Rick, give us a call when Googling your last name turns up a hit on your presidential race before it turns up a hit on a disgusting gay sex reference.
I think that’s called Karma.
The guy who emerges smiling from this debate has to be Mitt Romney. Pawlenty falling on his face helped him out immensely. The issue is not that many people were watching, it’s that the people who were are so important to setting perceptions and deciding who gets early cash.
The party is hungering for a viable candidate who can hold Romney accountable for being a liberal Republican before he was a conservative Republican, but as I watched the debate, I realized that there wasn’t one up there. Huntsman will get in there next week, but it’s hard to see the seemingly reasonable guy getting the nomination of this party.
If Romney was the winner of this one, a close second was a guy who wasn’t even there: Texas Governor Rick Perry. I can’t imagine the country electing another Republican Texas Governor as president, but when the closest thing to a viable candidate that can excite social and fiscal conservatives is Michelle Bachmann, that’s a clear sign that there’s an opening for another candidate.
If Perry doesn’t get in, Romney has a clear path to the nomination. But more than the quality of the candidates, what Romney really has going for him is history. As the saying goes, “Democrats fall in love, Republicans fall in line.” Nowhere is this more true than in presidential politics. From 1968 to present day, with the exception of George W. Bush (the son of a president), the Republican nominee has been either the incumbent, a former Vice President or the runner up in the last election. Romney knows that, and a key part of his strategy toward the end of the 2008 nominating process was to establish himself as the heir apparent for the 2012 Republican nomination. Essentially his 2008 concession speech at CPAC was the kickoff for his 2012 campaign.
Of course there’s a long way to go til November 2012, but if past is prologue, conservatives will hold their nose and we’ll be looking at Romney vs Obama in 2012.