Jon Stewart: "When is somebody going to kick Mitt Romney in the balls?"
Former Governor Romney, to the surprise of no one, won the New Hampshire primary election. That is, to answer Jon Stewart's question: "not this week." The results gave Romney a clear victory:
Mitt Romney: 38%
Ron Paul: 24%
Jon Huntsman: 17%
Rick Santorum: 10%
Newt Gingrich: 10%
Rick Perry: 1%
The exact figures may change since the vote count is not yet complete, but the basic storyline will not. Romney did well enough to claim not just a symbolic victory but a real one: with wins in Iowa and New Hampshire, who will stop him from getting the nomination? Mitt Romney had a seven point lead over Newt Gingrich, who was in second place, in South Carolina as of January 8th. (In another recent poll, Romney had a slight lead over Rick Santorum.) Romney now has the money, the establishment backing, two wins, leads in the polls, and "the inevitability argument."
The winner was never in doubt; even in the last few days, other candidates tried to play the expectations game over who would get second place. Instead, the doubts are about other questions: will the results push out any of the remaining candidates? If Ron Paul is not nominated, what will happen? And how much damage will be done, and has been done, to Mitt Romney?
In the last week, and certainly the last few days, the Republican race has seemed increasingly "bitter." Huntsman plans to stay in the race, despite no showing at all in Iowa and a distant third place in New Hampshire. Rick Santorum also says he is staying in the race; he "brushed off" his 10% finish. Rick Perry may not have been impressed by his 1% showing but he also is not impressed with Romney's 38% finish either. Ron Paul is not giving up, either. And, of course, Newt Gingrich is carrying on the war with Romney as well. So, at least as of tonight, everyone is marching on to South Carolina, to wage the war of words again.
It seems likely that Ron Paul will not win the Republican nomination. Still, without doubt, he finished very well in New Hampshire. A score of 24% is not bad at all; in 2008, he only got 8%. Of course, part of the difference is that New Hampshire has an 'open' primary (really, it is technically a 'semi-closed' primary, but that is neither here nor there); in 2008, many of the nonpartisan voters wanted to participate in the Obama-Clinton race. This year, with President Obama as the only real Democratic candidate, more of the independent voters may have decided to participate in the Republican primary. Paul's campaign thinks independent voters are an important part of his coalition; he likely benefited from the absence of an exciting Democratic race.
All the same, 24% in New Hampshire and 21% in Iowa is a real show of support for Ron Paul. This is a real problem for the Republican party; since he is sufficiently different than the other candidates, the party may not be able to hold onto those voters in the general election if he is not on the ticket. He says he is not planning to run as a third party candidate if he does not get the nomination but he will not rule it out either. A split in the Republican party would help the Democrats, as it did in 1912. Even without a Paul third party run, it is not clear what his supporters will do (stay home, vote for President Obama, etc. etc.) in the general election.
Lastly, while Mitt Romney won the primary, his rivals did their best to damage him. The AP reported:
"Romney fashioned his victory despite a sustained assault by rivals eager to undermine his claim as the contender best situated to beat Obama and help reduce the nation's painfully high unemployment. Gingrich led the way, suggesting at one point that Romney, a venture capitalist, was a corporate raider. The front-runner's defenders said the rhetoric was more suitable to a Democratic opponent than a conservative Republican."
Indeed, the attack on Romney's business dealings was a great surprise from Newt Gingrich, once described as a "forceful [advocate] for supply-side economics and the value of free enterprise." Mitt Romney did have a surprising defender, Ron Paul, who said, "[the other Republican candidates] are either just demogoging or they don’t have the vaguest idea how the market works." The attacks against Romney focus on his time at Bain; without bothering too much with the details, the basic storyline (as explained by Ron Paul) is that he bought companies that were going bankrupt and reorganized them (and, in the process, had to fire some people). Nevertheless, the quotations from Romney's republican rivals will undoubtedly show up in campaign ads before November; with none of his rivals dropping out (as of tonight), the Republican race will only generate more of these remarks in the future.
Lastly, the Obama family is the subject of a new book by a White House reporter. The book raises an interesting point: who are these people, that work so hard, to get this insane job? A job where you have to live in a house that is also an office building and a museum. A job where you and your family no longer have any privacy at all. A job where, no matter how hard you try, a large segment of the population will not appreciate your effort just because you happen to disagree. A job where people say incredibly nasty things about you, poke fun at you on late night tv shows, and twist everything you say. A job where periodically people threaten your life. A job that has 24 hours a day responsibilites for at least four, and possibly eight, years. A job where you can no longer just go out and take a walk, or go get a cup of coffee, or spend an afternoon looking around in a bookstore.
So, to get back to Jon Stewart's question: if nobody kicked Mitt Romney in the balls this week, and he goes on to eventually become President --- I'm pretty confident that somewhere along the line, he'll get some pretty hard kicks.
--- Stag Staff
Waging a 'come from behind' effort to get the Republican nomination - that is, using the proportionality rules to hold on to enough delegates to build momentum for later - requires a lot of campaign discipline, which Governor Perry and former Speaker Gingrich apparently do not have. To win a race like that, the 2nd place candidate has to hold on and hope that the other side makes a mistake. Instead, Newt Gingrich and Rick Perry seem to have blundered:
"Yet in slamming Romney as a corporate raider, the two candidates fighting for their party’s right-wing might have done what Romney never seemed capable of: rallying conservatives around the former Massachusetts governor’s campaign."
The Romney campaign continues to roll to the nomination, getting sympathetic articles like this in the National Journal:
"Newt Gingrich’s presidential campaign may be going down in flames, but he’s determined to burn GOP presidential front-runner Mitt Romney as badly as he can before the crash. He could singe his future standing within his own party while he’s at it."
Speaker Gingrich's latest efforts have earned him the name (same article) "Kamikaze Newt." Is this the end of his political career? Democrats likely hope not.
Flashback: November 7th, 1998:
"We are mourning the loss of having Newt to kick around anymore," said one White House adviser who did not want to be named. "Newt Gingrich literally was the best thing the Democratic Party has had going for it since 1994. . . . If anything, there's total depression on my side of the fence."
--- Stag Staff
With the onset of modern "convenience" voting (early in-person, or no-excuse-required mail voting), many voters may actually send in their ballot long before the "election day."
See this (link) table.
--- Stag Staff
Charles Stewart thinks Mitt Romney has his rivals to thank. At this newspaper, we thank Charles Stewart.
A few things:
(1) Governor Rick Perry's brief stint as a populist Democrat caused a top fundraiser to "defect" to former Governor Mitt Romney.
(2) This is a neat article about 2008's election; just when you think it is The Economy, Stupid --- maybe it isn't.
(3) Additionally, one intriguing aspect of politics in the last few days has been the Obama administration reaction to the book: The Obamas (mentioned earlier in this column). While I suppose it is perfectly natural to be curious, and possibly offended, by a book someone writes about you, I am still surprised that the administration line on the book has been so negative. Admittedly, I have not yet read the book, but I heard an interview with the author on NPR and she seemed very sympathetic to the Obamas; it certainly gave me pause to consider how difficult it must be to be both President and a father, or to be First Lady. While she may not have written about them as they would write about themselves, and may have made some errors, she certainly said much nicer things about them than most Republicans do.
In some sense, it might have been better to just say, "We believe in the freedom of speech; I think it is wonderful that this author is participating in American political life." Instead, Mrs. Obama made a political mistake. In the words of a very wise professor of government, "Never Repeat the Allegation." I suppose not every public figure has had the opportunity to take professor Pitney's class, so Mrs. Obama went on national television and said "people have inaccurately tried to portray her as 'some kind of angry black woman.'" She also mentioned that she had not read the book; I think it is fair to say that the author had no such intention. Hearing the interview on NPR, it seemed to me that the author talked about Mrs. Obama as a strong mother, real partner, and a person committed to living as a role model for women everywhere. Now, though, a casual reader of CNN will think (1) the book said she was an "angry black woman" and (2) since she denied it, it must be true. This is a mistake.
Anyway, it must be very hard to be the First Lady; in some ways, it might even be more difficult to be First Lady than it is to be President. It is just unfortunate from the administration point of view that during this week's news cycle the main items have been:
(1) Mitt Romney defeats rivals in New Hampshire.
(2) His Wife reacts to a book.
I am sure that both Mr. and Mrs. President Obama would rather have had another items in the news about them this week: their initiatives, their plans, the good things that they're doing. But, in the strange way of politics, instead we're talking about something an author didn't say about Mrs. Obama.
--- Stag Staff
The story continues: The author of The Obamas went on Face the Nation and said that she did not say Mrs. Obama was "an angry black woman." Story from: The Hill. Here is the link to the interview on CBS with the author: CBS.
This is just a really strange story... but it does make the point that the Obama Administration made an error to send Mrs. Obama out to talk about the book. Since she said something about it, then the author got an interview on Face the Nation, and then the controversy continued.
--- Stag Staff