Romney: 91.3% chance of winning Florida on Intrade

The debate went well for Romney. He’s up on Intrade to 91.3% at the time of writing.

Gingrich needed a comeback coming into this debate and he didn’t get one. Tuesday may be a long ways away, but it’s unclear to me what could shake Romney at this point, or propel Gingrich the seven or eight points he needs for the win.

Read my live blog and post-blog musings (plus music and beer!) here.

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Live-Blogging The Jacksonville Debate (Jan. 26 2012)

Live blog of the CNN Jacksonville debate is below in reverse chronological order. Excuse the time-stamps. I’m blogging this from Arizona.

Final thoughts.

This was a boring debate for the most part. No Newt Gingrich feasting on the moderator’s flesh. No pivotal moments where races are won or lost.

Fundamentally, Romney was much better than we’ve seen him in some time. He started out a little sketchy, but rallied early on and got plenty of kidney punches in at Newt.

Both Ron Paul and Rick Santorum sounded more sincere than either Newt Gingrich or Mitt Romney. Of course I find most of the things Santorum actually says fairly repulsive, while I find Ron Paul to be a continued breath of fresh air and sanity. Yes, I find most of what Paul says thousands of times saner than what his GOP rivals say. And Paul says a lot of crazy things.

I think he had a “sparkly” performance tonight, as Andrew Sullivan noted during his live-blog. But it’s just not enough. Paul talks about civil liberties, peace, and other issues near and dear to my heart. But the American electorate just isn’t on the same page, and the GOP is on a different planet.

I think if anything, this debate goes to Romney, possibly even shoring up his victory here. Newt wasn’t able to pull off the same red-meat-magic he performed in South Carolina. He seemed defensive, petulant, and insincere. His attempts to preemptively bury the hatchet with Romney and try to team up on The Media fell flat on their face, and Romney was ready and waiting to pounce – which he did quite adeptly.

Santorum may as well bow out. He did fine but he has no momentum. Sticking around is a mistake. Ron Paul has a national network and even if he never leads the pack he can make it for the long haul – which is good, because he can keep the conversations he’s started going. A one-on-one debate with Romney in Virginia could be very interesting. If Newt loses Florida, he may as well stay in for one or two more races I think, but it’s not going to be easy after a Florida loss.

Romney is probably all grins right now. A much-needed comeback for the former governor, if not anything particularly inspiring.

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7:59 PM. (Arizona time.) If this was the drinking game I would have had like four or five “fundamental” shots and at least a couple more “Reagan” shots. I’ll need to think of better rules.

The debate is over. My closing thoughts in a moment.

7:57 PM. Suddenly this leaped into my head:

7:54 PM. My timestamps are weird because I’m blogging from Arizona. I’m not going to transpose.

Nice to hear Ron Paul talk about civil liberties a bit. But civil liberties won’t win presidencies, unfortunately. Maybe some day, if we can work together toward that goal.

Romney does seem smooth tonight. Much more polished and maybe even a little personable. But his answer is rambling here on what makes him the better candidate to take on Obama.

7:52 PM. Why doesn’t CNN have ads online between breaks? Missed opportunity.

7:49 PM. I took a ten minute break to tell a story to my daughter before bedtime. Moments like this – telling a story to a four and a half year old in between segments of a Republican debate – remind me what America is really about. It’s not about all of this. It’s not about politics at all. It isn’t about all the things that make all these people so damn angry at liberals or conservatives or whatever. It isn’t even about America.

I totally lost my train of thought here, but you get my point hopefully. We fret about this stuff because it’s like a Soap Opera to us now. So much of our entertainment is derived from politics, even if that entertainment is just to make us feel angry. To feel something.

7:48 PM. Just got back. Thought that Santorum just called the Constitution the “Howl” of America. I have seen the greatest mind of my generation write a long document about the rights of individuals…

7:38 PM. The CNN plant in the audience asks about Israel-Palestine. (Okay, I kid, but c’mon.)

I have a hard time imaging any of these guys negotiating peace in the Middle East. Ron Paul holds views on the region closest to my own, but of course Ron Paul believes we have no business negotiating peace.

Newt is asked about his “invented people” remark and doesn’t really back down. They were “Arab” before he said. Does he honestly not understand what the definition of “Arab” is? Seriously? We are given platitudes about “mutual prosperity” and digs at the political leadership there. I’m waiting for Newt to attack the Israeli media next.

Newt wants to move the embassy to Jerusalem? And Ron Paul is not given a turn.

7:36 PM. “When Fidel Castro leaves this planet…” We demonize our political opponents. But the problems in Cuba go much deeper than Castro. The country won’t miraculously change when Castro is flung to the fiery depths of hell. We need to work to bring these so-called rogue nations into the global economy.

Newt Gingrich is speaking again, but I find him dreadfully dull tonight.

7:34 PM. Ron Paul isn’t going to win this race. More importantly, Ron Paul’s message is going to fall on too many deaf ears. On Cuba, Paul is once again 180 degrees away from his opponents. Common sense on better relationships with Cuba, trade with Cuba, openness. No “jihadist under the bed every night.” I wish Ron Paul could just keep running for president.

Romney wants to avoid Ron Paul’s answer even when pressed by Blitzer. Let’s attack Obama’s policy instead! He will, in the process, ignore Obama’s actual record on this.

7:31 PM. Gingrich is on the defense. Whining and squirming.

Nob Akimoto says my beer blogging is more interesting than the debate. Next time we’ll do a drunk blog. Every time anyone says “fundamentally” take a drink. Every time someone says “Reagan” take a drink. Every time someone says “freedom” take a drink. We’ll come up with more rules.

We’re on to Cuba again now. It’s funny to hear so many people who pretend to advocate free trade so badly misunderstand the problems with our trade policy toward Cuba.

7:28 PM. A question on the Reagan mantle. Like we have to actually put Reagan in the questions. Come on Wolf, they’ll insert Reagan all on their own. Romney manages to be both humble and talk himself up at the same time. He’s got this whole job interview thing down.

7:24 PM. Oh goodness, I thought Newt was going to say “having gotten to know them I think all three of my wives would be great first ladies” but of course he was saying all the wives of the other candidates.

I get the feeling that this debate, unless it changes course very soon, will not change the debate in a, ahem, fundamental way; will not alter the course of the race at all except that Romney may be able to win this thing after all. Gingrich just isn’t doing his thing.

Santorum has a nice little smile when talking about his wife. He sounds more sincere than Romney or Gingrich. He and Paul are certainly more authentic than the other two. Interesting that the least sincere of the candidates is the front-runner, and the second least sincere is nipping at his heals. Ah democracy.

7:23 PM. What a dumb question. We’re asking the candidates to defend their wives? This is all fine for three of the candidates, but if Gingrich answers wrong Callista will eat his heart with a spoon.

7:21 PM. Founders Dirty Bastard Scotch Style Ale. Malty. I’m on a big hops kick so the IPA is a little better in my book. But this is still a very tasty beer.

7:17 PM. Ron Paul doesn’t name names. He wants people to understand monetary policy. He says Hispanic community should understand a non-interventionist foreign policy. Oh good it’s a break. Beer me.

7:16 PM. Rick Santorum kisses Marco Rubio’s ass from a distance. A very impressive ass-kissing if I do say so myself. What did Newt say? I wasn’t listening. Romney is ready for the answer, naming just about every Hispanic Republican in elected office in America. At least Republicans.

7:12 PM. This:

Wolf wants to move on. Santorum wants to hit Romney in the face. Romney wants to smirk. Ron Paul chuckles. He’s sort taking on a prankster shape tonight – almost Puck-ish. He’s the only one who seems like he’s having any fun, that’s for sure.

7:09 PM. I need that second beer in a fundamental and profound way. Going across the house to get the beer may be a grandiose vision that will cost me a minute or two of this riveting debate. But I am fundamentally in favor of getting a top-down beer that I can drink from the bottom-up. Or something.

7:08 PM. Damnit. The beer is gone. The fridge is all the way across the house. What can the candidates do for me to help me get my beer? Eh? Eh?

7:02 PM. Audience member asks about lack of healthcare. Ron Paul shows once again that he understands that the employer-insurance problem, but he only understand part of the problem with healthcare. Yes, subsidies (among many other factors) lead to increased healthcare costs. But what about the other factors? There are other market problems – such as a lack of price transparency – but there’s also the fact that we have a lot more medical care than we used to have back in Paul’s younger days. It would be more expensive regardless. Neither Paul or Gingrich has a good answer on how to actually get to a point where people can afford insurance on their own.

Romney is in uncomfortable territory, but he’s right so far about employer-based insurance coverage. But again, how do we get individuals on their own insurance plans?  If we have any pre-existing conditions we can’t get coverage. If we’re too old, too sick, too poor, we can’t get health insurance. Government may have made a hash out of healthcare but there isn’t a clear market way back.

6:59 PM. Roland Dodds in the comments: “I do love that in an election focused on jobs and the economy, we have now spent 5 minutes on moon colonies. Says a lot about the Republican Party.”

My thoughts exactly.

6:58 PM. Romney is talking about firing people again. This must be a favorite of his. Careful, Mitt, you may call back Donald Trump from the dead…

6:53 PM. Newt talks about the inefficiency of NASA. Wants prizes to get private companies into the space race. Gingrich knows his futurism; Romney knows it’s a bad investment. Gingrich tries to make the case that Americans should colonize the moon before the Chinese. Can we rekindle the old magic of the Cold War space race?


Santorum seems to be backing Gingrich’s enthusiasm but takes him down a peg on responsibility when it comes to spending big money on big ideas. Paul wants to send politicians to the moon. Good idea.

6:51 PM. Okay we’re on to the moon colony. I like the idea, honestly, but not the idea of Newt being behind it. This is his opportunity to shine, though. Romney is talking about cost. It’s true – it’s a costly thing to run a space program. But the Space Coasters are thinking about jobs.

6:50 PM. Ron Paul says he’d gladly race anyone on a bike. You can’t campaign with as much vitality as this guy without being in great shape, even in your seventies. Gingrich has nice things to say about Paul’s health.

6:45 PM. Since when is Gingrich an advocate of the flat-tax and the gold standard? Is this a new thing tailored specifically to this election or has Gingrich had these ideas listed out before somewhere?

Santorum is taking a slightly more populist approach. He calls it the Reagan approach.

Ron Paul says he wants to get rid of the 16th amendment. Then he talks about having sympathy with the 99%. He’s the only Occupy Wall Street fan who talks about sound money and a sound currency. It’s sort of wonderful, this Austrian take on income inequality. No reason why libertarians and progressives can’t work toward common goals.

6:41 PM. And….we’re back. On to taxes and tax returns because Blitzer wants everyone to know everything they can possibly know about these guys. Newt gets in his first viper-strike at the media when Blitzer asks about his attacks on Romney. “This is a nonsense question.” Blitzer strikes back, unlike John King, pointing out that Gingrich made the accusation. Good for Blitzer, but the crowd boos. Romney hits Gingrich hard again, saying that it would be nice if Gingrich would stick by what he says in an interview rather than try to dodge the question. Romney is picking Newt apart tonight. Is the speaker’s shtick wearing thin?

6:38 PM. I’m drinking a Founders Centennial IPA for the first part of the debate. Something tells me I will need to resupply very soon. It’s a hoppy, delicious, strong brew.

6:35 PM. Paul gives a clear answer, at least, to the question rather than just slam the other candidates. You know how I can tell he’s not serious about running for president? He’s not nearly interested enough in scoring cheap points against the other guys. He wants to actually answer the questions – a rare quality in a politician and something nobody who is serious about winning ever does.

6:34 PM. Gingrich is comparing investment size. He describes his as a tiny mouse and Romney’s as a giant elephant. Is this a pissing contest? Why yes…it is.

6:31 PM. Gingrich is indignant. Trying to spin his work as a lobbyist for Fannie by pointing out that Romney has investments in Fannie and Freddie. Sort of a big difference, though. Romney hits back by pointing out that Gingrich also has investments in Fannie and Freddie. Gingrich is off his game tonight. No opportunity to slam the media so far.

6:28 PM. Wolf Blitzer changes the subject from South America to housing. A question about phasing out Fannie and Freddie. This is a lovely softball.

6:25 PM. Santorum rises to the occasion. Hitting Obama on Honduras. Says we need to support freedom in South America. Ron Paul has another good answer to American force and arrogance. Santorum pretends like he doesn’t understand the history of American involvement in the region.

6:23 PM. A good answer on South America from Ron Paul. Paul gets very few cheers for promoting trade with Cuba. A Florida crowd, after all. But yes, we should expand free trade to as many South American countries as possible. Paul is forthright and honest as ever on the issue. Get ready for some tough talk on Cuba from the others.

6:21 PM. Now that I have the formatting figured out…so far I think Romney is scoring some points but he seems too outraged. I mean, how dare Gingrich call him anti-immigrant. Gingrich is hardly better, of course, but neither of them sound as hard-line as they have in previous states.

6:12 PM. Sorry, I meant to start this at the opening but between helping with kids, getting a beer, and technical difficulties I’m late to the game. Apparently I’ve been missing some immigration debate. There’s never much debate on this subject – at the moment we’re discussing the utterly absurd topic of “self-deportation.” It’s impossible to have this debate when the premise is so off the mark.


Marco Rubio positions himself for a Romney ticket

Marco Rubio would be a smart veep pick for Romney

Rubio is a charming young congressional freshman and son of Cuban immigrants, is a popular conservative and  once-darling of the once-great Tea Party, and he’s taking Romney’s side in the Romney-Gingrich Florida fight:

In a Spanish-language ad airing in Florida paid for by the Gingrich campaign, Mitt Romney is called “the most anti-immigrant candidate.”

Sen. Marco Rubio blasted Newt Gingrich today for describing Romney that way. “This kind of language is more than just unfortunate,” Rubio told the Miami Herald. “It’s inaccurate, inflammatory, and doesn’t belong in this campaign.”

“The truth is that neither of these two men is anti-immigrant,” Rubio added. “Both are pro-legal immigration and both have positive messages that play well in the Hispanic community.”

Rubio has indicated he has no plans to endorse.

No plans to endorse, but this is still picking sides. Rubio would make a smart pick for Romney’s VP for numerous reasons. He’s more reliably conservative than Romney. He’s a good speaker, likable and eloquent. He’s young and good-looking. And he’s a minority who would appeal to that much-alienated Hispanic vote.

Is this his first move to position himself in Romney’s good graces? What happens if Newt wins Florida?

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Mitt Romney is the best Republican candidate to take on Barack Obama

In the first Florida debate, Romney got his groove back. (Image via CBS)

Romney bounced back in the first Florida debate, with a much-subdued Newt Gingrich on the defensive after his South Carolina win.

Part of the problem, argues Aaron Goldstein, was the silence of the crowd:

The debate audiences at NBC, CBS and ABC behave like they’re at a tennis match. The audiences at Fox News and CNN are far more expressive and that works to Newt’s advantage. A sedate audience like the one tonight at NBC doesn’t play to Newt’s strengths. I suspect Newt will fare better at Thursday night’s debate which airs on CNN. What will also help him is that the debate is co-sponsored by the Hispanic Leadership Network and Newt is perceived as more sympathetic to Hispanics than Romney.

I’m not sure Romney’s tax returns will actually hurt him that much. Yes, his earnings over two years top $45 million, but we knew he was rich already. Yes, his taxes are low, but we knew already how low capital gains taxes are compared to income tax rates. The wealth of hedge fun managers isn’t exactly breaking news.

Romney hasn’t handled any of this well, but it’s not damning. And frankly, the more I think about it, Republicans really need to realize something: Newt is a demagogue, and that may make people feel good – by letting Newt tap into that anger, conservatives allow themselves to feel validated. But Romney is a better candidate. He can appear soulless at times – heartless at other times. His personality isn’t exactly compelling.

But who else in this race has been a governor? Who else has a long private-sector track record? Who else can appeal to moderates?

Look, I’m with Andrew Sullivan in my admiration of Ron Paul, but I see him more as a prophet than a politician at this point. He’s railing against American empire, and seriously we should all thank him for that. But his campaign is a campaign against empire and against arrogance more than it is a campaign for president. I think Ron Paul knows this, which is why he says things like, “How can you be conservative and cut food stamps, but not cut a penny over-seas …?”

But let’s be honest: Ron Paul won’t be president. That’s not even the point of his campaign. This thing is between Romney and Gingrich, and Republicans would be making a really big, really tremendously bad mistake by nominating the former speaker.

To be quite honest, all these dream candidates people keep swooning over – Mitch Daniels, Chris Christie, etc. – aren’t all that much different than Romney. Governors, somewhat more moderate than the vanguard of the conservative movement. The big difference is that they have no organization, they aren’t on any ballots, and they don’t have any money raised.

So let’s please quit it with the pining over things that will never be: Gingrich will never be president, nor will Ron Paul. None of these Republican “dream” candidates will live up to their dream status and they couldn’t get into the race at this point anyways. Once-dream-candidate Rick Perry was always just a more boring, less charming George W Bush. Romney is the best Republican remaining in the race – at least if the GOP wants to win this thing.

Me? I say Run Newt Run!

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Newt Gingrich and the politics of frustration

Jay Cost makes an astute observation:

Conservatives are very frustrated, and rightfully so. Their feeling is that they play by the rules – they work hard, pay their taxes, raise their kids right – but what do they get for it? Their values are mocked on television and the movies, the media castigates them as a bunch of extremists, they pay taxes while half of the country does not, and the Obama administration took to demagoguing them virtually from day one of his tenure. I know of what I speak – a few months back I was driving down the road and saw a sign in front of a business lamenting, “Where is the America I grew up in?” I nodded my head in approval.

Enter Newt Gingrich, the person on the debate stage who finally speaks truth to power. ‘Not so fast, John King!’ ‘Hold it just a damned minute, Diane Sawyer!’ ‘How dare you talk to me like that, Brian Williams!’ These are the sorts of thoughts that millions of conservatives have every week. And now here is Newt Gingrich actually saying it right to them. Never mind the fact that he is expressing indignation at liberals while sometimes offering not-so-conservative policies, or using it as a form of misdirection to turn attention away from his own questionable deeds. Conservatives everywhere love to hear somebody finally stick it to the elites.

This explains why they are excited about the prospect of an Obama-Gingrich debate. They love the thought of someone finally standing in front of Obama and saying, “How dare you, sir!”

The problem with Gingrich, of course, is that he comes with a cargo ship full of baggage – ideological, financial, and personal. Gingrich has made a career since leaving the House as a well-connected insider; he has bona fide ethical scandals on his resume. His personal life is a total mess, and he has turned off the broad middle of the country for the last 15 years. And on top of that, it’s doubtful that all of this outrage is genuine. Consider, for instance, Gingrich warmly complimenting John King after the CNN debate this week. How do we square that with King having done something so “close to despicable” just 120 minutes earlier?

You can’t because you can’t square Newt with Newt. He’s an imprint of the things conservatives want in a candidate, but he’s not in any way a good standard-bearer for the values and ideals which conservatives say they hold. He is merely a capsule for their anger and frustration. This is problematic for GOP voters. The question is whether they’ll realize this in time for the Florida primary.

I would quibble, naturally, with Jay’s argument that conservatives are “rightfully” frustrated. Is there really a reason for this? Huge strides have been made by conservative state governments across the country to turn back the clock on public labor unions, reproductive rights, and education spending. Meanwhile, taxes are lower than ever and the military is just about as big as ever. This secular-socialist-machine that Newt keeps warning about seems as much a figment of our imagination as anything else.

If anything, it’s civil libertarians and progressives who ought to be frustrated.

In terms of the broader culture, Jay does have a stronger footing. It’s true that conservatives are largely presented as caricatures in modern popular media, though this is far from universally so. Actually, I think the problem is that conservatives are trying too hard when it comes to pop culture. They want pop culture that explicitly advocates a conservative world view. Too often this leads to “conservative” films that are just awful, or bad Republican rap videos.

This is an unfortunate turn for conservatives in the arts. After all, many great works of conservative literature and music have been produced. The Lord of the Rings is in many ways a great tome of conservative fantasy (though perhaps a very different sort of “conservative” than what we have today.)

In any case, the politics of frustration certainly helps explain Newt’s appeal. Whether it will be enough to fuel him all the way to the convention is much harder to say. The conservatism of wanting-to-win might take over. In that case, Republicans will need to rally around Romney. Newt doesn’t stand a chance in the general, where the politics of frustration won’t play nearly as large a role.

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Republicans pick man with three wives instead of Mormon in South Carolina primary

Newt Gingrich's secret South Carolina weapon was fear.

So Newt Gingrich has won the South Carolina primary.

In the course of a week he turned around his campaign, transforming a serious deficit into a 13 point win. South Carolina voters rejected Romney’s time at Bain Capital, his Mormon faith, and his insincerity. They turned, instead, to the disgraced former Speaker of the House, a man whose personal life is quite frankly enough to disqualify him from any possible general election run; whose statements over the past few years in regards to Obama, religious freedom, and other controversial issues place him not only on the far-right of the political spectrum, but among its worst elements.

Gingrich can pander like no other, but his personal and political past should be enough to rouse Republicans from whatever drunken stupor has led them to this precarious destination.

Admittedly, one state does not a nomination make, but Romney has never been so vulnerable.

“This is the Republican crack-up people have been predicting for years,” writes Andrew Sullivan. “Gingrich is on a roll. I think he can win this – and then lose this in a way that could change America history. That is a brief impression in one moment of time. But I cannot see Romney winning this at this point. They are just not into him, and he’s an awful candidate.”

The Republican Party “deserves its spokesman,” Andrew argues. “But do not under-estimate the appeal to some of the idea of humiliating and removing the first black president. That’s what Gingrich is really about. He is giving them what they want. And it’s meat that has barely seen a skillet.”

It’s remarkable, really. There’s a sort of debauchery to it, this willingness to follow whoever says the most extreme thing, whoever is willing to play the raging fool.

What is conservatism in this country? What has it become?

Corey Robin argues that it’s the politics of the perpetual reactionary. Conservatism here and in Europe has been the manifestation of the status quo reacting to the forces of change and progress. Sullivan argues that true conservatism is more a matter of disposition and temperament; that the true conservative seeks balance. In some ways, these are very much the same thing though Robin’s conservative is a revolutionary in reverse, and Sullivan’s is a force for stability. (I am suddenly reminded of Ra’s al Ghul and his reactionary League of Shadows…)

These days I see conservatism more as a bastion for fear of the Other than anything else. The Other is the crux of every conservative argument: fear of the immigrant other (Mexicans!); fear of the cultural other (Liberals and Elitists!); fear of the religious other (Muslims!); fear of the racial other (black people!); and so forth. Conservatism is a sort of protectionism that inhabits the minds of the fearful (and make no mistake, this tendency creeps up on the left at times as well.)

Conservatives believe that we must protect our borders, stop the flow of communism or radical Islam, etc., fight big government but not the entitlements that big government so graciously hands out to us. No wonder most conservatives want to keep the military strong and well funded when so much fear is at play. A conservative in the American sense is not interested so much in turning back the clock as he is in stopping it altogether.

This – this harnessing of fear and resentment – is what Newt has tapped into on the right and he’s done so better than anyone else – better than the bumbling Perry or the more mild-mannered Santorum. It doesn’t matter if he has a plan or if he’s lying through his teeth or if his past is littered with failures both moral and political. It doesn’t matter if he’s just another big government rightwinger in disguise, pandering to whatever shreds remain of the once mighty Tea Party. What matters is what he represent – he’s become, quite suddenly, an avatar for all this terror at the browning of America, at the financial crash, the poor labor market. He’s become Obama’s doppelganger.

Obama is all that is Other and Newt is that comforting swell of rage that accompanies it. In this sense, Newt’s very familiarity is a blessing when it ought to be a curse.

Why Newt and not Romney? Certainly Romney has taken a hard-line stance on everything. I’m not sure it’s his Mormonism so much as it is his insincerity. When Romney talks about Obama or the various issues conservatives have with Obama, he just isn’t convincing, even to a liberal like me. He sounds like a phony. (Like I’ve said before, he has no soul.) Gingrich, on the other hand, has plenty of soul, dried up thing though it may be, and he can access deeper emotional resonance in the GOP base. Romney’s anger is flat and papery. Gingrich may indeed only be a better actor, but he’s a method actor, and he pulls off the role he knows he needs to play.

Whether he can sustain it is another question. Gingrich comes with his own cartload of baggage and plenty of moderates in the GOP outside of South Carolina are just as nervous about the former speaker as they are about the former governor of Massachusetts. This game is far from finished.

What a glorious sport we’ve made of our political system.

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Chuck Norris endorses Newt Gingrich at the very last minute possible, I mean seriously dude if you’d waited any longer you would have missed the South Carolina primary

Mitt Romney, this is your future.

So, whoever is writing Newt Gingrich’s tweets: kudos, this was funny.

Personally, I can’t imagine a worse endorsement, but then again I’m not running in the South Carolina Republican primary any more than Gingrich will be running in the Virginia Republican primary.

Norris is, of course, the action-star-turned-raving-rightwinger who believes that progressives and icky gay people are ruining –ruiningour public school system through systematic brainwashing and some other nonsense:

The impact of progressivism is being experienced by students across this land, hundreds of thousands of whom already have cried out with complaints of academic inequity. A sampling of the hundreds of student grievances from across the academic spectrum can be found on Students For Academic Freedom’s website.

It is also no surprise that an average of 6,000 students every year are leaving the approximately 94,000 public schools in America. If the powers-to-be over our public schools, such as government and unions, continue to oppose conservative curricula and impose overarching liberal educational revisions and laws, public schools will continue to experience an exodus.

To be fair, this fits nicely with Gingrich’s own platform of racist remarks about food-stamp recipients and his reference to the Civil War recently as “The War Between The States” and other totally crazy panderings to what he imagines the Southern contingent of the GOP want to hear.

Romney may have no soul, but Gingrich has no honor. Not that he needs much for his line of work.

In any case, South Carolina looks like it’s going to Newt. We could all be surprised, but as Jim Newell argues:

Newt Gingrich is going to win the South Carolina presidential primary tomorrow. Not just because he yelled at two debate moderators for asking him debate questions this week, which brought him up about 20 percentage points in the polls. That wasn’t enough to close the deal. But now that television survivalist Chuck Norris has endorsed him in a meditative World Net Daily piece, Romney’s got no chance.

I can’t even tell if I’m joking anymore. Newt Gingrich is a viable contender for the presidency in 2012. If that sentence isn’t a joke, then there are no jokes.

Yes, these tears are from laughter.

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Chris Christie’s welcome sanity on the war on drugs

I have mixed feelings about the governor of New Jersey, but this does make me like Chris Christie just that much more:

Andrew Sullivan has part of the transcript up:

[L]et us reclaim the lives of those drug offenders who have not committed a violent crime. By investing time and money in drug treatment – in an in-house, secure facility – rather than putting them in prison. Experience has shown that treating non-violent drug offenders is two-thirds less expensive than housing them in prison. And more importantly – as long as they have not violently victimized society – everyone deserves a second chance, because no life is disposable. I am not satisfied to have this as merely a pilot project; I am calling for a transformation of the way we deal with drug abuse and incarceration in every corner of New Jersey.

The rest is here. If only more people on the left and the right would start talking this way.

Reihan Salam writes:

I want all politicians, and in particular all conservatives, to pay careful attention to this: Christie highlighted a dangerous gap in the system that limits the discretion of judges to keep violent offenders behind bars. Yet he also made the case that nonviolent drug offenders should be given treatment rather than imprisoned because (1) it is cost-effective, (2) it is decent and humane, and (3) it recognizes that we can’t afford to waste human potential.

By leading with a “punitive” strategy (actually, a commonsense strategy — it’s about preserving discretion) and then pivoting to a measure that will help members of a marginalized population, Christie demonstrates his political sophistication, his strategic vision, his guts, and his decency. This is a big deal.

Possibly. It’s certainly a welcome brand of conservative politics. But will it really appeal to other conservative politicians? In states where the drug war is far more popular than in New Jersey, I doubt this line of reasoning is going to resonate. Furthermore, most politicians aren’t Christie and can’t pull off the tough and sincere thing the way Christie can.

Salam points out that “Christie evidently doesn’t believe that taking this stand will limit his political future” writing that “his brand of conservatism can form the foundation of a coalition that captures centrist voters even in a heavily urban, diverse northeastern state.” Which is exactly why he doesn’t think this will hurt his political career. The fact that Christie is working to appeal to New Jersey voters means he doesn’t think it will hurt him with said voters. And national voters are going to be a lot more sympathetic to this line of thinking, if polls are to be believed, should Christie run for president someday.

Salam guesses that one reason Christie didn’t run for president this time around was the work he has remaining in New Jersey, noting that “ building a solid foundation there could be a great help if he does indeed pursue a national career.”

I think it’s more likely that Christie is simply very good at reading the political winds. He knew he’d be up against a formidable opponent in Romney and an even more formidable opponent in Obama. It’s harder to go after an incumbent than it is to run at the end of the other party’s two terms. Any sensible observer would see how bad the odds are in 2012 and Christie is nothing if not a savvy politician. 2016 is a better year for Republicans, and I think Gingrich and/or Romney will learn this the hard way.

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Not The Reagan They Have In Mind: The Real Lessons Conservative Candidates Learn From The Gipper

Ronald Reagan's legacy isn't all that conservative, not that it matters.

In his 1966 campaign for governor of California, Ronald Reagan issued what he termed the Eleventh Commandment: “Thou shalt not speak ill of any fellow Republican.” Barry Goldwater’s 1964 campaign had capsized two years earlier when Nelson Rockefeller effectively slammed the Arizona Senator as too extreme. The division, Reagan believed, had led to the Republican defeat.

Although he was attempting to unseat a fellow Republican, Reagan followed his own advice in his primary bid against Gerald Ford. After losing the first five states he abandoned the strategy in North Carolina, winning his first victory of the campaign. Attacking one’s opponent, it turns out, is good politics even if it’s a fellow Republican.

This is a lesson that Reagan-admirer Newt Gingrich learned the hard way in Iowa after his campaign took a beating from the Romney campaign.

Gingrich has compared himself to Reagan many times, and like Reagan 1976 switch in North Carolina, Gingrich has gone negative in South Carolina despite promising to run a positive campaign. Gingrich is known for changing his positions, however, and in many ways this is also in keeping with the Reagan legacy. The Republican icon is often evoked by modern-day GOP aspirants to higher office. The complex politician, however, is hardly the conservative saint he’s made out to be on the campaign trail.

As Senator Lindsay Graham told Howard Kurtz earlier this primary season, “Ronald Reagan would have a hard time getting elected as a Republican today.”

Either that or he’d be forced to take Mitt Romney’s route and walk back half the things he did as governor of California, and abandon his record as president.

Here are five more Republican “Commandments” that Reagan broke, and why it really doesn’t matter that Reagan live up to his own legacy – or that any Republican candidates live up to his legacy either.

1.  Thou Shalt Not Support Amnesty: Ronald Reagan Signed An Amnesty Bill For 3 Million Undocumented Workers

It’s no surprise that Republicans are struggling to make inroads with Hispanic voters these days. Although the last three Republican presidents have been strong proponents of immigration reform and the positive role immigration plays in this country, the GOP as a party and as a cultural movement is extremely hostile to immigrants. Nativism has been more popular than ever during the recession, with bills like Arizona’s controversial SB 1070 aimed at cracking down on undocumented workers popping up across the country.

At a debate earlier this year Jon Huntsman said that if “President Reagan was here he would speak to the American people and he would lay out in hopeful, optimistic terms.” But Reagan was more than optimistic about immigrants describing America as a shining city on a hill where all who yearned for freedom could come and prosper.  In 1986, he signed the Immigration Reform and Control Act, which legalized close to 3 million undocumented immigrants.

In today’s GOP race, virtually every candidate has bandied about the phrase ‘amnesty’ as though it were a dirty word, pandering to the nativist sentiment in the GOP rather than looking at the economic benefits of increased immigration to the United States or discussing seriously the ways we could reform our immigration system.

2. Thou Shalt Not Promote Class Warfare: On Economics, Reagan Advocated Low Taxes and Free Trade but Supported Anti-Poverty Measures

Unlike Rick Perry, who has complained many times during the campaign that most Americans pay no taxes, Reagan was a major proponent of the very tax policies that helped get the working poor off the income tax rolls. As Derek Thompson points out, “Reagan repeatedly praised plans for booting the poor from federal income taxes.” He supported the Earned Income Tax Credit and worked to make low-income families entirely exempt from paying income taxes. And while Newt Gingrich’s food-stamp-king language mirrors Reagan’s welfare-queen rhetoric, Reagan wanted to help the poor not just demonize them.

Reagan was also a union leader and had a deep sympathy for workers that is nowhere to be found in much of today’s GOP. The Wisconsin battle over workers’ rights to collectively bargain illustrates just how far the Republican party has strayed from its roots. While Reagan was able to capture a large segment of working class Democrats thanks to his appeal to workers, today’s Republican party is better suited for the very rich and for social conservatives.

“Collective bargaining,” Reagan once said, “has played a major role in America’s economic miracle. Unions represent some of the freest institutions in this land. There are few finer examples of participatory democracy to be found anywhere.” Of course Reagan became union-buster-in-chief as president, but his message still appealed to working class voters.

3. Thou Shalt Not Raise Taxes: Reagan Raised Taxes Seven Out Of Eight Years In Office

These days, the Fourteenth Commandment of the Republican Party may as well be “Thou Shalt Not Raise Taxes.” Indeed, taxes have become as hot as any of the culture war issues from abortion to gay marriage, especially after the 2008 financial collapse. Reagan campaigned on low taxes and less government regulation, but over the course of his presidency he raised taxes 11 times.

Today’s GOP is much more anti-tax than Reagan was, largely thanks to the hard work of anti-tax crusaders like Grover Norquist. While Reagan promised to shrink government, famously quipping that government isn’t the solution, it’s the problem, his record is much worse than Democrats like Jimmy Carter and Bill Clinton. Carter doesn’t get much credit for the many industries deregulated under his tenure, but he did far more than Reagan to get government out of the economy. Carter deregulated everything from trucking to airlines to home brewing. Meanwhile Clinton’s welfare reform was much more effective at shrinking the role of the federal government than anything carried out under the Reagan administration.

4.  Thou Shalt Not Cut Defense Spending: Reagan’s Long-Term Goal Was Nuclear Disarmament

In his famous “Shining City” speech Reagan said, “We are not a warlike people. Nor is our history filled with tales of aggressive adventures and imperialism, which might come as a shock to some of the placard painters in our modern demonstrations. The lesson of Vietnam, I think, should be that never again will young Americans be asked to fight and possibly die for a cause unless that cause is so meaningful that we, as a nation, pledge our full resources to achieve victory as quickly as possible.”

While Reagan was not afraid to join the arms race against the Soviet Union, his long-term goal was to bring about an end to militarism and the threat of nuclear war. Disarmament loomed large in Reagan’s thinking, and he didn’t always make the best choices in his efforts to achieve that goal. Yet compared to modern-day Republicans, Reagan sounds like a peacenik.

Despite a few notable exceptions, few Republicans want to cut defense spending. Many have even advocated defense spending as a way to create jobs despite rhetoric claiming that government can’t create jobs.  A few GOP officials have called for a scaled back defense budget – Ron Paul first among them, though Tom Coburn and others have also made favorable recommendations to the idea. But by and large, the Republican party gives us little reason to believe that they care about disarmament or military prudence.

5. Thou Shalt Demonize Welfare At Every Turn: Reagan Saved Social-Security

Not only did Reagan add 61,000 jobs to the federal workforce – both Obama and Clinton have actually cut back federal jobs – he saved Social Security and raised the payroll tax. Faced with collapse, Reagan bailed out Social Security to the tune of $165 billion.

Compare this to Rick Perry who called the program a “monstrous lie.” Perry has also claimed that Social Security is unconstitutional. Republicans of all stripes have advocated privatizing the retirement insurance program, but it’s unlikely that after George W. Bush’s failed attempt any will give it a real try in the future, despite the fantasy budgets of men like Paul Ryan.


So what should Republicans take from Reagan’s spotty record of flip-flops and broken promises? The presumptive front-runner in the current GOP primary is Mitt Romney, a man with his own record of switching political views to catch favorable political winds. Newt Gingrich is like Reagan only in that he has promoted far more often the expansion of government rather than the shrinking of the state, whatever his over-the-top rhetoric would suggest.

In the end, Reagan’s far more liberal-than-reported legacy will mean only one thing to GOP hopefuls: it doesn’t matter what they do or say or what policies they support. As long as they say the right things to drum up support from the conservative base, their records are as unimportant as Reagan’s. If Reagan can raise taxes, expand the federal government, save the New Deal, and work to bring about nuclear disarmament, disappointing countless conservatives in the process, and yet still become the president who conservatives admire most, why should Republican candidates today act any differently?

George W. Bush certainly learned the lessons of Ronald Reagan, running up the federal deficit by over $4 trillion dollars during his term. He also abandoned anti-immigration advocates and social conservatives, doing as little as Reagan to overturn Roe v. Wade and failing to enact any sort of meaningful immigration reform.

Of course, the fact that Republicans only talk about shrinking government and then fail to do so when in office doesn’t really bother me. The dishonesty rankles, but the failure to scale back the federal government is way down on my list of priorities. What bothers me, and what should bother conservative and liberal voters alike, is not that this anti-government rhetoric isn’t matched with small government actions. The real problem is that Republicans have learned so much disdain for government on the campaign stump that they’ve forgotten how to actually do the hard work of governing once elected to office.

If nothing else, the eight years of Bush help illustrate how an administration more concerned with playing war abroad than actually governing here at home can at once expand the federal government, wrack up trillions of debt, and make the state far less efficient all at the same time.

The lesson of Reagan’s gilded legacy is clear: the talk is far more important than the walk for today’s GOP. As long as you abide by the talking points, the troops will fall in line. How else to explain the success of Mitt Romney, or the unexpected popularity of the once-disgraced Newt Gingrich? The spirit of Reagan does indeed live on in the modern Republican party. It’s just not the Reagan they have in mind.

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Does Romney Have Offshore Accounts On Another Planet?

Is Romney actually an alien with super powers? I'm only asking questions here…

This would explain so much: Romney doesn’t want to release his tax records because he’s hiding money in an off-planet bank account on the planet Zorkon (or something to that effect.)

He’s actually an alien that just looks a lot like a human – think Superman but LDS. Newt Gingrich is his Kryptonite (or Zorkonite or whatever) and instead of a cape, super strength, and flight, Romney has the super power of taking large, struggling companies and devouring them, sucking out their last remaining resources, and then spitting out their bones.

It makes sense to me – at least as much sense as the GOP nominating a guy who basically came up with Obamacare just two short years after the Tea Party craze brought a whole new batch of crazy to Washington, D.C.

Am I missing something here?

(P.S. No, I’m not accusing Romney of being an alien. I’m only asking a question…)

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