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Posts Tagged ‘Santorum’
September 14th, 2012 at 3:01 pm
On How Foreign Policy Matters….

Ashton, citing Troy earlier, writes that foreign policy definitely matters in an election. I agree with both of them. That is one reason I thought Jon Kyl should be on the short list for Veep, and why I insisted, against all common wisdom, that Rick Santorum should also be considered. Romney definitely could use somebody with acknowledged “chops” on foreign and defense matters right now. (I hasten to add that I remain THRILLED that Ryan is the running mate; I think he is absolutely terrific, but just for other reasons.)

But here is where I am going to suggest that Romney throw a real long ball. I have been thinking of this all year, no matter who the nominee was; indeed, I have thought of it in past presidential cycles too, but never decided it would be a useful game changer… until now.

I think Romney should choose, and publicly name, who his Secretary of State will be. I don’t think this has ever been done before, pre-election, so it would attract a ton of attention — and, since obviously Romney would choose whomever he chooses with an eye both on competence and on the political advantages the person would offer (in terms not of electoral votes or anything crass like that, but in terms of demonstrating good executive judgment on Romney’s part for making such a wise choice), the attention would almost all be of the positive sort.

Romney could then, in effect, outsource almost all statements on foreign affairs to the Sec. State-designee, who surely could run rings around the Obamites every time he/she goes on the air as a Romney surrogate.

At least a half dozen names suggest themselves as people who would be immediately accepted across the spectrum as a designee of substance and gravitas. (The only disadvantage of this is that Romney would politically be precluded from naming somebody who is a lightning rod for controversy, such as John Bolton, whereas a Bolton choice in the usual way, after the election, would still be possible.)

The one name, by the way, I would put at the top of the list is the same one I started this post with; Jon Kyl. Few people in Washington, and almost nobody on the right, are afforded such universal respect as Kyl is. And he could really pound home the issue of missile defense (probably bolstering the Polish-American ethnic vote in the Rust Belt while he was at it), on which he is extremely well versed, and explain why our abandonment of Poland and other Eastern European nations on this issue was such a horrible mistake. And Kyl sort of bridges the divide on the right between what some wrongly call the “Neo-cons” and those who are more isolationist: Kyl is not really identifiable in any one camp, other than being clearly “Reaganite.”

Regardless of who the choice would be, it would look good for Romney: bold, innovative, and presidentially decisive and confident, willing to let the public judge his choice before the election and giving a sense of his leadership style.

It’s worth serious consideration.

March 19th, 2012 at 5:34 pm
Louisiana’s Big Contest… in April

On Saturday, Rick Santorum is favored to win, albeit narrowly, in the Louisiana primary. But the actual delegate allocation from Louisiana could range from a wide Santorum win to, oddly enough, a significant victory for Ron Paul who barely is even bothering to campaign in the primary.

How could this be?

Well, here’s how it works: The primary will be determinative for only 20 of Louisiana’s 46 delegates. Those 20 will be allocated in accord with the proportion of the vote won by each presidential candidate — assuming that a candidate gets at least 25 percent of the vote. ANY votes for all candidates who do not cross that 25 percent threshold will be added together and their proportion of the whole will be allocated as UNCOMMITTED delegates. Three other officially uncommitted delegates will be the state’s members of the Republican National Committee.’

All other delegates, all 23 of them, will be chosen at a state convention not held until June 2. Moreover, the delegates to that state convention will not be chosen in any way, shape or form as a result of the primary this Saturday. Instead, they will be chosen at caucuses to be held throughout the state on April 28. So it is perfectly feasible, for instance, for Ron Paul to get less then 10% of the vote on Saturday, and thus to win not a single one of the 20 delegates chosen this week, but still to win the vast majority of the other 23 delegates on June 2.

Word on the ground is that Paul is extremely well organized for the caucuses. It might be that the only way to defeat him is for the Santorum and Gingrich organizations to join forces, at least in tactical alliances if not formally, at each of the caucuses.

But here’s the deal: If Santorum wins a narrow victory on Saturday and gains, say, 6 delegates to 5 each for Gingrich and Romney… but Gingrich later drops out and his Louisiana campaign organization folds into Santorum’s, then the caucus rules (which are too complicated to explain here) are such that Santorum could come close to sweeping the other 23 delegates on June 2. (Obviously, the same would be true if Gingrich and Romney joined forces, but that isn’t going to happen.)

This is another example of how Gingrich’s presence in the race directly hurts Santorum. Everybody has been calling Louisiana a “proportional allocation state,” giving the impression that even a Santorum popular vote win would not do much to bolster his overall national delegate position. But because slim majorities or even pluralities can have outsized influence in caucuses, the truth is that half of all the Louisiana delegates are very much up for grabs and could swing very strongly in one direction or another. Gingrich’s continued presence in the race could swing almost all of those 23 to Paul; his withdrawal from the race would swing them mostly to Santorum. And since Paul is thought, in the long run, to be in far more friendly to Romney, those delegates in the end would probably be likely to move Romney’s way in a contested convention.

It’s all highly convoluted. But the arithmetic is undeniable: Gingrich’s presence hurts Santorum. This is not to say whether this is a good thing or a bad thing; it’s just a straight analysis of how the rules combined with the arithmetic combined with the situation on the ground are likely to play out.

March 14th, 2012 at 7:18 pm
Romney’s Weak Arithmetic

Elsewhere tomorrow I’ll have an extensive analysis explaining why Newt Gingrich’s argument on delegate arithmetic doesn’t hold water. Here, though, just as pure math, not as advocacy, let me note that Mitt Romney’s message today that he won “more delegates” than anybody else last night (once he counts Samoa and Hawaii) is not really relevant.

For Romney to win the nomination, he needs to win 50% of all delegates. Right now he’s at about 53% of those awarded so far. But the key thing is, last night he didn’t win anywhere near 50%. Instead, he won just over a third of them. He needs to win something like 48% of all the remaining delegates to take the nomination. If he keeps winning less than that 48%, then it doesn’t matter if he earns a small plurality in a multi-man race; all that matters is that he is falling behind the pace he needs for a first-ballot convention victory.

By general agreement, if Romney doesn’t win on the first ballot, he’s almost assuredly toast, because he will be seen as such damaged goods (having blown every advantage) that the party would coalesce behind somebody else. Again, that’s just an assumption, not advocacy. But if the goal is a first ballot victory, then yesterday was a big setback, even after factoring in Samoa and Hawaii.

(By the way, the numbers above are approximate, for illustrative purposes. I know they aren’t precisely the numbers, but as the real numbers are a moving target anyway, I just went from memory of the summaries I’ve read earlier today.)

March 10th, 2012 at 11:19 am
Gingrich in Mobile

Unlike Rick Santorum, Newt Gingrich doesn’t do much to alter his basic speech from event to event — but, judging from the comments all around me, he still manages to hold the interest of, or even entertain, his audience.

Speaking last night at an antique car museum in the heart of the (white) blue-collar area of Mobile, AL, Gingrich used the backdrop to make the obvious point that gasoline sure was a lot cheaper back when those cars were on the road. He then moved into what already is becoming a familiar, but instructive, litany of Barack Obama’s transgressions against reasonable energy policies — including Gingrich’s favorite new target, namely Obama’s recent embrace of yet another new form of bio-fuel:

“I don’t think [the museum owner] has a single algae car!”

Gingrich told a humorous story about when oil shortages in the late 1970s briefly created rationing systems in which drivers could buy gasoline only on certain days, depending on whether their license plates ended with an odd number or an even one. He said his friend  (and mine) David Bossie, now president of Citizens United, remembers being 13 years old and having his father send him out each morning with a screwdriver to switch the license plates back and forth between the family’s two cars, depending on which one needed gas.

Gingrich said conservatives and liberals naturally react differently to “laws so dumb that fathers enlist 13-year-old sons to break them” (that’s actually a very close paraphrase; I didn’t get the exact words of the quote). Conservatives, Gingrich said, would naturally want to get rid of such a dumb regulation. Liberals, he said, would insist we need to hire some license-plate police.

Gingrich moved on from energy to foreign affairs long enough to say that Defense Secretary Leon Panetta “should resign tonight” if Panetta really believed that a U.S. administration need more “permission” from foreign powers than from the U.S. Congress when deciding whether to use American force.

He blasted Barack Obama for having, in the same fortnight, apologized to Afghanis for mistaken Koran burnings even after Afghanis killed innocent U.S. troops — in other words, showing outsized deference to radical Islam — at the same time he was moving ahead with violations of religious liberties (especially of Christians) within the United States via his mandate on insurance coverage of abortifacients. He accused the administration of being “disrespectful and bigoted… about [against] Christianity…. We are tired of you denigrating our culture, our religion, our beliefs.”

Back to energy, Gingrich went on at great length (as Santorum had earlier in the day in Mobile) about the vast new energy supplies found in North Dakota — and he noted that Barack Obama in his recent press conference spent lots of words denigrating “drilling” as a solution for energy problems, only to shortly thereafter  claim credit for great new supplies of natural gas. But, asked Gingrich rhetorically, how does Obama think the new gas was found?

The answer, of course, is drilling — in areas that would never even have been explored had Obama succeeded in an attempt he made as a senator in 1987 to end the U.S. Geological Survey’s task of keeping and developing an inventory of fossil fuel potential. “This is a case study,” said Gingrich, “in cognitive dissonance.” (AND, whispered my wife, “cognitive dissidence too!”)

Finally, Gingrich moved onto the political outlook for his presidential campaign. He belittled Mitt Romney’s sales pitch about the importance of a businessman’s managerial ability in the Oval Office. “You don’t need a manger in the White House,” said Gingrich. “You need a visionary leader…. As it says in Proverbs, “without vision, the people perish.”

March 9th, 2012 at 12:52 am
Santorum Covers the Gamut for Alabama Policy Institute

At the public dinner in Mobile Thursday night for the Alabama Policy Institute, a terrific state think tank, Rick Santorum gave a cogent and thoughtful explanation of his “JFK/throw up” line that got him in so much trouble last week when talking about separation of church and state. A woman sitting next to me had voted for Obama in 2008, but she said she thought he handled the question very very well. He self-deprecatingly and with good comedic timing said “the language that I used was, at a minimum [HIS emphasis], inarticulate.” He said his overstatement came from “years of frustration” with the establishment’s enshrinement of “absolution separation of church and state” (in Kennedy’s formulation) as sacrosanct. That said, he said he agreed with much of what JFK said in his famous Houston speech on the subject in 190, that it “resonated very well with me.” But he said JFK’s “absolute” language amounted to “a reversal of the concept” originally planned by the founders. They meant not to protect the state from the church, but to ensure the free exercise of all religions and no religions in the public square. Madison said that giving everybody an equal chance to be heard in the public square, to freely exercise their consciences, was “the perfect remedy” for “how we shall live together. Kennedy, he said, “went too far” by saying he would not even take advice from people that was rooted in faith.

On other topics, Santorum repeatedly blasted federal interference with local education (and thus very memorably blasted the federal hijacking of the Common Core state standards initiative); he pledged to increase trade and improve relations within the Western Hemisphere, promote manufacturing,and  ”put constraints on the judiciary that thinks it is pre-eminent.” On the latter, he rejected the idea that we have a “living Constitution” :  ”Living and breathing are done by people, not by documents.”

He spoke at length about his signature achievement in the 1990s in leading the fight to reform the Aid to Families with Dependent Children welfare program. Noting that the reforms saved a on of money for the feds and significantly reduced the welfare rolls, he insitsed that those two achievements alone do not define success. “Poverty rates fell to the lowest levels in history. A drastic change occurred not just in the budget of Washington but also in the lives of millions of Americans.”

Other topics: Also on judges, he spoke of having worked really hard with Bama’s Sen. Jeff Sessions to help confirm controversial (but superb) Judge Bill Pryor to the 11th Circuit Court of Appeals, and spoke again of passing a Balanced Budget Amendment to the Constitution that includes a spending limit.

But all of that came in Q and A with a local panel. His 15-minute speech focused very strongly on the overarching theme of liberty. All those at my table said he spoke eloqently on the subject. Alas, my notes cannot do justice to his speech, because I was not scribbling fast enough to capture the best sense of it. One of the best lines: “A limited government… means unlimited opportunity for everybody in our society.”

There: Those were the highlights.

March 8th, 2012 at 12:47 pm
The Theme Should ALWAYS Be Freedom

Daniel Henninger has an absolutely superb column today at the Wall Street Journal about how Rick Santorum finally is hitting consistently on, and doing well with, a central theme of freedom. As readers here know, this (freedom, not Santorum’s embrace of it) has been my theme as well. As in:

If ObamaCare is allowed to stand, Cuccinelli said, “The government’s power to intrude on our lives for our ‘own good’ will be virtually unlimited. Some may be willing to put up with that now, when the government is doing something they like. But what happens when it starts to impose things on them that they don’t like? Then, it will be too late…. In 1788, James Madison spoke of the need for the Constitution. He said, ‘There are more instances of the abridgement of the freedom of the people by gradual and silent encroachments of those in power, than by violent and sudden usurpations.’ Yes, parts of our health care system need to be fixed…. But there are better solutions than giving up our freedom.”

Actually, way back in 2007 I was arguing the same thing — and even back then, it was the argument against the individual mandate that spurred my “theme is freedom” insistence:

The other day on MSNBC, the inimitable Tucker Carlson was being berated by some guests who were incredulous that he could even think to oppose the health-insurance mandates that are central to the newest version of Hillarycare.

At first sounding almost apologetic, but by the last word sounding more firm about it, Carlson mounted what actually is the perfect defense. “Look,” he said, “I just happen to believe in freedom.”

Ah, yes, freedom. At my Episcopal grade school, we were accustomed to singing a guitar hymn in chapel whose refrain included these lines: “The thought it was so dear to me, the daring possibility, of freedom. (Oh, oh, freedom. Oh, oh, freedom. Oh, oh, oh.)”

Conservatives would do well to remember that freedom is indeed a daring possibility, and our best defense against almost every big-government, nanny-state, Washington-knows-best scheme of the left. In one sense, it is the answer to all questions, the solution to almost all problems of statecraft, the ideal to which all other civic ideals must bow.

All too often, we conservatives get lost in the weeds of complex arguments and wonkish debates — when all we really need to remember, both to better ground ourselves philosophically and to win political debates in the minds of the American voters, is that the theme is freedom.

February 5th, 2012 at 7:17 pm
Santorum Has a Real Chance Now

As The Weekly Standard reports, polls now show Rick Santorum has a chance to do very well indeed in three different contest on Tuesday. If he does, it should become a two-man race between him and Romney. If he doesn’t, Romney is home free, I believe.
But there’s the deal: Rasmussen now has Santorum as the only Republican running who beats Obama head to head. It just goes to show that, over time, Santorum wears well with voters.

The question is, why have so many conservative leaders been so unwilling to rally around him? Why haven’t more of them endorsed him? (That said, in the past week some brave souls have started what Santorum must hope will turn into a stampede: Michelle Malkin, Tom Tancredo, Jane Norton, Bob Schaffer, David Limbaugh, Phyllis Schafly, Pat Boone.)

If they don’t like Romney, and they get stuck with him, they have only themselves to blame.

January 17th, 2012 at 4:03 pm
Monday Night’s Debate

Troy, Ashton, Tim, Renee, Jeff…. any replies to this would be welcome. Anyway, here’s my take on last night’s debate, and the state of the race, from as neutral an analytical perspective as possible:

HUGE LOSER: Ron Paul finally marginalized himself irretrievably, especially in a pro-military state like South Carolina, with his lengthy diatribes basically positing that the Taliban weren’t all that bad and that bin Laden deserved a trial, or something like that. Plus, he wandered and meandered and sounded more shrill than usual. A horrible performance for him.

LOSER: Mitt Romney had his worst debate performance by far. He started okay and ended okay, both times in exchanges mainly with Gingrich, over the roles and behavior of Super PACs. But in between he was flustered, off his game, a bit stumbling, nervous-looking — and completely bumfuddled by Rick Santorum’s cross-examination about felon voting rights. Just when he had a chance to put the race away for good, he let others back in the game.

SLIGHTLY HELPED HIMSELF: Rick Perry has made himself almost irrelevant by his bad earlier debates and weak finishes in Iowa and New Hampshire. Last night, though, he was on his game, even if his substance was, well, not really substantial. Michelle Bachmann would have blown him out the door for saying we should completely eliminate foreign aid, because of course some of that aid actually “buys” for us essential things like cooperation on intelligence, plus military bases, etcetera. What he said about Turkey being virtually a terrorist state was absurdly overstated. But he played very well to whatever purely populist voting bloc is out there, and he did a great job blasting the Obama administration on its “war” on South Carolina over voter ID laws. Overall, if Perry had done this well in the first 10 debates, he might not be dominating, but he would still be very much in the mix in the polls.

BRAVURA LEMONADE-MAKING FROM LEMONS: Rick Santorum only got one question that actually played into his “wheelhouse,” as the expression goes. Almost every time he was given a chance to talk, it was on a subject that wouldn’t ordinarily play well for him. For that reason, he probably only helped himself a little more than he was hurt last night — but if he had not had his “A” game, it could have been a disaster. For instance, he was pressed on his truly wrongheaded vote years ago to automatically restore voting privileges (in federal elections only) to felons once they have fully satisfied all parole and probation requirements. On the merits, I think this is a horrible position. Most conservatives agree. Nothing should be automatic for some former felony inmates; full privileges should come only after careful review by a board convened for that purpose. On the other hand, Santorum always has had this subtext thing going of the Catholic social-gospel, people-can-be-redeemed-and-forgiven variety. It speaks well of him as a human being. This long-ago vote was his way of saying, hey, if you’ve fully paid your legal debt to society, you again become a full member of the society.

Conservatives don’t agree. Conservatives think some crimes are virtually unforgivable, and, moreover, that if they are to be forgiven, it should not be automatic, just by jumping through enough hoops with the passage of time. The good news is that such a proposal will never be politically popular enough to pass Congress, so people inclined toward Santorum but who don’t like this old vote of his shouldn’t worry about it being a serious effort.

But I digress. Somehow, Santorum actually won, big, in his exchange on the issue with Romney. Santorum correctly and effectively blasted the Romney super-PAC for falsely making it appear as if Santorum favors allowing current inmates to vote. Then he hit Romney from the right again (and from the standpoint of whether Romney is either courageous enough or competent enough) because Romney did nothing even to attempt to change Massachusetts law that allows felons to vote even before completing parole and probation. In short, Santorum turned a negative into a slight political positive overall, if only because the bigger impression wasn’t that he is a “squish” on felons, but that he is more honest, more thoughtful, more fair, and tougher than Mitt Romney. Santorum also gave really solid answers on gun rights and on the connection between marriage (or its lack) and poverty. If the debate had been a two-man affair between him and Romney, Santorum would have scored an enormous victory.

BIG WINNER, BUT WITH AN ASTERISK: Newt Gingrich’s performance was a perfect reverse-image of Romney’s. Whereas Romney did pretty well on the opening and closing questions but stumbled in the middle, Gingrich started and ended poorly but in the middle had what most pundits are calling the single best debate performance of this endless nomination season. I wonder, though, if it was a vote-winning performance. In an earlier debate, for instance, my wife astutely said that with detailed answers Rick Santorum was “winning minds without winning votes” (or as I put it, impressing without “connecting” with voters); here, I think Gingrich won visceral reactions without changing minds. Here’s the thing: by now, everybody expects some excellent debate moments from Gingrich. People know he can hit tee balls out of the park. But is that still enough to gain their allegiance? People have seen him all over the map on so many issues, and have seen him so desperate and mean about Bain and other anti-Romney jeremiads, that now they want to see something from him that touches their hearts, not just their viscera, and that tells them he can actually be a steady enough performer (not just an occasionally exciting or explosive one) in a full general-election campaign.

In that light, it struck me that Gingrich really didn’t look good, particularly at the beginning of the debate. He looked a bit pale; he looked grim; he looked particularly fat of body but oddly thin of face; and he didn’t look friendly. Indeed, I think he looked, overall, unappealing, unhealthy, and unlikeable. And even when he was destroying the premised of Juan Williams’ questions, there was a weirdly off-putting edge to him. He was too “hot” (as opposed to figuratively “cool”) for TV, in both tone and visage. It was almost as if he was making one last hurrah before another bomb, a big one, drops on him. It was as if he was in a particularly foul mood because he knows his goose is cooked, for some reason or another.

So, while I concur that Gingrich absolutely dominated the middle portions of debate, with effective and popular positions and explanations, I’m not sure if it will translate into major new poll support. Just a hunch. But it was a hell of a show.

January 10th, 2012 at 1:41 pm
Why Is Romney Seen as Electable?

Just by way of analysis, not meaning to be pro- or anti-Romney’s candidacy — but can anybody give me even a halfway convincing explanation for why the commentariat thinks that Mitt Romney is so much more electable than some of the other GOP candidates? (And no, polls don’t count: Polls aren’t actual analysis, and head-to-head polls for next fall mean absolutely nothing at this stage of a race other than a rough sense of name ID. If they did, Jimmy Carter would have beaten Ronald Reagan by 32 points.)

Usually, at this level, past performance is as good an indicator as anything else. Well, Romney’s past electoral performance is decidely weak. In 1994, as Rick Santorum was pulling an upset to win a Senate seat in Pennsylvania, Romney was getting crushed by Ted Kennedy — in a race where Kennedy actually was seen, even three weeks out, to be far more vulnerable than usual, because the tawdriness of his nephew’s late-1991 rape trial (and his role therein) combined with the overall tawdriness of his long-running behavior, combined with a nationwide revolt against Democrats, made Massachusetts voters unusually open (according to all sorts of polls and focus groups) to replacing him. But, again, Romney got absolutely crushed.

In 2002, Romney won the governorship; in 2006, he chickened out of running for re-election; and in 2008, despite all sorts of financial advantages, he found a way to lose the Republican nomination fairly decisively to a seriously underfunded John McCain, losing a long string of individual primaries in the process.

So, overall, his electoral record is 1-2 — or, if you count each state in 2008 as a separate contest, which might not be exactly fair, he’s something like 2-17.

Add last week’s Iowa result, where he underperformed again (and earned exactly six FEWER votes than he earned in 2008), and you have a candidate who just doesn’t seen to be able to deliver on Election Day.

By contrast, Rick Perry famously has never lost an election (but then again, he hasn’t exactly had as tough a row to hoe in Republican-friendly Texas, and barely won re-election for governor in 2006 over an underfunded Democrat). Rick Santorum, running every single time in battles that were uphill or (once) no better than 50-50 shots (i.e. in districts or a state that was not friendly to Republicans), has won four out of five elections, and outperformed other Republicans in his state in almost every case in doing so. (For instance, in 2000 he won PA by four points while GW Bush was losing it by 5; in 2006, even in losing, he lost by less than the GOP candidate for governor that year did.)

Newt Gingrich, Jon Huntsman, and Ron Paul aren’t really easy to categorize, because they either come for slam-dunk Republican states (Huntsman) or they haven’t run in anything bigger than a congressional district (Gingrich, although as a national proxy candidate he helped Dole lose in 1996 and the GOP lose House seats in 1998), or their candidacies are so sui generis (Paul) and their electoral history so odd (Paul again, running for president on the Libertarian ticket once) that it makes comparisons difficult. But it’s clear that none of those three has shown any reason for anybody to believe they can compete very well on a national stage, and Perry’s performance so far this year indicates he perhaps wasn’t prepared for national issues.

Which leaves, again, Santorum, having won four of five elections and overperformed so far on the presidential stage, and Romney, having so far lost two of three elections and badly underperformed on the presidential stage. So it makes no sense at all to assume that Romney is more electable in the fall against Barack Obama’s $800 million.

January 9th, 2012 at 4:04 pm
Artur Davis Calls Foul on Racism Theme

Former U.S. Rep. Artur Davis of Alabama, a moderate Democrat, has been on a roll of late in exploding liberal shibboleths, from the false claim that voter ID laws are racist ploys (and that vote fraud is nonexistent) to the idea that Rick Santorum can’t appeal to the political center. His latest, at NRO, takes on a recent, scurrilous column by the NY Times’ Andy Rosenthal, claiming that most opposition to Barack Obama is race-based. Davis blows away Rosenthal’s allegation, here.

For instance:

To be sure, some of Obama’s enemies have depicted him in dumb, outrageous ways. Their bad behavior ought to be denounced, but accuracy demands that this be done in the context of rejecting the personal demonization that is par for the course in partisan politics. Rosenthal does civility a disservice by deploying it narrowly, to make a smear of his own, and by falsely suggesting that the toxicity in politics is a right-wing product.

Davis, who was the first member of Congress outside of Obama’s adopted home state of Illinois to endorse Obama for president, is no closet conservative. When conservatives stray from decency or honesty, I expect him to call us on it with the same verve that he has been calling “foul” on the left in recent months — and we will certainly deserve it, because Davis doesn’t take cheap shots. There is, for instance, racism that remains on the right, and we all have an obligation to call it out when we see it. But for the charge to carry weight, it should not be diluted by false accusations that deprive the charge of its power and weight. Kudos to Davis for trying to keep the conversation honest.

January 7th, 2012 at 1:29 pm
A Plethora of Great Political Analyses

I’ve been so busy this week that I missed the chance to link to a host of excellent pieces as they came out. So now here’s some one-stop-shopping for wonderful political pieces.

First, Jennifer Rubin was on fire this week. She still is bedeviling Newt Gingrich. And she hits Gingrich yet again here. She continues to praise Rick Santorum, this time for running a “thinking person’s race.” (She was one of the only columnists to take Santorum seriously as a candidate as early as late summer.) She defends Santorum from the charge from Rick Perry — whom he continues to criticize — that the Pennsylvanian is somehow a “big government conservative.” (For that matter, I have a new piece answering that same charge, here at National Review Online.) On that same general topic, she blasts “the screechy voices in the blogosphere, the perfectionist pundits…,” those who demand philosophical purity without any political context. (This last was a particularly well argued piece.) She closes a piece analyzing Santorum’s big remaining challenges with a great paragraph: “Republicans can get awfully theoretical and sterile in their approach. Santorum can remind the entire field that politics is also about emotion, connection, inspiration and faith.” And she provides a moving portrayal of Santorum’s wife, Karen.

Whew! That was just in three days.

She’s not the only one writing with eloquence and perspicacity. Two new pieces at The Weekly Standard make the case (as William Kristol has made for months) that it is foolish to anoint a nomination winner prematurely and that “moderate” or “establishment” or “safe” choices are often less likely to win than are candidates the establishment sees as risky.

A note about Bill Kristol: For much of 2011, I repeatedly contended in private conversations with very smart Washington people (along wit columns here and elsewhere)  that Santorum, though a long shot, had a real chance to become a finalist or winner in the GOP nomination sweepstakes. For most of that time, everybody airily dismissed the idea out of hand. Only one conversation went differently. Over coffee in downtown DC with Kristol in early May, Kristol said he doubted Santorum could do it, but that he thought highly of him… AND that, considering what he, Kristol, already recognized as the weaknesses and volatility of this year’s apparent field (this was before the polls themselves became volatile), that he wouldn’t write Santorum off, because he could see a “path to victory” for Santorum, albeit a remote one. He then gave a quick “for instance” hypothetical situation (for just about 45 seconds of our discussion), whose details I don’t remember other than that he was the only person to even suggest Santorum could find such a path. Later in the summer, Jen Rubin started covering Santorum seriously, with the same insight Kristol had, and in the fall blogger R.S. McCain did as well. That was it. Nobody else. So a hat tip to the three of them….

Now, back to good pieces this week. I think the most remarkable piece of the week came from former U.S. Rep. Artur Davis of Alabama, a thoughtful, moderate, black Democrat whose insights are usually worthwhile. He wrote at NRO that Santorum’s Iowa caucus-night speech was superb — “the best Republican rhetoric in the last decade” –  and offered a real political threat to Democrats. Along those same lines, two OTHER new pieces at the Weekly Standard pick up on some of the same themes: “the neglected substance of the Santorum campaign,” and that “Santorum has the potential to be a formidable opponent to Obama.” As Jonathan Last noted — and this is a theme first seriously highlighted a couple of weeks back by NRO’s Rich Lowry, “It’s an interesting bridge, from economic to moral issues, that Santorum constructs.”

At NRO, Robert Costa called Santorum “a blue collar candidate,” and at the Telegraph in Great Britain, a columnist made Rocky Balboa comparisons in calling him a “working class hero.”

Meanwhile, turning to Mitt Romney, Deroy Murdock penned this absolutely devastating examination of Romney’s record as a tax hiker and a big burdener of business. Particularly of interest this week, Romney even taxes New Hampshireites: ”

As if impoverishing his own taxpayers were not bad enough, Romney’s March 5, 2003 signature raised taxes on non-residents retroactive to that January 1. Perpetrating taxation without representation, Romney’s law declared that, “gross income derived from… any trade or business, including any employment,” would be taxable, “regardless of the taxpayer’s residence or domicile in the year it is received.”

Consequently, according to data furnished by the Massachusetts Department of Revenue, between 2002 and 2006, New Hampshire residents who work or do business in the Bay State shipped Massachusetts $95 million above what they paid when Romney arrived. The average tax paid by New Hampshirities to Massachusetts grew by 19.1 percent, from $2,392 in 2002 to $2,850 in 2006.

This is the sort of thing that Newt Gingrich is flinging at Romney. As Murdock shows, there is real substance behind it.

There…. that’s more than enough for now. I think there were others I wanted to highlight, but if I remember them, I’ll do so in another post.

December 29th, 2011 at 12:10 pm
Can Santorum Continue Into NH and SC?

In one of a spate of stories today about Rick Santorum’s surge in Iowa, Byron York notes in print the same potential drawback I’ve been hearing from all across the conservative spectrum:

A number of commentators have observed that even if Santorum flies high in Iowa, he faces trouble ahead.  That is true.  In the RealClearPolitics average of polls in New Hampshire, Santorum is in sixth place, with 3.8 percent of voters.  In the same average of polls in South Carolina, he is in seventh place, with 2.7 percent.  So yes, a Santorum surge could be short-lived.  But his answer would likely be: First things first; do well in Iowa and see what happens then.

The answer to that is that Santorum actually has done a lot of the same, or at least very similar, nuts-and-bolts organizing work in those next two states as he did in Iowa. In South Carolina, for example, where well-liked conservative former U.S. Rep. Gresham Barrett is Santorum’s state chair, Santorum has county organizations in 42 of the 46 counties — by far the most of any candidate (according to the Santorum campaign), with Gingrich reportedly in second with 33 counties organized. And in NH, according to the Santorum campaign, the Pennsylvanian has more “endorsements” than any candidate other than Romney.

If this campaign has shown anything thus far, it is that the electorate is very volatile and that support for a single candidate can double, triple, quadruple, even quintuple in the matter of just a few weeks. It happened for Cain, Bachmann, Perry, and Gingrich. Is there any doubt that if Santorum does really well in Iowa, his “flavor of the month” status could quickly boost him elsewhere?

Finally, as I was writing this, Fox News just reported that Rasmussen is out with a new poll that confirms the CNN poll: Santorum in third, with 16 percent….

December 28th, 2011 at 12:14 pm
More Good News for Santorum

Rich Lowry has an excellent column today about the real possibility of Santorum finally catching fire. And Lowry picks up on a too-little-noticed thematic element, in which Santorum ties together his social issues with his economic positions:

[H]e’s not a thoughtless culture warrior, in it for the bombast. Santorum links his social conservatism to the struggles of the working class in one of the few thematic departures in a Republican primary that has been more about personalities and past heterodoxies than substantive differences.

And Public Policy Polling finds that while Santorum hasn’t rocketed to the front yet, he is in the best position to catch fire late:

Michele Bachmann, Rick Perry, and Rick Santorum continue to all be clustered right around 10%. Santorum actually has the best favorability numbers of any of the candidates at +27 (56/29). He’s also the most frequent second choice of voters at 14%.  Whether he can translate any of this into a top 3 finish remains to be seen, but he’s someone who would seem to have the potential to grow his support in the final week…. And given all the strange twists and turns to this point don’t be surprised to see yet another surprise in the final week…and based on the innards of this poll the person best positioned to provide that surprise in the closing stretch is Santorum.

These last six days will be most interesting.

December 27th, 2011 at 4:20 pm
Santorum Surge Chic

Now the stories about a potential Santorum Surge in Iowa are coming more and more rapidly, with Stacy McCain at the American Spectator (who has been tracking and praising Santorum for weeks) reporting in today, as does John McCormack at The Weekly Standard. This comes after both Dick Morris and Mike Huckabee (along with Cokie Roberts from the center-left) said that Santorum is the one to watch.

It reminds me of our discussion several weeks ago (meaning me, Ashton, and Troy) in which I said just this sort of thing could happen: “[I]n all his winning races, Santorum closed fast right at the end. He’s trying to do the same thing here, without much campaign cash but with plenty of hard work. It may look like a long shot, but only a fool would completely write off his chances.”

Will his surge be big enough or soon enough? We’ll see a week from now. But he, not Rick Perry, may be the Rick to watch, with a real chance to win, as the nomination fight moves forward after Iowa.

December 26th, 2011 at 1:42 pm
Draft Jindal Move May Have Legs

Rich Lowry reports at The Corner a more specific (”prominent officeholder”) bit of news about efforts from big-name conservatives to draft Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal into the presidential race, along the lines of my cryptic blog entry here a couple of weeks ago on the same subject. But there are complications. Lowry gets to the nub of the matter here:

One big problem: Jindal is with Perry–literally. Not only has he endorsed him, he’s been campaigning with him. For a Jindal scenario to work, Perry would have to collapse and Jindal turn around and immediately express interest in rising from his friend’s ashes.

Here, though, is how I would read this: Perry is in trouble. It’s not that Jindal would ever jump in without Perry getting out; it’s that prominent conservative movers and shakers clearly have given up on Perry’s campaign. Think of it this way: If Perry were thought to still be a seriously viable candidate, nobody would be talking about recruiting his most prominent and popular endorser. Perry, therefore, is seen by serious people as failing to be viable, long-term.

(Disclosure:  I have had similar discussions with some of these same conservative leaders, and have said I think Jindal would be a great choice for the circumstances, if no real conservative breaks through in Iowa; i.e., for what it’s worth, I have encouraged them privately just as I have written about the idea publicly. None of which is to be taken by way of an endorsement — which isn’t my job — but it is to acknowledge participation of sorts in some of the same discussions I am now, third-hand, reporting that Lowry is reporting on.)

If this word gets out, Perry votes in Iowa might siphon off to Santorum (or Bachmann), because a weak Perry performance in Iowa would be seen by voters eager for another choice as making it more likely for Perry to withdraw and Jindal to enter the race. For those voters who like Santorum, of course, then if he already is “on the move” in Iowa (a move that began to be noticed weeks ago), then this report would further tend to encourage them that one of the other conservative opponents may be fading.

All sorts of permutations suggest themselves. It’s certainly fascinating to watch.

December 9th, 2011 at 10:14 am
Santorum Nabs Big Endorsement

Regarding our ongoing conversation this week about Rick Santorum, it’s worth noting that he just nabbed the endorsement of one of the most rapidly rising stars in Iowa politics, Secretary of State Matt Schultz — a Mormon, no less, who had endorsed Mitt Romney in 2008.

If I were a conservative activist leader, I’d be working on two tracks right now: Doing everything possible to boost Santorum in Iowa and, as an alternative in case he never catches fire, greasing the skids to help draft a candidate like Bobby Jindal into the race as a late entry — a stratagem with a much better chance of success this year than in any year since 1976, according to this new analysis making the rounds.

This is by way of analysis of options, not candidate advocacy — based on the clear sense from conservative movement types, in many many conversations this week, that they are not happy with the idea of a two-man, Romney-Gingrich race.

December 7th, 2011 at 1:58 pm
Re: Santorum v. Newt

Ashton makes great points about how the Trump debate could offer Rick Santorum one last chance to make a splash. He REALLY needs to carefully prepare some explosive sound bites. He actually has done very well in the debates at making overall, sustained points, in understandable fashion. But he hasn’t done so in ways that are memorable or galvanizing. I think sound-bite politics is a hugely unfortunate aspect of today’s campaigns. But it is an essential skill to master.  It’s actually not easy, because it needs to sound substantive enough to NOT sound gimmicky, but it needs to be a bit gimmicky in order to be memorable enough to do real good. It’s even harder when you need to do it against somebody who buries you in words the way Gingrich does.

In short, opportunity knocks, but it’s a heavy door to open…. or something like that.

December 6th, 2011 at 2:42 pm
Re: Santorum

I hope Troy, Tim, and whomever else will weigh in on this, too, and that Ashton will have more thoughts as well, about Ashton’s excellent questions about Santorum’s viability.

The deal is this: Santorum, first, has indeed been creeping up the polls in Iowa, and earning several key local endorsements. But he can’t get a big break or make a big move, it seems. All along he’s been doing the kind of painstaking grassroots work that sets the predicate for victory but that doesn’t itself achieve victory UNLESS a spark is lit. It’s like patiently gathering firewood, of all kinds, from tiny kindling to great big logs, and building a spectacular would-be fire — but not yet having a match, or even any flint, or even a magnifying glass to concentrate the sun’s rays to set the whole thing ablaze. The man has an incredibly well-constructed organization in Iowa, but it needs to be lit on fire.

Part of his problem is that he has received so little chance in the debates to make an impression. I’ve actually counted the number of times in several debates that each candidate was allowed to speak, and Santorum comes out on the bottom every time. The moderators have just given him short shrift.

Second, while he has been almost universally praised for his knowledge and his articulation of issues in the debates, he hasn’t been praised for style points. He has come across as the ace high school debater outpointing everybody on stage, but not out-charming everybody. He seems a striver endlesslessly trying to prove himself, rather than somebody who exudes a particularly executive authority of the sort of person who just expects his right to lead to be taken for granted.

Third, he has the tag of a loser. It’s crazy, but it’s there. He lost his last race by 18 points. Never mind that Gingrich oversaw the loss of House seats in what should have been a year for big GOP victories in 1998, nor that Gingrich poisoned the well so badly in 1996 that no GOP candidate for president was going to win. Never mind that if Romney had had the guts, as Santorum did, to run for re-election in 2006, he would have lost by about the same margin. Never mind that Santorum still outpolled the GOP candidate for governor in Pennsylvania that year, and most GOP candidates for the House in their respective districts, nor that he was running in the worst GOP year (other than Watergate) in 3/4 of a century, nor that his opponent was the namesake son of the most popular Pennsylvania governor in 70 years, nor that registered Dems outnumbered Repubs in PA by a cool million people. Never mind that Santorum won in a big upset in 1990, that he beat another incumbent in 1992 (dedistricted into the same space), that he won a big upset for the Senate in 1994, or that he won another upset for re-election to the Senate in 2000, holding his seat by five points as GW Bush lost the state by four points. Somehow, none of that matters: He’s a loser, dontcha know, because, well, he lost one race. Crazy.

But in all his winning races, Santorum closed fast right at the end. He’s trying to do the same thing here, without much campaign cash but with plenty of hard work. It may look like a long shot, but only a fool would completely write off his chances.

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October 25th, 2011 at 11:38 am
Still Room for an Entrant Into The GOP Field

I’ll admit it: Early this year, if Mike Pence had decided to run for president, I would have been “all in” for him. Here, Bill Kristol suggests that Pence is one who still should consider changing his “no go” decision. (Oh, what a nice thought!) The larger point that Kristol makes, a point that is right on target, is that there is absolutely no reason why the current shape of the race must remain in place. The vast majority of GOP voters are not yet even remotely committed to any particular candidate. In that light, my column today at The American Spectator names yet another person who party big-wigs ought to try to recruit: Bobby Jindal, who just won re-election as Louisiana governor in a landslide. As you’ll see in my column, Jim Geraghty also has a big Jindal feature in the latest issue of National Review.

To be clear, I’m not saying Jindal would get my vote even if he ran. I might still vote for Rick Santorum. I still see the appeal of Herman Cain.  Whatever. But that’s the point: I’m like more than 80 percent of Republican voters: I’m still able to be swayed.  So, dear reader, are you, almost assuredly. At Real Clear Politics, Scott Conroy says we shouldn’t be fooled, for instance, by Santorum’s low polling numbers, because his organization in Iowa is remarkably strong. I agree.

Right now it appears, for instance, that if either Herman Cain’s outlandish lack of a clue on foreign and defense policy or his weak campaign organization catches up with him and he starts to sink, the next conservative poised to make a challenge is Newt Gingrich, who was given up for dead almost as soon as he entered the race with a thud in the spring. Who woulda thunk that Gingrich could rehabilitate himself? (Who woulda thunk Republican voters would look past Gingrich’s sordid past, his implosion as Speaker based on his arrogance and mercurial nature, his habit of saying nasty things about conservatives, his huge negatives among independent voters, his pathetic pandering on ethanol and on global warming nonsense in general, his habit of sticking his foot in his mouth, or any of his other manifold weaknesses?) But if Gingrich can rise from the political dead all the way to third in the polls, why can’t Santorum catch the next wave? Or why can’t a Jindal jump in with just the right finesse and surge like Cain did, and like Perry and Bachmann did before Cain?

This race remains wide open, folks. Keeping it wide open is a good thing, not a bad one, because it allows more relevant information to surface and tests the candidates more strenuously, making the eventual nominee far more hardened and ready for whatever Barack Obama’s minions can throw at him.

October 24th, 2011 at 4:48 pm
Jeff Sessions Puts Welfare in Perspective

Alabama Republican Jeff Sessions, ranking member on the U.S. Senate Budget Committee, has been doing yeoman’s work on multiple levels in highlighting waste and proposing both procedural and substantive solutions. His efforts merit, and will in the next few weeks receive, a full column to recount them. By pure happenstance, I shared a plane with the senator and then a lunch at the Atlanta airport with him yesterday. One of the many budget-related topics we touched on was welfare — or, more precisely, food stamps and other welfare-benefits that were not fixed by the tremendous 1996 welfare reform that turned Aid to Families with Dependent Children (a mess) into Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (a huge success). One thing he said was more big-picture and attitudinal than it was program-specific and numbers heavy (although there was plenty of other discussion that did fit those latter categories). I repeat it here both as a teaser for a near-future column, and because, as usual, the good senator is right on target. To quote Sessions:

We need to go back to re-engage the national discussion on how receipt of welfare benefits not only is damaging to the Treasury but also hurts the recipient. We need to go back and re-establish the moral principle that federal assistance should be seen as a temporary aid where possible and the goal should be to help people become independent and self-sustaining.

Jack Kemp used to talk like that. Rick Santorum talks like that. Sometimes Paul Ryan at least comes close to talking like that. There is a nexus between morality and economic policy; it’s not all dollar signs and accounting, but instead about human potential and human lives. Kemp and others used to talk about getting rid of the “welfare trap,” and that’s exactly what Sessions is talking about. The right sort of compassion is one that helps somebody lift himself up, not one that gives him incentive to remain personally helpless.