Obama Plans Strong Attacks on Romney and Having Republicans At Democratic Convention

I think the biggest mistake made by John Kerry in his campaign against George Bush was to insist that all the speakers at the Democratic convention be positive without attacking George Bush. Needless to say, the Republicans did not follow the same policy. Kerry was leading during the summer, but fell significantly behind Bush after the Republican hate-fest. I’m glad to find that Barack Obama will not be making that mistake:

Advisers to President Barack Obama are scripting a Democratic National Convention featuring several Republicans in a prime-time appeal to independents — and planning a blistering portrayal of Mitt Romney as a heartless aristocrat who “would devastate the American middle class,” Democratic sources tell POLITICO.

According to convention planning documents, the three-night convention in Charlotte, N.C., early next month will seek to “[e]xpose Mitt Romney as someone who doesn’t understand middle class challenges” while also burnishing “the President’s image as someone whose life story is about fighting for middle class Americans and those working to get into the middle class.”

It is fun to watch the Republicans whine when Obama hits them with critical but generally honest attacks considering that Republicans have been running far harsher attacks on Democrats for years which also are notable for their dishonesty. There is nothing coming from Obama (unless you believe this story in The Onion)  which compares to Republican lies that Obama is a Muslim born outside of the United States, that he is a socialist, that he is bringing about a government take over of health care, that he raised taxes when he actually cut them, or blaming him for the Bush deficit.  There’s no Democratic comparison to the all the recent noise misquoting Obama, falsely claiming he said that businessmen did not build their business or the lies about Obama’s welfare proposal. Same is true of several other misquotations Republicans have campaigned on. There’s nothing coming from Obama which compares to the Swift Boat Lies, which have been tied directly to Karl Rove and the Bush White House. There’s no Democratic 24-hour cable channel which spends the day promoting partisan talking points and lies disguised as news.

It will be interesting to see which Republicans will be included. Will they be individuals from outside of government who have voted Republican in the past and are now backing Obama, or will there be former Republican office holders? There certainly are a lot of moderate Republicans, and even some conservatives, who are no longer welcome in this far, far right wing GOP. I’m hoping for a seance in which Barry Goldwater repeats his old warnings about the religious right taking over the party and Ronald Reagan explains how the party has moved far to the right of him.

Earlier in the week there was reason to hope that the most entertaining Republicans of this election cycle, the Huntsman daughters, might be convinced to change parties. Abby Huntsman did say she was joining the Democrats but later said she was kidding. She also remains unsure as to who she will be voting for, so there is still hope of seeing videos from the Huntsman daughters backing Obama. It might be a family affair. There is speculation that Jon Huntsman, Sr. is the source for Harry Reid’s questionable claim that Mitt Romney didn’t pay taxes for ten years. Who knows, maybe Jon Huntsman, who already served as Obama’s ambassador to China, might show up at the Democratic Convention to back Obama.

Romney In Serious Trouble In South Carolina

In covering primary and caucus votes I’ve held to two principles: 1) polls, especially in early contests, are meaningless until just before the actual vote, and 2) each vote has the potential to change the dynamic of the nomination battle making polls of  subsequent events open to considerable change. These principles were clear when John Kerry and Barack Obama used come from behind victories in Iowa in 2004 and 2008 to defeat the previous front runners for the Democratic nominations. This year, South Carolina has the potential to derail the campaign of Mitt Romney.

The script was supposed to read that South Carolina would be Romney’s third consecutive win, making his nomination inevitable. While Romney very well can still go on to win, this script is now in doubt. Newt Gingrich has overtaken Romney in late polls, while Santorum has been given the win in Iowa. A loss tonight would make Romney one out of three.

Romney has taken some serious hits, including questions about his years at Bain Capital, his admission that he only pays 15 percent in income taxes, his money in the Cayman Islands, and his poor response to questions about releasing his income tax returns. Added to clear demonstrations that Romney has no convictions or ideas as to how to govern, even if he still should win the nomination it is questionable whether he can compete in a general election campaign.  Exit polls from South Carolina are showing that voters are looking for the candidate with the best shot at beating Barack Obama, but the old conventional wisdom that this is Romney might no longer hold. At this point Newt Gingrich, with all his faults, very well might be the Republican’s most competitive candidate in a general election campaign–which should be very scary for anyone crazy enough to want to see a Republican in the White House.

I wonder how much more momentum Santorum might have received if he had been declared the winner at the time of the actual vote. His initial placement in second place, along with the endorsement from portions of the religious right, appear to be insufficient to make him the major non-Romney candidate in South Carolina. The main difference is probably that Gingrich, from neighboring Georgia, is better able to play into the fears and prejudices of southern Republican voters. It is doubtful the revelations of his infidelity and request for an open marriage would hurt him at all. The morality of the religious right is in no way related to the morality of decent, honorable people who reject their archaic world view. Many in the religious right hold a strange world view where the paternalistic display of power by Newt over his previous wives would be seen as favorable, and Gingrich’s attack on the press for discussing this would be an even bigger plus. Rights of women and the concept of a free press are two ideas which are foreign to them.

The campaign also got down to the final four this week, first helping Romney and then non-Romney. There is a tremendous benefit to being declared first even before the GOP race allows winner take all votes in April. While Jon Huntsman never caught on, it became possible that his votes could make a difference in allowing Romney to hold on to first place in what was then a five way race. Rick Perry’s endorsement of Newt Gingrich helps balance that vote. The question in upcoming states will be whether Gingrich and Santorum divide the conservative vote, while Ron Paul, who has zero chance of actually winning, siphons off enough additional votes to allow Romney to come in first.

Should Romney have a strong showing today he will become very difficult to beat. However, should Gingrich win then the polls showing Romney with leads in Florida and other states might no longer have any meaning. A win for Gingrich in South Carolina would give an entirely new narrative in the Florida race. Romney’s national lead has fallen to ten points in the latest Gallup tracking poll. That poll was a five day rolling average taken between January 15 and 19. Romney’s position at the end of that period  could even be worse., after leading by twenty-three points at the start of the week. Romney could fall even further if he loses in South Carolina, possibly leading to a loss in Florida, or at very least keeping the race going into more states.

David Letterman: Top Ten Things People Said When They Heard Jon Huntsman Was Dropping Out Of The Presidential Race

David Letterman: Top Ten Things People Said When They Heard Jon Huntsman Was Dropping Out Of The Presidential Race

10. “Who’s Jon Huntsman?”
9. “Is he the rich boring white guy, or the other rich boring white guy?”
8. “Seriously, who’s Jon Huntsman?”
7. “You mean my tax attorney? Oh wait, that’s Stan Huntsman”
6. “Does this mean we can bring Herman Cain back? That guy was hilarious”
5. “So that leaves only four viable candidates, plus Rick Perry”
4. “It’s like Jon Huntsman said . . . Well, actually, I have no idea what he said”
3. “Hey honey, some guy I’ve never heard of is dropping out of the race”
2. “He should have Tebowed more”
1. “Now who’s gonna lose to Obama in the general election?”

Romney Son Makes Birther Joke

Until this week the most significant actions from families of the candidates were the YouTube videos by the Huntsman daughters, but they will have no effect unless Jon Huntsman joins the other underdogs in the GOP race who have had a surge. This week Tagg Romney made a mistake responding to questions about when his father will release his tax returns by joking that he, “heard someone suggest the other day that as soon as President Obama releases his grades and his birth certificate.” The Obama campaign used this to their advantage:

In an email to supporters today about the joke, Obama for America campaign manager Jim Messina wrote, “This is how the Romney campaign thinks it’s going to win the Republican primary: by pandering to the dead-ender fringe of extremists who still question where the president was born.”

While asking for a donation, Messina said, “we can drive up the cost of this kind of politics… when they do this, you’ve got to do something about it.”

The email was sent under the subject line, “Donald Trump or Mitt Romney?” in reference to Trump’s persistent questions about Mr. Obama’s origins, which ultimately prompted the president to release his long-form birth certificate from Hawaii.

The Obama team also tweeted about the gaffe, sending its Twitter followers a link to mugs the re-election campaign is selling that poke fun at the birther issue.

Maybe it inspired a few more supporters to contribute but otherwise this is unlikely to have much effect. Nobody in the Romney family is likely to  make a mistake such as this in the future and this will be long-forgotten in the general election campaign. The bigger question is whether Mitt Romney’s tax returns will hurt him in a general election campaign.

Huntsman Flips Back On Climate Change

Yesterday Jon Huntsman flip-flopped on climate change, appearing to join the deniers. Today he tried to pull back on this:

“Let me be very clear on this: there is no change,” he told reporters after his speech to the Republican Jewish Coalition. “I put my faith and trust in science. So you have 99 of 100 climate scientists who have come out and talked about climate change in certain terms, what is responsible for it. I tend to say this is a discussion that should not be in the political lane but should be in the scientific lane.”

Huntsman also said:

When you have 99 out of 100 climate scientists, there’s enough there for us to say we have an established body of science. Now it would be a very good thing to coordinate that science with the other major emitters on the globe, recognizing that it is an international problem,” he said. “I don’t want to disadvantage this country during a time when we are weak economically and want to get back on our feet.”

I wonder how his views will change depending upon which group he is speaking to. Regardless of his statements on whether global warming is a real problem, Huntsman has been consistent in opposing any government action to respond to the problem.

Huntsman Joins Rest Of Republican Party In Rejecting Science

A conservative columnist recently wrote that Jon Huntsman is not doing well in the GOP nomination battle because of failing to deny science like the other candidates. It looks like Huntsman is taking his advice to reject science and fit in better with conservative voters:

GOP presidential candidate Jon Huntsman shifted his position on global warming Tuesday, telling a conservative audience that there is “not enough information right now” on the issue to formulate policies.

In August, Huntsman drew attention and criticism from the right for tweeting that he believed scientists’ claims on global warming.

“To be clear. I believe in evolution and trust scientists on global warming. Call me crazy,” Huntsman wrote at the time.

But speaking at the Heritage Foundation, Huntsman veered to the right of his former position.

I wonder how long it will be before Huntsman speaks at the Discovery Institute and says he believes that evolution is only a theory and backs intelligent design as a valid alternative.

Perry’s Palin-Style Surge

It is not surprising that, soon after entering the race, Rick Perry has moved to the lead in the Republican race considering the weakness of the field. As Governor of Texas, he avoids the problems of candidates (and potential candidates)  such as Michele Bachmann and Sarah Palin of not appearing qualified to hold national office. By taking extreme conservative positions, he avoids the problems of candidates such as Mitt Romney and Jon Huntsman. He has even taken a lead over Obama in the latest Rasmussen poll, although if you believed the results from this right -wing polling outfit  the country would be far to the right of where it is now, Hillary Clinton would have beaten Barack Obama, and a Republican would already be in the White House.

This doesn’t mean that I don’t think it is possible for Perry to take a lead in the legitimate national polls. I would not be at all surprised if Perry doesn’t enjoy a huge bounce, similar to the one which Sarah Palin briefly enjoyed. Once people learn more about his ideas and past, his public support will undoubtedly fall. For the sake preserving a United States which the founding fathers might still recognize, I sure hope that happens before November, 2012. Otherwise we will believe that the ancient Mayans were right.

Republicans who consider electability as opposed to extremist right-wing philosophy and the anti-Americanism/anti-intellectualism of the so-called Tea Party will realize that Perry is a potential disaster, but they might not have a choice. If the election can be limited to a vote based upon the economy in 2012, then there is the danger that Perry, and even Bachmann or Palin, could actually win, regardless of the fact that Republican economic ideas are responsible for creating and prolonging the recession. If Obama has any success in broadening the playing field to a vote as to what type of American voters really want, Obama still can win big. Republicans already have the burden of running with their Congressional votes to essentially abolish Medicare.  Add to that Perry’s opposition to Social Security, support of theocracy over liberal democracy, and support for plutocracy over capitalism, and we could see a replay of 1964, assuming the Democrats can actually get their message out.

It is far too early to predict the GOP race, but many pundits are now describing it as a battle between Romney and Perry. The two have one thing in common. Both have taken more moderate positions in the past, and have more recently espoused nutty right wing views to improve their position it the GOP. The difference is that, despite pandering to the far right on a number of issues, Romney has avoided a handful of extremist views while Perry has gone as far right as possible without donning a white sheet or brown shirt, giving him far more credibility on the right.  Plus having actually implemented a health care plan similar to Obama’s is a far more serious offense than just writing in support of Hillary Clinton’s plan as Perry once did. After all, the plan which passed is essentially the Republican counter-proposal to Clinton’s plan with most leading Republicans already being on record as supporting its features in the past.

Perry’s entry does alter Romney’s game plan. Until now, Romney has been able to get away with raising tons of money while generally keeping a low profile and limiting attacks upon him. He must now campaign more openly and  gamble by showing that Perry is too radical to become president, recognizing that doing this might actually endear him even more to Republican primary voters. At least having Romney and Huntsman exposing Perry’s most radical viewpoints will make things easier for Obama should Perry become his opponent, potentially reducing his national support to Palin-levels as soon as he is nominated.

John Huntsman Looks Good Compared To The Bat-Shit Crazy People Running For The GOP Nomination

John Huntsman is still fairly conservative, but at least he avoid some of the really off the wall beliefs held by current Republican leaders. Here are some excerpts from an interview to air on ABC’s This Week. Huntsman will never win the Republican nomination if he keeps saying things like this:

In response to Rick Perry’s denial of climate change:

 I think there’s a serious problem.  The minute that the Republican Party becomes the party – the anti-science party, we have a huge problem.  We lose a whole lot of people who would otherwise allow us to win the election in 2012.  When we take a position that isn’t willing to embrace evolution, when we take a position that basically runs counter to what 98 of 100 climate scientists have said, what the National Academy of Science – Sciences has said about what is causing climate change and man’s contribution to it, I think we find ourselves on the wrong side of science, and, therefore, in a losing position.

The Republican Party has to remember that we’re drawing from traditions that go back as far as Abraham Lincoln, Theodore Roosevelt, President Eisenhower, Nixon, Reagan and Bush.  And we’ve got a lot of traditions to draw upon.  But I can’t remember a time in our history where we actually were willing to shun science and become a – a party that – that was antithetical to science. I’m not sure that’s good for our future and it’s not a winning formula.

On Michele Bachmann’s belief that the United States should have defaulted on our debts:

Well, I wouldn’t necessarily trust any of my opponents right now, who were on a recent debate stage with me, when every single one of them would have allowed this country to default.  You can imagine, even given the uncertainty of the marketplace the last several days and even the last couple of weeks, if we had defaulted the first time in the history of the greatest country that ever was, being 25 percent of the world’s GDP and having the largest financial services sector in this world by a long shot, if we had defaulted, Jake, this marketplace would be in absolute turmoil.  And people who are already losing enough as it is on their 401(k)s and retirement programs and home valuations, it would have been catastrophic.

On Rick Perry calling Ben Bernanke treasonous:

Well, I don’t know if that’s pre-secession Texas or post-secession Texas.  But in any event, I’m not sure that the average voter out there is going to hear that treasonous remark and say that sounds like a presidential candidate, that sounds like someone who is serious on the issues.


Quote of the Day

“New Republican Presidential candidate Jon Huntsman is fluent in Chinese. In a short period of time the Republicans have come quite a long way. The last Republican president wasn’t even fluent in English.” –David Letterman

Jon Huntsman Also Considered An Individual Mandate

Until recently, support for an individual mandate to purchase health insurance was the dominant Republican idea. As I pointed out a few days ago, Republicans including Mitt Romney, Mitch Daniels, and Newt Gingrich are now becoming embarrassed by having to flip-flop on their former health care positions. Add Jon Huntsman to the list:

… Huntsman was “suggesting Utah should mandate health coverage for residents,” according to a July 12, 2007, Salt Lake City Weekly piece.

An August 11 Salt Lake Tribune story described the governor’s ambitious reform this way: “John T. Nielsen, who is working with the Governor’s Office in spearheading legislation for the plan, would mandate that all Utahn have health insurance through a nonprofit exchange that would facilitate the purchase of insurance.”

In his 2007 state of the state address, Huntsman pressed for at least a mandate on insuring children. “In addition to the children, there are hundreds of thousands of uninsured adults,” he said.

Reading the full report, Huntsman did appear to be ambivalent regarding mandates, but he did consider their use in a conservative state. It wasn’t until this was on the verge of being passed by a Democratic administration that mandates became an unthinkable intrusion upon individual liberty by hypocritical Republican politicians.