Rick Santorum Becomes Eleventh Candidate To Lead GOP In Polls With Mitt Romney Severely Facing Problems

Although the conventional wisdom has been that Mitt Romney is the probable Republican nominee, he is certainly having a hard time establishing himself as a front runner. Before today’s poll came out, Nate Silver listed ten previous front-runners  in alphabetical order, including some Republicans who led in the polls without being a declared candidate: Michele Bachmann, Herman Cain, Chris Christie, Newt Gingrich, Rudy Giuliani, Mike Huckabee, Sarah Palin, Rick Perry, Mitt Romney and Donald Trump. Today, Public Policy Polling makes Rick Santorum the eleventh. Santorum leads at 38 percent. Romney trails at 23 percent, with Gingrich at 17 percent and Ron Paul at 13 percent.

Rick Santorum does even better if he does not have to divide he conservative vote with Newt Gingrich. If Gingrich were to drop out, the poll shows that 58 percent of his supporters would go to Santorum. In a such a three way race, Santorum get to 50 percent, while Romney would be at 28 percent and Paul at 15 percent.

Leadership in the GOP race has not meant very much to date, but falling behind at this stage does create problems for Romney. He might go negative against Santorum as he did against Gingrich, but his negative ads are starting to backfire. Some suggest that instead of going negative against Santorum, Romney must convert to a positive campaign. I’m not sure how a man who lacks any core beliefs or convictions can do this.  His strongest pitch is that he can make up the biggest lies about Barack Obama.

The Maine caucuses conclude tonight with a two-man race between Mitt Romney and Ron Paul. There is speculation that Paul might be able to pull an upset victory. If you cannot beat a crackpot like Ron Paul, it is hard to see victory for the nomination as inevitable.

There’s another potential embarrassment for Romney. Public Policy Polling is also seeing the start of a surge for Santorum in Michigan. A loss in Michigan would be devastating to Romney, both for losing his home state and because of reinforcing Santorum’s dominance over Romney in the Midwest. Perhaps Romney will try to flip-flop on having been born and raised in Michigan. Would Mitt Romney’s birth certificate then become an issue?

CPAC is also conducting their straw poll. To paraphrase Jay Leno, Romney is promising to change his views to whatever views CPAC members desire. Romney pandered before them, claiming to be “severely conservative.” The word severe might sound out of place here, unless you see it as an honest admission from Romney, such as “I am severely insane” or, at very least, “I am severely out of touch with the voters of this country.”

Quote of the Day

“Newt Gingrich has criticized ‘New York elites’ who ride the subway. One of those subway elites threw up on my pants this morning.” –David Letterman

With Letterman repeatedly mocking Gingrich for his view of New York elites, background information and more serious commentary can be found here.

Santorum Moving Up In Sinking Ship

The big question of the day is how Mitt Romney could possibly have lost three contests last night (Minnesota, Colorado, and Missouri) after receiving the endorsement of Donald Trump? As Trump took the credit for Romney winning in Nevada after receiving his endorsement, is there any chance that Trump would accept the blame for Romney’s loses yesterday. So far, no such concession, but Trump is talking about a cabinet position in a Romney administration (which should scare away some more potential votes) and does raise a valid point about  Santorum:

Rick Santorum was a sitting senator who in re-election lost by 19 points, to my knowledge the most in the history of this country for a sitting senator to lose by 19 points. It’s unheard of. Then he goes out and says oh ‘okay’ I just lost by the biggest margin in history and now I’m going to run for president. Tell me, how does that work? … That’s like me saying I just failed a test. Now I’m going to apply for admission to the Wharton School of Finance. Okay? He just failed a test…. And now he’s going to run for president. So, I don’t get Rick Santorum. I don’t get that whole thing.

Despite this, Santorum has an outside chance at the Republican nomination because of the degree of dislike for Romney by conservative Republicans and the lack of a viable alternative. Compared to Newt Gingrich, Santorum looks like an acceptable choice to GOP leaders. (Ron Paul remains irrelevant towards the actual nomination even though he will probably pick up a number of delegates, especially in the caucus states). I’m not all surprised that Santorum is emerging as the non-Romney candidate outside of the south. He is the best shot for the big-government conservative movement which remains obsessed with imposing their archaic religious views upon the entire country.

Beyond the Santorum hat trick, the other news out of last night’s contests is that turn out remains low in a contested battle for the nomination to oppose  a president who many conservatives continue to think is a black foreign-born Muslim socialist who hangs out with terrorists. (Only the first part of that characterization is accurate, but that is enough to get many Republicans to want to defeat him). Public Policy Polling found that “58% of Democrats were ‘very excited’ about voting this fall, compared to 54% of Republicans. Six months ago the figures were 48% of Democrats ‘very excited’ and Republicans at the same 54%. Generally you would expect voters to get more excited as the election gets near.” The poll also found that “The percentage of Tea Party voters ‘very excited’ about voting in November has declined from 73% to 62% since late July.” Perhaps many will remain home in November if the Republicans do not nominate a candidate they find acceptable, while appealing to the Tea Party will lead to further loses among independent and moderate voters. (One caution on this poll is that the poll was conducted for Daily Kos. There is no evidence that this affects the results, but I always feel uneasy about whether pollsters might attempt to please those paying the bill.)

Other recent polls have also been favorable for the Democrats. The latest Washington Post/ABC News poll shows Obama with a clear lead over Romney nationally for the first time. The trend favors Obama as “By better than 2 to 1, Americans say the more they learn about Romney, the less they like him.” Results in battleground states matter more in the electoral college than national polls but as Obama’s support improves nationally, it is also likely to improve in battleground states. The latest Quinnepiac poll shows Obama leading Romney 47 to 43 percent in Virginia. Democrats are also taking the lead in generic polls over preferred control of Congress.

It is still a long way until November and the polls can still change many times between now and then. Unpredictable events can also have a major influence on the election. There is, however, one predicable series of events which will help Obama. Nobody will be able to wrap up the Republican nomination soon, and the more the GOP candidates campaign against each other, the more the approval for all the Republican candidates declines.

Quote of the Day

“Mitt didn’t just beat Newt Gingrich, he stomped him by a devastating 14 percent margin. Fourteen percent! That is higher than Mitt’s tax rate.” –Stephen Colbert about the Florida primary.

Gingrich vs. His Imaginary Elites

Newt Gingrich talks of being a historian, but like most conservative “thought leaders,” he tends to get most of his facts wrong. Responding to Gingrich’s statements often seems a waste of time because, beside the repulsive moral code he promotes, he bases his arguments on premises which are out of touch with reality. Besides, it is questionable as to how long he will remain a meaningful candidate.

Ben Adler has a theory that Gingrich gets his facts wrong because, “Gingrich still seems to live in the last decade that he was relevant: the 1990s.” This theory works for Ben’s current post. I bet that he wouldn’t argue with my belief that, while this might be somewhat accurate in the example Ben discussed, there are also many other statements from Gingrich which have never been true, at least in our reality. Maybe there is some alternative universe out there  in which Gingrich sometimes gets history right.

I have never lived in New York, but simply taking occasional trips there and following the reality-based media which Gingrich seems to avoid, it was clear that Gingrich’s latest attack on Manhattan elites was factually wrong. Ben Adler explained:

On Friday he reiterated his hatred of people who live a more environmentally efficient lifestyle. Speaking in Las Vegas ahead of the Nevada caucus, a contest he is sure to lose, Gingrich attacked “elites” in Manhattan who live in high rises and “ride the subway.”

This is the perfect distillation of Gingrichism on many levels. First it shows the stupidity and ignorance of a man Republicans praise for his intelligence and knowledge. Riding the subway is much cheaper than owning, maintaining and driving a car. The truly rich in New York take cabs, car services or drive more often than the poor. Not everyone in Manhattan, or in a high-rise, is an elite: Gingrich has apparently never ventured north of 96th Street and seen who lives in the high-rise projects in Harlem.

Gingrich still seems to live in the last decade that he was relevant: the 1990s. Back then his despised media elites mostly lived in Manhattan. (Of the ones who live in the city. Plenty of them live in the suburbs and it’s unclear whether Gingrich thinks that makes them real Americans.)

Now, journalists and other underpaid urban professionals increasingly live in Brooklyn and Queens, but Gingrich’s demagoguery is behind the times. It’s also outdated because the reason writers have been largely pushed out of Manhattan is the influx of ever-wealthier bankers, the sort of people Gingrich says we should worship as job creators. It’s time for Gingrich to start loving Manhattan instead of hating it. Then again, some of the financiers work for private equity firms, and since Gingrich is running against a private equity executive, he has decided that those capitalists are inherently different and worse than all others.

Check out the full post for Adler’s suggestions as to future elites which Gingrich might attack.

How about elite disgraced former members of Congress who are backed by wealthy benefactors enabling them to run for president? With all his attacks on elites, Gingrich is an elite even if not elite (or sane) enough to ever get elected president.

Gingrich has scheduled a press conference for tonight, after the Nevada caucus which he is expected to lose. This has led to speculation that he might be withdrawing from the race. Following his threats to remain in the race until the end, I doubt this is the case unless his contributions are drying up. Perhaps this is a means of getting more coverage for attacks on Romney and an attempt to remain relevant until we reach southern primaries which might be more hospitable towards Gingrich. On the other hand, maybe we shouldn’t pay much attention to his past statements that he plans to remain in the race. Sticking to commitments has never been Gingrich’s strong point.

 

Donald Trump Wants To Fire Mitt Romney As GOP Frontrunner; Update: CNN Reports He is Endorsing Romney

Donald Trump is making a major announcement on Thursday and reportedly will endorse Newt Gingrich.

First Herman Cain endorsed Gingrich and now Trump. This should lock up the bat-shit crazy vote for Gingrich, which is the major portion of the Republican vote.

Trump has also been talking about running as a third party candidate again. Most likely this was to receive more publicity but perhaps he might use a loss by his candidate as reason to run.

Update: CNN is now reporting that Donald Trump will be endorsing Romney and not Gingrich per reports yesterday. I think we need to wait for the actual announcement to know for certain what he is doing.

Romney Projected To Win In Florida

The polls just closed in Florida and the media is already projecting that Mitt Romney will be the winner. This comes as no surprise today as the polls showed Romney with a lead, but immediately after the South Carolina primary this outcome was briefly in doubt. Since then Republican leaders have gone nuclear against Gingrich and Romney benefited from better debate performances.

Florida has violated the Republican Party rule that winner take all contests cannot occur until April, and Romney will take all fifty delegates, pending the inevitable challenge should Gingrich remain competitive. Gingrich does say he will remain in the race until the end, and he appears angry enough with Romney to possibly do so.

It now appears increasingly unlikely that Romney can be stopped despite the opposition of many conservatives. There just is not a viable candidate in the race to oppose him. It is too late for another candidate to enter the race and win as many filing deadlines have passed, but theoretically another candidate could enter and pick up enough delegates to keep anyone from winning a majority, leaving the decision to the convention. It is difficult, but not impossible, to envision scenarios which could still deny Romney the honor of losing to Barack Obama this fall.

Romney leading but having Gingrich remain in the race might be the best possible outcome following the Florida primary. As it is theoretically possible for the nominee of any major political party to wind up winning, we certainly do not want Gingrich to be the nominee. Gingrich is welcome to spend the next several months exposing all of Romney’s faults and continue to damage his image.

Juan Williams Exposes The Racist Euphemisms Used By Republican Candidates

Juan Williams exposes the racism in the GOP campaign at The Hill:

The language of GOP racial politics is heavy on euphemisms that allow the speaker to deny any responsibility for the racial content of his message. The code words in this game are “entitlement society” — as used by Mitt Romney — and “poor work ethic” and “food stamp president” — as used by Newt Gingrich. References to a lack of respect for the “Founding Fathers” and the “Constitution” also make certain ears perk up by demonizing anyone supposedly threatening core “old-fashioned American values.”

The code also extends to attacks on legal immigrants, always carefully lumped in with illegal immigrants, as people seeking “amnesty” and taking jobs from Americans…

The former Speaker has declared that black people should demand jobs instead of food stamps. And he has proposed having poor students work as janitors in their high schools. Regardless of how they were intended, poor people and minorities sense that with those comments Gingrich is winking — some call it “dog whistling” — at certain white audiences by intimating that black people are lazy, happy to live off the government and lacking any intellect.

With comments like this, I wonder how long Williams will remain at Fox. Apparently exposure to ideas at NPR has made a difference. Getting outside of the right wing bubble from time to time might do wonders for other conservatives.

I’ll undoubtedly receive a response from a Republican insisting that he is not racist because he will claim that it is true that blacks are just interested in food stamps and immigrants take American jobs. I’ve certainly received a lot of defenses of Ron Paul’s racist newsletters based upon such logic. The Republican leadership provides a form of legitimacy to such prejudices.

 

Quote of the Day

“Mitt Romney is going to release 2010 and 2011 tax returns. Not to be outdone, Newt Gingrich is going to release his 1988, 1994, and 2005 wedding vows.” –Conan O’Brien

Newt Gingrich Fails In Attempts To Become Ronald Reagan or Barry Goldwater

With the candidates for the GOP nomination failing to have a sensible platform of their own, they are trying to latch onto the reputation of Ronald Reagan. Newt Gingrich is the most guilty of this.  Mitt Romney, who has taken both sides of virtually question imaginable, has declared his independence from Bush-Reagan in the past. Conservatives disagree as to whether Gingrich is the new Ronald Reagan.  National Review ran a story showing that Gingrich frequently attacked Reagan, while many conservative blogs are running a video in which Nancy Reagan said her husband had turned over the torch to Newt.

One thing is certain. Newt Gingrich is not a Bob Dole Republican, as Dole has made very clear:

I have not been critical of Newt Gingrich but it is now time to take a stand before it is too late. If Gingrich is the nominee it will have an adverse impact on Republican candidates running for county, state, and federal offices. Hardly anyone who served with Newt in Congress has endorsed him and that fact speaks for itself. He was a one-man-band who rarely took advice. It was his way or the highway.

Gingrich served as Speaker from 1995 to 1999 and had trouble within his own party. By 1997 a number of House Republican members wanted to throw him out as Speaker. But he hung on until after the 1998 elections when Newt could read the writing on the wall. His mounting ethics problems caused him to resign in early 1999. I know whereof I speak as I helped establish a line of credit of $150,000 to help Newt pay off the fine for his ethics violations. In the end, he paid the fine with money from other sources.

Gingrich had a new idea every minute and most of them were off the wall. He loved picking a fight with President Clinton because he knew this would get the attention of the press. This and a myriad of other specifics like shutting down the government helped to topple Gingrich in 1998.

In my run for the presidency in 1996 the Democrats greeted me with a number of negative TV ads and in every one of them Newt was in the ad. He was very unpopular and I am not only certain that this did not help me, but that it also cost House seats that year. Newt would show up at the campaign headquarters with an empty bucket in his hand — that was a symbol of some sort for him — and I never did know what he was doing or why he was doing it, and I’m not certain he knew either.

The Democrats are spending millions of dollars running negative ads against Romney as they are hoping that Gingrich will be the nominee which could result in a landslide victory for Obama and a crushing defeat for Republicans from the courthouse to the White House. Democrats are not running ads against Gingrich which is further proof they want to derail Governor Romney.

In my opinion if we want to avoid a sweeping victory by Obama in November, Republicans should nominate Governor Romney as our standard bearer. He could win because he has the requisite experience in the public and private sectors. He would be a president in whom we could have confidence and he would make us proud.

Gingrich has also compared himself to Barry Goldwater, but that one is especially absurd. Goldwater made his opposition to the religious right very clear in many statements, including in a speech before the Senate on September 16, 1981:

On religious issues there can be little or no compromise. There is no position on which people are so immovable as their religious beliefs. There is no more powerful ally one can claim in a debate than Jesus Christ, or God, or Allah, or whatever one calls this supreme being. But like any powerful weapon, the use of God’s name on one’s behalf should be used sparingly. The religious factions that are growing throughout our land are not using their religious clout with wisdom. They are trying to force government leaders into following their position 100 percent. If you disagree with these religious groups on a particular moral issue, they complain, they threaten you with a loss of money or votes or both. I’m frankly sick and tired of the political preachers across this country telling me as a citizen that if I want to be a moral person, I must believe in “A,” “B,” “C” and “D.” Just who do they think they are? And from where do they presume to claim the right to dictate their moral beliefs to me?

And I am even more angry as a legislator who must endure the threats of every religious group who thinks it has some God-granted right to control my vote on every roll call in the Senate. I am warning them today: I will fight them every step of the way if they try to dictate their moral convictions to all Americans in the name of “conservatism.”

Goldwater also expressed similar views in 1994:

Mark my word, if and when these preachers get control of the [Republican] party, and they’re sure trying to do so, it’s going to be a terrible damn problem. Frankly, these people frighten me. Politics and governing demand compromise. But these Christians believe they are acting in the name of God, so they can’t and won’t compromise. I know, I’ve tried to deal with them.

Former social liberal Mitt Romney would also fail on these grounds with his  pandering to the religious right.