Jeb Bush Accurately Describes Current GOP Field

Jeb Bush, generally regarded as George’s younger, smarter brother,  has been receiving a lot of credit this week for saying what any sane conservative should realize:

“I used to be a conservative and I watch these debates and I’m wondering, I don’t think I’ve changed, but it’s a little troubling sometimes when people are appealing to people’s fears and emotion rather than trying to get them to look over the horizon for a broader perspective and that’s kind of where we are.”

It is a shame he didn’t speak out when his brother was in the White House. While the Republican Party has moved even further to the right, the fact remains that George Bush was probably the most radical right wing president in our history, and few (if any) other presidents have done as much harm to the country as Bush.

I wonder if Jeb is laying the groundwork for a 2016 campaign, already realizing the importance of distancing himself from what could be a disastrous campaign in 2012. This assumes that the Republican Party will be more sane in 2016 than it is now, which is a very questionable prediction. It is easy for Jeb Bush to sound more sane now when he is not running. If he was a candidate for the 2012 nomination he might be forced to act just as insane as Santorum, Gingrich, Paul, and Romney.

There was a time when perhaps Mitt Romney would be the Republican candidate who tried to tone down the extremism and campaign as the sane candidate. Instead Romney has actually tried to campaign with claims of being to the right of Rick Santorum. As Bill Maher has pointed out, that cannot work:  “he can’t be to the right of Rick Santorum because there’s nothing to the right except Kirk Cameron and the Neo-Nazi Party.”

Republican Reality Free Debate Even Misquotes From Seinfeld

The Republican debate last night was another amazing display of people who are out of touch with reality. When I have patients who are as out of touch with reality as the four guys  on CNN last night, diagnoses are made and medications are prescribed. These guys sprout total nonsense which is rarely challenged. Wouldn’t it be great if debate moderators spoke out when candidates say things which are just totally off the wall?

Some of the misinformation spread has been reviewed by the media today, including Newt Gingrich’s false claim that Barack Obama voted for infanticide (although the media did seem more concerned with debunking his incorrect claim that the media never asked Obama about his vote than the fact that calling it support for infanticide is untrue). Romney’s recent attempts to rewrite the history of the auto bailout, repeated during the debate, have also been debunked. Unfortunately the media has not bothered to point out the vast differences between the fictitious president discussed during the debate and the real record of Barack Obama. That might be a matter better handed when one of these light weights faces the real Barack Obama in a debate.

While I noticed repeated false statements during the debates, I didn’t think to question one remark from Mitt Romney at the time, but on review of media reports I find yet another serious error on Romney’s part. He misquoted George Costanza according to Buzzfeed:

Romney, tonight at the Arizona debate (one he’s used before:

“What’s the George Costanza line? When they’re applauding, you sit down…”

The actual quote (from “Seinfeld” episode 172, “The Burning”):

JERRY: Showmanship, George. When you hit that high note, you say goodnight and walk off.

The line wasn’t even from George,  but Jason Alexander had a great response on Twitter:  Thrilled Gov. Romney enjoys my old character. I enjoyed the character he used 2 b 2. If he’d embrace that again, he’d b a great candidate.

Santorum Upset That Obama Agenda Not Based On Bible

In a post yesterday I contrasted the false conservative narrative that liberals support a big government to impose their views upon others with the actual fact that a large segment of the conservative movement actually does see the role of government as imposing their religious views on the country. Rick Santorum repeatedly demonstrates this,  doing so again yesterday in attacking Obama for having an agenda which is not “based on Bible.”

Newt Gingrich has made similar arguments with his attacks on Obama as a “secular socialist.” (Besides being wrong in seeing secular as undesirable, he is wrong in calling Obama a socialist.  Gingrich is using the new conservative definition of socialism as supporting a few percentage point increase in the marginal tax rate of multimillionaires and lower tax rates on the middle class, which has nothing to do with any conventional definition of the term.) Ron Paul has also shown a preference for theocracy, while Mitt Romney is willing to take multiple positions on the issue.

Contrast Santorum and Gingrich with a previous Catholic candidate for president, John F. Kennedy:

I believe in an America that is officially neither Catholic, Protestant nor Jewish, where no public official either requests or accept instructions on public policy from the Pope, the National Council of Churches or any other ecclesiastical source; where no religious body seeks to impose its will directly or indirectly upon the general populace or the public acts of its officials, and where religious liberty is so indivisible that an act against one church is treated as an act against all.

John Kennedy and Barack Obama are both following in the tradition of the Founding Fathers who understood the importance of creating a secular republic with separation of church and state. Nobody should be able to use the powers of government to impose their religious views upon others.

Santorum Has Lead But Archaic Views On Contraception May Drag Down His Campaign And The GOP

Check out the weather in Hell and be on the look out for flying pigs. Jennifer Rubin has a column I agree with. She points out that Rick Santorum is going to have a tough time getting votes with his anti-contraception views. She also writes, “The impression that Santorum finds the prevalent practice of birth control ‘harmful to women’ is, frankly, mind-numbing.”

Santorum’s archaic views make it difficult to determine which way the Republican nomination battle is going. Republicans are still looking for a non-Romney, but with all the people in the world who are not named Romney, so far they have been stuck with losers named Cain, Bachmann, Perry, and now Santorum. Romney remains unable to convince conservatives that he is one of them, having held both liberal and conservative views on so many issues over the years.  I’m happily married, have a family, and run a business. Applying Mitt Romney’s argument, this makes me a conservative who other conservatives should support for the GOP nomination. No wonder he is having trouble sealing the deal.

At the moment Santorum looks strong in the polls, leading nationally and leading Romney in Michigan, where a loss for Romney could be devastating. Around Michigan the talk is that Romney would make an excellent candidate, if only it was George and not his son. Apparently George H. W. Bush was not the only Republican who wound up with an idiot son. There is even speculation that Romney could have to self-finance his campaign if his big donors give up on him as he has not been able to get the large numbers of small donors who have kept other campaigns going.

So far the Republicans have had eleven front-runners as they go through the list of potential not-Romneys. Each time Romney remained on top as information on each opponent turned out to be so bad that even conservative Republicans couldn’t stomach them. Newt Gingrich has now become the most dis-liked politician in America according to two polls.  We knew that there was no way that even the Republicans would nominate Herman Cain, Donald Trump, or Michele Bachmann. Will Rick Santorum also suffer the same fate, or will social conservatives prevail and make him the GOP candidate? With Rick Santorum surging (and in the case of Rick Santorum, no double entendre is intended with surging), this must mean that conservative “small government” means government small enough to fit through the key hole into your bedroom.

Santorum’s views on contraception would be opposed by strong majorities in a general election, and even most Republicans don’t agree with Santorum.  Virtually all women (more than 99%) aged 15–44 who have ever had sexual intercourse have used at least one contraceptive method.  Overall, 62% of the 62 million women aged 15–44 are currently using a method according to information from the  Guttmacher Institute. These numbers don’t trail by very much even among Catholics. A Pew Research Center survey found that 85 percent of the country believes that contraception is either “not a moral issue” or “morally acceptable.” Eight percent agree with Santorum in viewing contraception as “morally wrong.”

The contraception issue is not only hurting Santorum. It is a wedge issue that can hurt the entire Republican Party. Greg Sargent reviewed some of the pertinent numbers from a New York Times/CBS News poll on whether people support Obama’s policy on mandating contraception.  The poll shows that 66 percent are in support and only 26 percent oppose it. He then reviewed a partisan breakdown of answers:

* Even Republicans support this policy, 50-44.

* Independents support it by 64-26.

* Moderates support it by 68-22.

* Women support it by 72-20.

* Catholics support it by 67-25.

* And even Catholics who attend church every week or almost every week support it by 48-43

We all know that this debate is really over one’s view on contraception, despite Republican efforts to disguise this as an issue over requiring funding by religious institutions. Sargent also looked at the question, “what about for religiously affiliated employers, such as a hospital or university — do you support or oppose a recent federal requirement that their health insurance plans cover the full cost of birth control for their female employees?” The response still was not helpful for the Republicans: “Registered voters say Yes, 61-31; independents say Yes, 59-31; moderates say Yes, 64-29; and even 41 percent of Republicans say Yes, with 53 percent opposed.”

With the Republicans lacking a credible candidate and holding views unpopular with most of the country, it is no surprise that Obama’s approval rating is on the rise, now back to 50 percent, with Obama leading all the Republican candidates both nationally and in the many key battleground states.

Quote of the Day

“Santorum and Romney, they don’t like condoms because sex should all be about making babies. And Newt Gingrich doesn’t like them because
they’re hard for a fat guy to put on in a car.” –Bill Maher

Quote of the Day

“Congratulations once again to the world champion New York Giants. They played a great game. Eli Manning now has two rings. Two! But that’s still one less ring than Newt Gingrich.” –Jay Leno

Romney Wins on Saturday–Barely

In quick follow-up of yesterday’s look at the Republican nomination battle, Mitt Romney did the minimum necessary to win yesterday’s events, but not in a very convincing manner. Both many commentators and Rick Santorum have attributed Romney’s win at CPAC to busing in large numbers of college students on from the east coast, analogous to how Ron Paul won the past two years. Today Santorum is outright accusing Romney of rigging the vote:

Romney beat Santorum by 7 points Saturday in a straw poll of almost 3,500 attendees at the Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC). Santorum pointed out that Ron Paul had won the poll in both of the past two years “because he just trucks in a lot of people pays for their ticket, they come in and vote and then leave.”

“I don’t try to rig straw polls,” Santorum said on CNN’s State of the Union.

Paul actually came in last on Saturday, having declined to address the conference or to activate his base for the straw poll. But Santorum said that wasn’t the case with Romney.

“You have to talk to the Romney campaign and how many tickets they bought,” Santorum said. “We’ve heard all sorts of things.”

Romney won with 38 percent, followed by Santorum at 31 percent, Gingrich at 15 percent and Ron Paul at 12 percent. It is notable  that the combined voted received by Santorum and Gingrich significantly exceeds that received by Romney. I believe that if Newt Gingrich were to leave the race, Rick Santorum would be the most likely winner. On the other hand, polls show that Santorum supporters are more mixed in their second place choices, probably due to Newt Gingrich’s past, and Romney would remain the front runner if Gingrich dropped out.

Romney also won in Maine, but only by three points over Ron Paul, the only other candidate to actively campaign in the state. Only beating a crackpot such as Ron Paul by three percent is hardly very impressive. This might be partially be because the major Republican candidates have seen no point in devoting any effort to campaigning against Paul, hoping to keep some of his supporters in the party. They know that any concentrated effort to bring up Paul’s negatives would easily knock him back into the single digits should he ever become a real threat.

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.