PETERBOROUGH, N.H. - John McCain hugged Mitt Romney Wednesday as he endorsed his campaign. Four years ago, he wanted to hug Romney long enough to stop his breathing.
The bitter rivals from the 2008 campaign now have a common enemy: Barack Obama. So while McCain once accused Romney of Chamberlain-like weakness in Iraq (YouTube), the two have now aligned to bash the incumbent for his handling of the withdrawal from the same country.
The Iowa Republican caucus was a tie and a blowout. The finish was so close that statistics majors at Iowa State will probably see it as a question on the final. Mitt Romney and Rick Santorum essentially tied at 25 percent, with Ron Paul a breath behind at 21 percent.
But when you measure the key question in the Republican campaign: Do you vote for the electable candidate Romney or the candidate who speaks to your heart--Santorum and Paul--it was a 46-25 trouncing for the heart over the head. According to entrance polls, of those voters who wanted a true conservative, Santorum got 36 percent and Romney got just 1 percent. (That is not a misprint.)
Though the top two candidates tied, Santorum was the big winner. Weeks ago, the smart people thought that tonight he'd be addressing an empty ballroom of lonely, sad balloons. Instead, the crowd at his victory party is so thick I've practically got supporters on my lap as I type this. Santorum is now the only Flavor of the Week candidate to actually win anything, which makes him a genuine threat to Romney, at least for the moment.Continue »
BOONE, Iowa -- You know you've arrived as a candidate in this state when you can't talk to actual voters. At the Rising Sun Cafe in Polk City, Iowa on Monday it was all madness and jostle as the press from all over the world swarmed to cover the latest hot candidate, Rick Santorum.
Fussy foreign journalists whistled in winter jackets, tripods poked unmentionable places, and heavy cameras swung with a threat of contusion. Voters were trampled, if they could get in to see the candidate at all.Continue »
DES MOINES, IOWA--Rick Santorum is so hot right now, you'd think he was the cure to something. When pollsters for the Des Moines Register started contacting Republican voters on Tuesday, Santorum was at 10 percent. By Friday when the polling ended, he was at 22 percent, tied for the lead. If they'd kept calling Saturday, voters might have answered the phone singing the senator's name.
When the days were averaged out, which pollsters do to smooth out anomalies, the findings put Romney at 24 percent, Ron Paul at 22 percent, and Santorum at 15 percent. Given the trend, it's possible Santorum could win the caucus on Tuesday, which would be a perfect ending to a volatile race.
The question in Iowa right now is: Are Iowa Republicans finally waking to the wonders of the two-term senator, or is Santorum simply the latest candidate who is not Mitt Romney? Voters have been on a constant rummage through the bin, looking for an alternative. First they moved toward Bachmann, then Perry, Cain, Gingrich, and Paul. Santorum is the last one left.
The answer is probably a combination of the two. Santorum has put himself in a position to take advantage of the moment. He has worked the state harder than any other candidate, visiting all 99 counties and attending 250 events over the last six months. For months he was the Nowhere Man, toiling away and not budging in the polls.Continue »
There have been so many debates during the Republican preseason that it was hard to believe the one hosted by Fox News in Sioux City, Iowa, was the last one before the voting begins. Ratings have been strong, and commentary has been endless: You can imagine a network trying to squeeze in just one more--are you free on Christmas Eve, Governor?
It has been a thrilling debate run: Pawlenty crashed; Perry blanked; Romney confronted Perry; Gingrich shined; 9-9-9; Perry blanked. But the Sioux City debate was not an epic contest. It was like the primary race itself: no dominant figure but with something for Republicans to like in each of the candidates. In a recent New York Times/CBS poll, 66 percent of Iowans said they are still undecided about their final choice. This debate didn't make their job any easier for them.
But Iowans must choose, so in that spirit: The winner of the evening was Mitt Romney. His performance was solid and his defense of his flip-flops was better than his chief rival Newt Gingrich's explanation about his work for Freddie Mac. Most importantly, all the other candidates were effective, and Romney benefits more than Gingrich from a broad strong field that splits the vote.Continue »
President Obama's top campaign advisers held a briefing for national reporters yesterday in Washington, D.C., an early attempt to persuade the media that victory is possible, or even likely. The inevitable PowerPoint presentation gave the impression of a gathering army and plenty of options. Slides showed that there had been 1 million conversations with voters, 90,000 meetings, and that 45 percent of donors were new ones who had not given in 2008. A screen full of maps showed the five different ways Obama could win the election, either through a "Western path" where he won states such as Colorado, Nevada, and New Mexico, or a "Florida path."
The collective message was that the Obama team has built something big enough to withstand the deluge of bad data and historical trends that are working against the president: the high unemployment rate, an average approval rating that is seven points below the key benchmark of 50 percent, and a vast majority of voters who think the country is going in the wrong direction.
A USA Today/Gallup analysis of swing states that came out this morning showed Republicans are more enthusiastic than Democrats. The president's swing-state poll numbers are worse than they are among the general public. Both Romney and Gingrich lead Obama in those states.Continue »
For a candidate who talks about being nice to his opponents, Newt Gingrich sure knows how to make them suffer. Today, when Mitt Romney suggested Gingrich return the $1.6 million he was paid by Freddie Mac, the former speaker shot back that Romney should return the money he earned "from bankrupting companies and laying off employees" as a venture capitalist. When asked about Michele Bachmann's critique of his immigration position, former college professor Gingrich compared her to a dumb student.
"Occasionally I'd have a student who couldn't figure out where things were, or what things were, or what the right date was. When that happens, you feel sorry that they're so factually challenged."Continue »
Mitt Romney is running for president as a turnaround artist, but before he can turn around the economy he'll have to do something about his campaign. Newt Gingrich has built a huge lead over Romney in various state polls, attracting nearly double the support.
Romney had been largely ignoring Gingrich, but now his attack machine is coming on line to define Gingrich as an egomaniac whose fevered brain will hurt conservative causes. (Slate's Jacob Weisberg made a not-dissimilar case.) Romney surrogates including former New Hampshire governor John Sununu and New Jersey Governor Chris Christie opened the attack on Wednesday, while anew Romney ad draws an implicit contrast between Romney's and Gingrich's personal lives. Press releases highlighting the differences between the two candidates on Medicare filled up Thursday morning inboxes. Talking points were issued to allies on Capitol Hill, and the Romney Super PAC started $3.1 million worth of advertisements in Iowa, some of which are likely to attack Gingrich. You might imagine the Romney attack machine to be smooth black metal with sinister green lights, but when it booted up this week, it was more like a jalopy, starting with a belch and a cloud of black smoke.Continue »
DES MOINES--Conservatives prize constancy above all else, but if Republicans are really faced with a choice between Newt Gingrich and Mitt Romney, this will be a nomination defined by reversals. Nominating Gingrich will require conservatives to embrace a sweeping ideological reversal. Nominating Romney will require Republicans to embrace a candidate who is defined by personal reversals.
If Mitt Romney is the nominee, conservatives will have to reverse themselves on the idea of constancy itself. His flips are numerous and on videotape. Gingrich would need persuade two of the most powerful forces in modern Republican politics to reverse themselves. Social conservatives and Tea Party activists would appear to have insurmountable objections to Gingrich. Social conservative leaders have long argued that presidents must have a sterling private history. Gingrich has the most checkered personal past in the Republican field, with two divorces and an admitted adulterous affair. Tea Party activists, meanwhile, largely blame establishment politicians in both parties for government bloat and a system that rewards the well-connected and influential. Gingrich was in Congress for 20 years and afterward joined the non-elected establishment, making millions working for Freddie Mac and other private companies seeking influence and advice in Washington.Continue »
When a presidential candidate makes a promise, it's always useful to ask: How are you going to pull that off? There usually isn't an answer. Health care will be repealed, the budget balanced, and 15-minute brownies made in 10. Newt Gingrich is the only candidate who talks about how he would actually enact some of the promises he makes and the changes he would bring to the office of the presidency. Whether you agree with him or not, this is a useful and laudable thing. Candidates should be able to show that they have some concept of how to engage the massively complex organization they hope to take hold of. This would tell us something about them, and force those of us casting votes to be more realistic about what presidents can accomplish.
Gingrich, for his part, has shown that he is occasionally willing to be a realist even when it gets him in trouble with his own party. On the issue of illegal immigration he has made the obvious point that the government does not have the resources to round up 11 million illegal immigrants, and, perhaps more important, from a moral standpoint it is unlikely Americans would support deporting model citizens who have lived in their communities for 25 years. In May, Gingrich criticized Rep. Paul Ryan's budget plan as "right-wing social engineering" that was too aggressive to win the support of the public. "If you're dealing with something as big as Medicare and you can't have a conversation with the country where the country thinks what you're doing is the right thing, you better slow down," he said in the first Republican presidential debate.Continue »
The Republican presidential race is now dominated by giants: the giant flaws of the front-runners. With 36 days to go before the first votes are cast in Iowa, Mitt Romney and Newt Gingrich stand atop the field--familiar, formidable, and flawed. Romney has a history of shifting positions and supported the individual health care mandate. Gingrich has some of those same flaws plus a complicated personal history. The question for voters choosing between the two: Which candidate's troubles are too big?
The GOP race for the perfect is finally over. It should have been over when Chris Christie bowed out, but Republican voters continued to cycle through candidates with the glass slipper in hand. With the clock ticking down, it's time to get the shoehorn and stop looking for Cinderella. New Hampshire's Union Leader made this point explicitly when it endorsed Gingrich Sunday. "Republican primary voters too often make the mistake of preferring an unattainable ideal to the best candidate who is actually running," wrote publisher Joseph McQuaid.Continue »
First, a prayer: May your Thanksgiving gathering be the supercommittee of our dreams, which is to say a happy meeting where everyone gets along despite their ideological differences and divides the pie equitably. We recognize, however, that some families are like the actual supercommittee -- and the day may end with one faction pouting to Chris Matthews in the guest room after a political debate. In that case, the better prayer is always Loudon Wainwright's Thanksgiving one: "If I argue with a loved one, Lord, please make me the winner." In that spirit, we present Slate's annual guide to this year's political arguments, so that you might be lightly armed for small skirmishes.
Did Newt Gingrich have one idea too many? At the CNN national security debate on Tuesday, the former speaker said that he would not be in favor of kicking out illegal immigrant families that had been in the country for a long time. "The party that says it's the party of the family is going to adopt an immigration policy which destroys families that have been here a quarter century?" he said. "I'm prepared to take the heat for saying, 'Let's be humane in enforcing the law.'" (watch below) Michele Bachmann said Gingrich was offering amnesty. Mitt Romney said Gingrich was offering a "magnet" that would encourage more illegal immigration.
A similar moment almost exactly two months ago started Rick Perry's downfall. He said those who didn't agree with his in-state tuition program for the children of undocumented workers were "heartless." In 2008 it was John McCain's support for something conservatives called amnesty that almost killed his campaign.Continue »
NASHUA, N.H.--If Mitt Romney is weak broth, Newt Gingrich is a bouillon cube. Watching the two Republican presidential front-runners in New Hampshire over two days has been a study in contrasts. Romney is a known conservative ingredient suitable in a main dish. Gingrich is a powerful dose of partisan flavor to be used sparingly.
Gingrich is having his moment now because he offers punchy answers and ready solutions to seemingly insoluble problems. If he endures an examination of his personal baggage, his record on the issues, and his private-sector career, it will be in part because he is the "Republican Ideas Man." But when you listen to those ideas--the scope of the change he is proposing, and the punch with which he delivers his pitch--you get the sense that that voters may not be interested in the Gingrich past because they're too scared of the Gingrich future.
As Romney finished a four-day campaign swing through the state where he has dominated the polls, he touted his recent spending reduction plan and offered his carefully honed lines. President Obama "said if he was unable to get this economy turned around, he would be looking at a one-term proposition," Romney said. "Well, I'm here to collect."Continue »
Being the non-Mitt Romney candidate in the Republican field is like being the No. 3 leader of al-Qaida: You don't keep the job for long. Newt Gingrich's rise starts a Doomsday clock, which counts down the minutes from the time a campaign begins to rise until it collapses. This unscientific number is based on the flameout rate of Romney's opponents. According to the RealClearPolitics poll averages, it took two months from when Michele Bachmann started her rise to when she started to fall. That was about the same amount of time it took for Herman Cain (though his zoom back to earth is still ongoing and presumably could reverse). For Rick Perry, it took three months for the turnaround.
Gingrich's climb started two months ago, which means he's already passed the expiration date of two of his rivals. His ascent has been slower, but he has a month to go before setting a record for longevity.
The first challenge to Gingrich's health came in a Bloomberg report that Freddie Mac paid him $1.5 million over eight years, including a monthly retainer of $25,000 to $30,000 for three years. Gingrich says he provided strategic advice and acted as a historian. He says he told Freddie Mac its lending guidelines were "insane," but, like debate moderators, they didn't listen.Continue »