Saturday, January 21, 2012

Newt wins decisively in S.C.

With 100% of South Carolina precincts reporting, the results are:

Gingrich . . . . . 40.4%
Romney . . . . . 27.8%
Santorum . . . .17.0%
Paul  . . . . . . . .13.0%

Both Santorum and Paul say they will continue.   How fast things change.   Last week, Nate Silver's projections gave Romney some 80% chance of winning S.C.   Even as late as yesterday morning, he was still giving Romney a 62% chance of winning -- but that changed dramatically as the day went on and the full effect of Newt's debate rant and general performance became clear.

Painting Romney as the "vulture capitalist" certainly hurt, and Mitt didn't do well at all with working class voters.   That will continue to be his vulnerability.

There was nothing wrong with the statistics.  The race was just that volatile.

Here's the explanation:  
In exit polls, 53% of those voting said that they made up their minds "within the past few days."    And 64% said that the debates were important in their decisions.   In the last debate, Newt got standing ovations, while Mitt was booed.
So:  (1)  debates are important, at least the late ones;  (2) the race is going to go on for a while -- some are predicting it won't be decided until the convention.  Voters just aren't happy with any of the choices, and they kept going with the surge-of-the-week.   Santorums' surge was perfectly timed for Iowa;   Newt's peaked for South Carolina.   They could even wind up with a brokered choice, with someone else being nominated at the convention if no one has a majority of pledged delegates:   Jeb Bush, Chris Christie, even Tim Pawlenty could be resurrected;  and (3) this is all good for the Democrats.

DNC Chair Debbie Wasserman Schultz lost no time in piling on, releasing a statement saying this shows the fallacy in Romney's candidacy:  that he is completely out of touch with middle class, working Americans.

But would we be happy if Newt winds up being the nominee?    Conventional wisdom is that he would be much easier for Obama to defeat.   But I am leery of skating that close to the disaster a Gingrich presidency would be.    Let's just suppose that the economy slides back into recession and that we have a major terrorist attack shortly before the election.   We'd get Newt in a landslide.   I'd rather have a little tougher time defeating Romney (which at this point seems eminently do-able) than to risk a President Gingrich.


An American shame

The level of ignorance among the candidates to be the Republican presidential nominee is a cause of shame for America.

The process has already dismissed the most egregious examples of this (Perry, Cain, Bachmann), but today Rick Santorum proved his credentials to join that club.  

His ignorance and bigotry are appalling -- his whole nervous obsession with gay sex, for one, as well as his moralizing wish to control how other people live.  But today he makes the ignorant claim about the source of the concept of equality in civic life, aired by ABC News:
"I get a kick out of folks who call for equality now, the people on the left. . . .  It doesn't come from Islam. It doesn't come from the East and Eastern religions, where does it come from? It comes from the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, that's where it comes from."
Santorum obviously knows a lot about his own (Catholic) religion, but for a would-be president of all the 300,000,000 people who make up this nation, he is woefully uninformed about the history of religions or the place of religion in our secular society.

Muslims worship the same God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob -- only they call him Allah.  They acknowledge Jesus as a prophet, though not divine, as do the Jews.

Islam is considered to stem from Abraham and to be "an Abrahamic religion," just as much as Christianity and the Jewish religion.   They are all monotheistic religions, and Islam shares many of the same stories and prophets and moral teachings with Christians and Jews.

Nice try, Rick.  But you're just not presidential material.  Savor your making it to "the final four," as you said in the last debate.  And then say goodbye and go home to your dying daughter.   You've sacrificed your family long enough to this quixotic quest.


Obama back in campaign mode

I just finished watching the video clip of President Obama giving a speech at the Apollo Theater in Harlem -- obviously a very supportive audience.  It's being billed as his preview of his State of the Union speech next Tuesday evening.

Whatever they conceived it to be -- it was a grand slam home run.  He is back in campaign mode -- with grayer hair (he pointed out) but with all the soaring rhetoric, sounding all the right notes to rev up those who loved him before.

What made all the difference, in my opnion, was that he did not read a speech.  He spoke, sometimes a bit haltingly, searching for a word -- but it felt spontaneous and real -- unlike the carefully worded speeches he reads.

To be candid -- it made the clowns we've been watching in the GOP debates for months look like just that, clowns.

It is worth watching the video.  Here's the link.  Anyone who has lost faith, please watch this.


Friday, January 20, 2012

More on Newt's helping Obama defeat Romney

A few days ago, the big news in the Republican primary was the damaging documentary about Romney's role in Bain Capital, which painted him as the ultimate "corporate vulture."   This was released by the PAC supporting Newt.  He claims to have had nothing to do with it and has not even seen the film;  but nobody believes that.

This of course outraged the GOP establishment -- Rudy Giuliani exclaimed on FoxNews:  "What the hell are you doing, Newt?" -- because it focuses the whole income inequality, predatory Wall Street meme squarely on the leading candidate for the Republican nomination, namely Mittens himself.  It didn't help that Romney was the same day forced to say something about his income tax and revealed that he paid about 15% in taxes.  Romney's most potent vulnerablity for the general election -- "plutocrat, capitalist,
1 percenter" -- was stolen and used by a Republican candidate against another.

The Obama campaign must have been popping champagne corks.   Unless they're concerned it will steal the issue and immunize it for their use later.  That worry aside, it was Newt Gingrich at his most narcissistic, unpredictable, loose-cannon, cosmic egotism.

The conservative columnist Charles Krauthammer, wrote his January 20th article about it:
"Then came the most remarkable political surprise since the 2010 midterms.  The struggling Democratic class-war narrative is suddenly given life and legitimacy by -- Republicans! Newt  Gingrich and Rick Perry make the case that private equity as practiced by Romney's Bain Capital is nothing more than vulture capitalism looting companies and sucking them dry while casually destroying the lives of workers. . . . 

"Michael Moore wonders aloud whether Gingrich has stolen his staff.  The assault on Bain/Romney instantly turns Obama's class-war campaign from partisan attack into universal complaint.

"Suddenly Romney's wealth, practices and taxes take center stage.  And why not?  If leading Republicans are denouncing rapacious capitalism that enriches the 1 percent while impoverishing everyone else, should this not be the paramount issue in a campaign occuring at a time of economic distress? . .

"[I]n a stroke, the Republicans have succeeded in turning a Democratic talking point . . . into a a central focus of the nation's political discourse. . . .  This is no mainstream media conspiracy.  This is the GOP maneuvering itself right onto Obama terrain. . . . He could not have chosen more self-destructive adversaries."

Hear, hear !!!   It couldn't have been better said by Krauthammer's liberal New York Times counterpart, columnist Paul Krugman.


South Carolina primary tomorrow

Summary of last night's final debate before the S.C. primary:

Going by audience reaction, Newt won it hands down.  He got two standing ovations (for his angry tirade against the moderator's asking him about his ex-wife's revelations), while Romney got booed (for his vague answer about releasing his tax returns.)

Rick Santorum signalled he knew it was his swan song, saying he was honored to be standing here among the final four -- with a tone that said this is as far as he expects to get.   He didn't say he would be dropping out, but he's polling in last place now that Perry has exited.  Even the reversal that gave him the win in Iowa doesn't seem to have helped elsewhere.

And Ron Paul was . . . well, he was once again the entertaining, slightly wacky Ron Paul who will get a sizable chunk of votes but never rise to be a real threat to the other two.

Nate Silver still gives Romney the likely win in S.C. (by 62%, down from high 80s% last week before Newt's latest surge).   There was a brief time yesterday when he had Romney and Gingrich tied at 50% each chance of winning S.C.

Will Marianne's interview on ABC (aired last night after the debate) hurt Newt?   Not with the right wing, apparently.   They've already decided that his bad boy behavior can be tolerated -- rationalized by his declared repentance -- and they suddenly found his intelligence and the possibility that he could oust Romney even more compelling.

Unfortunately, they're playing Marianne's bombshell wrong, emphasizing his asking for an open marriage (which he denies).  My guess is that he didn't use the term;  he just asked for it, in effect, by asking her to stay married but allow him to continue having Callista as his mistress;  but he can still claim that he didn't ask for an "open marriage."

For all his smearing Obama for adopting "European socialist" ideas,  this is a very "French" view of marriage and political tolerance of infidelity in their leaders.  And the right wing is accepting it;  that's the amazing thing.   That's how bad they want to defeat Romney and Obama.

The real point, though, is one of Newt's character and integrity.   And in Marianne's interview with Esquire in 2010, she said that he has no integrity.   She also has damaging things to say about his inability to manage money, his spendthrift habits, his refusal to pay her temporary support during the divorce proceedings.  They should make this the issue, not his bad behavior, for which he can repent. 
He can't repent away his character.


Thursday, January 19, 2012

On children working as janitors

Newt sticks to his wacky plan to fire school janitors and let kids do the work and get paid for it.  They can use the money, and it will teach them the value of work and self-reliance.  He even figured out that 30 kids could do the work of one janitor.

Like many of Newt's "big ideas," this one sounds good at first glance.  But there are problems.

First, according to janitors who actually do this work, it's not a job for kids.   Maybe emptying waste baskets or sweeping and dusting.   But it also includes mixing chemicals of cleaning products, running heavy floor-polishing machines, maintaining the heating/air conditioning system, moving around huge containers of waste, as well as being responsible for the security of buildings when working after hours.

Second, Newt claims that unionized janitors "make an absurd amount of money."  The Teamsters union, which represents janitors in New Hampshire where Newt was giving this speech, says salaries begin at $16.86 an hour or $28,324 a year.   That's only $500 a month above the official poverty level for a family of four.   Hardly "absurd." And the top wage for janitors in this union is $25.41 an hour.   Still not absurd.  What's absurd is this critique from a man who made $1.6 million for giving what he called "advice as a historian" to Freddie Mac.

Third, the janitor you fire is now out of work, perhaps with a family to support with kids of his own.  So you've increased joblessness and put another family on unemployment and perhaps food stamps.

Way to go, Newt.

Why not, instead, create a work-study program.   Let the kids do work they are suited for as janitor's helpers, if they wish, or file clerks in the office;  and get paid an appropriate amount out of a grant to teach these work values that Newt wants to foster?   Don't fire people in a time of high unemployment.   Think a little bigger, Newt.


And then there were four . . .

In my blog last night, ("Rick Perry's cowboy show bombs"), I offered the parting advice to Perry:  "Go home, cowboy."

Then this morning came the surprise announcement that Perry is withdrawing from the race and endorsing Newt Gingrich.

What does this do to the race -- what with the other big news that the Iowa recount shows Santorum now with more votes than Romney and with Newt surging in the S. C. polls?

It will probably add a few votes to Newt's total, but Perry's voters will likely split between Newt and Santorum.  Newt's own surge following the last debate (with another to go tonight) is likely a more significant factor.   Newt seems to keep coming back, like the cat with nine lives -- only to slide down again as people remember why they don't like him or he says something else outrageous.

But what if ABC does release the interview with Wife #2 before the primary?   Will that have much effect?   Leaks include her description of his asking her for an open marriage so he could continue his affair with Callista and remain married to Marianne.  And we know from the interview she gave to Esquire in 2010 that she said he has no integrity and that he claimed that what he did in his private life had no bearing on his political message.

Newt has already countered all his bad behavior by playing the "repentant sinner" card;  and we know how much the evangelical base love their leaders to be reformed bad boys.

Romney will probably still take S. C., but it's going to be much closer than it seemed just a few days ago.   And it will probably allow Newt to keep going and prolong the primary.  Then, assuming that Santorum drops out after this one, the anti-Romney vote will be split only with Ron Paul.

All of this is good news for the Democrats.   Newt and Mitt will have to keep attacking each other -- and every jab at the eventual nominee is just doing the work for Obama's team.   And the longer the internal battling goes on, the more money is absorbed in their primary and the more more roughed up the winner emerges.

Still, there is the upside for the Repubs -- airing all the dirty laundry now tends to immunize the issues for later;  and it makes Romney a better competitor.

So . . . the fat lady hasn't sung yet.


Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Rick Perry's cowboy show bombs

Rick Perry doesn't seem to know that his 15 minutes of fame expired with "oops" a few debates back. Maybe this will convince him.

Public Policy Polling has just released results of a poll of Texas Republicans in which Perry now trails both Romney and Gingrich for third place in the presidential primary in his own state !!

That's quite a reversal from when he led Romney 49% to 10% in the same poll last September. Now in January, his standing is 3rd place among Texas Republicans:

Romney 24%
Gingrich 23%
Perry 18%

Further, 39% of Texas Republicans said that Rick Perry's campaign for president has hurt Texas' image. They must be pretty mad at the guy down their in pardner land.

Lest anyone still wonder why Perry's fortunes began to fall the minute he opened his mouth in the first debate, Perry obliged with another cringe moment. In the Monday night S.C. debate, he referred to Turkey as "being ruled by what many would perceive to be Islamic terrorists," and he questioned whether Turkey belonged in NATO.

The State Department was quick to distance itself. A spokesman said:
"We absolutely and fundamentally disagree with that assertion. Turkey is a strong partner in the region. We've seen it make a very courageous stand against what's going on in Syria, for example. It continues to play a very positive and constructive role in the region. And it is often cited as an example of a so-called Islamic democracy in action."
Is Perry simply ignorant about world affairs? Just too dumb for national exposure? Or is he willfully distorting the truth to rev up the ignorant base? Whatever, it isn't working for him, since he's now in last place in the South Carolina polls with 5%.

Go home, cowboy.


Sarah sows confusion

Sarah Palin told Sean Hannity:
If I were a South Carolinian -- and each one of these primaries and caucuses are different, Sean -- I want to see this thing continue because iron sharpens iron. Steel sharpens steel. These guys are getting better in their debates. ... If I had to vote in South Carolina, in order to keep this thing going, I'd vote for Newt. And I would want things to continue. More debates, more vetting of candidates. Because we know the mistake made in our country four years ago, with having a candidate that was not vetted to the degree he should have been.
"A candidate who was not vetted to the degree he should have been." 

Who does she mean?   McCain?   Well, that's true that he was not vetted enough.   But talk about the pot calling the kettle black.   What about one who was not vetted to the degree SHE should have been ?


Tuesday, January 17, 2012

". . .If only the idiots would get out of my way. . . " - Newt

David Brooks wrote in his column today that Newt Gingrich's consistent theme is:
"The solutions to everything are obvious --
if only the idiots would get out of my way. "
So what does Newt, with his "cosmic ego," do? Seeing his chances slip away, he tries to destroy the person who has the best chance of defeating Obama.

And how does he do it? By lobbing the biggest bomb in the Democratic arsenal at Mitt Romney -- here, right now in the Republican primary.

Growing income inequality in a time of severe economic hardship for the middle class is the hottest, most emotionally charged issue that the Democrats can capitalize on against the Republicans and Mitt Romney in particular.

Every time Obama sounds this theme, his approval ratings go up and those of Congress go down. The Republican establishment also realizes that this is their greatest vulnerability, and they are desperately trying to get Gingrich and Perry to shut up about it.

As a New York Times editorial today points out,
"Republicans are indeed in growing trouble as more voters begin to realize how much the party's policies -- dismantling regulations, slashing taxes for the rich, weakening unions -- have contributed to inequality and the yawning distance between the middle class and the top end."
So Newt -- running as a Republican -- pulls this issue out to attack his fellow Republican with. I'm referring to Newt's SuperPAC ad about Mitt and his work at Bain that destroyed jobs.

Which prompted Rudy Guiliani to exclaim on Fox News:

"What the hell are you doing, Newt?"
There's nothing quite like having Newt throw your bombs for you before the general campaign even begins. The "country club Republicans," like Romney, are then left with not much defense except to accuse the Democrats who bring this up of "engaging in class warfare."

So what is their dear colleague, Newt Gingrich, engaging in? Utter gutter, dog-eat-dog politics, for sure. Pure, blind revenge of a wounded narcissist, I would add.


Obama's critics are "simply -- empirically -- wrong."

Andrew Sullivan is former editor of The New Republic and a conservative who is also "an unabashed supporter of Obama." He recently wrote the following in a cover story for Newsweek:
"It's not that I don't understand the critiques of Barack Obama from the enraged right and the demoralized left. It's that I don't even recognize their description of Obama's first term in any way. The attacks from both the right and the left on the man and his policies aren't out of bounds. They're simply -- empirically -- wrong. . . .

[He] "has delivered in a way that the unhinged right and purist left have yet to understand or absorb."
Then, in response to conservative critics of his article, Sullivan wrote on his blog:
"Show me where I'm wrong and we can debate this. Or are you only synapses firing into the partisan night?"
Now that's the kind of clear thinking and articulateness we need in this jungle of obfuscation and outright lies.


Sunday, January 15, 2012

Taking down Romney

Nate Silver is predicting that Mitt Romney has a 76% chance of winning South Carolina and a 95% chance of winning Florida. With his tie +8 votes (a technical win) in Iowa and a decisive win in New Hampshire -- the demographic diversity of those four state wins makes him a shoo-in for the Republican nomination, barring some unforeseen cataclysm.

So how about Mittens as Obama's opponent? Well, he was long ago identified as the toughest for Obama to beat in this economy (unless Huntsman catches fire) -- but Gingrich's SuperPAC attack ads against the "job-killing" Bain capitalist Romney is like money from home for the Democrats.

Or is it? Does it bring up that issue too early and rob it of effectiveness later on, particularly considering it's tainted source?

Besides, it gives Romney the chance to hone his defense and be primed for it later. All in all, this primary fight -- ridiculous as it has been -- has made Romney a much much better debater and an improved campaigner.

So, all in all, it's probably a draw with a possible negative advantage. Think of the possibility of Dem ads running this stuff as "this is what Republicans were saying about Romney in the primary."

Now, however, comes Stephen Colbert's fake presidential campaign and his "Definitely Not Coordinating With Stephen Colbert Super PAC" ad. This one is brilliant satire.

It begins with an American flag waving, then a video of Mittens saying, "Corporations are people." Then a picture of sides of beef being butchered and a voice-over saying that, as head of Bain, Romney took over corporations, carved them up, and got rid of parts he didn't want. "So, if corporations are people, then Romney is a serial killer !!!"

It's brilliant !!! It's funny, it uses Mittens' own language, and draws the logical conclusion to lampoon his position on corporations, vulture capitalism, job loss, and the 1%-er image.

Personally, I believe that this will do more harm than all of Newt's vicious attacks. It will run viral on the internet -- and won't go away. It can easily be revived in the fall, and it won't cost a dime. For now, the Dems should just sit quietly by and let it happen.


PS: On a side note, both Gingrich and Perry have attacked Romney on his "vulture capitalism," citing his plant closing role at Bain Capital, one being in Gaffney, S. C. And of course several of the Repub candidates are there campaigning in the S. C. primary.

The Times went to look into it. Nobody the reporter talked to there could even remember the closing many years ago. It was a small plant that made photo albums and employed 150 people. After it closed, another manufacturing plant opened in the same spot that employed 80 people. They looked through the newspaper archives and could not even find the plant closing mentioned in the local paper. Not that it didn't happen; it just wasn't regarded as very significant at the time.

So -- what makes a good political weapon isn't always related to its significance at the time.