Tim Pawlenty had a plan. A modest plan. He'd been working very hard at courting all the various factions of the GOP base -- capitalist technocrats, Tea Party hotheads, the conservative Christian set -- and so far, so good. He was starting to feel like this was doable. You know, David Frum had said that he'd make an excellent default candidate, right? It was looking more and more like Palin and Huckabee weren't going to run. He was way ahead of his doppelgangers: John Thune was long gone, Mitch Daniels on the fade. Newt Gingrich? Jeez, who knew what was up with that guy? And as for Mitt, TPaw knew that if things shook out the way he thought they might, he could spend a long, long while beating him up on RomneyCare.
There was just one thing he wanted. He just wanted to announce that he was forming a presidential exploratory committee and for people to be excited about it. So, he had everything in place. A talented, solid staff to rely on. Some cool social media shizz on the Facebooks. A bad ass action movie thing for the YouTube. He was going to win the week, for sure. The name on everyone's lips was sure to be Tim Pawlenty.
It didn't work out. In the first place: people kept paying attention to Libya, and Egypt. And then Michele Bachmann came along, dangling the sweet, sweet crazy-bait in front of a political press that was dying for the geek show to get underway. And the unkindest cut of all was that Haley Barbour -- Haley Barbour! -- got two soft-focus profiles from the New York Times and the Washington Post.
(And also, really, it's a PRESIDENTIAL EXPLORATORY COMMITTEE. How excited are people supposed to get?)
So, no: this wasn't the week Pawlenty came out and cold rocked it. But he can take some solace in the fact that Newt Gingrich had another terrible week, that Bachmann's quixotic run was doing more damage to Huckabee's hopes than it was to his, and that the first anniversary of the Affordable Care Act gave the GOP field ample opportunity to get shirty with Mitt Romney's CommonwealthCare.
Tomorrow is another day, Tim! But today is the day we round up your week in running for President. (And guess what everyone: we finally have a declared candidate!) To find out who, please enter the Speculatron for the week of March 25, 2011.
Earlier this week, while Joe Klein was rending his garments over the state of the 2012 race at the corner of Heartattack and Vine, one of the people that Klein named as potentially providing succor to his needs was former Minnesota Governor Tim Pawlenty. Here's some good news: Pawlenty totally unlocked that "I Am Not A Birther Loon" badge on Foursquare, so hooray. We hope he ends up being the candidate Klein imagines him to be. When we shake the 2012 Speculatron Magic Eight Ball, we keep getting "Better not tell you now." The Eight Ball's reasons why not include the fact that TPaw has lately started to indulge himself in some "fiat money" crackpottery, he's flipped from his reasonable position on "cap and trade" (the sort of thing a Joe Klein might admire) to a "well, that was sure dumb" position, and he wants to give corporations a tax holiday, which is sort of like giving a squid more tentacles. We'll see how it goes!
MICHELE BACHMANN: How to assess the potential of a Bachmann candidacy? Well, in the first place, you can expect her to raise a crapload of money -- that is the wages of celebrity. But that doesn't necessarily mean she'll jump into the presidential race. She's got other irons in the fire, including her re-election campaign to the House and a joint fundraising committee she's starting up with the Arizona GOP. That said, she remains popular with social conservatives in Iowa, where, at Steve King's GOP Cattle Call, she was the "breakout star" -- at least in terms of oratory. But as Jonathan Bernstein explains, there's plenty of reasons to be unimpressed: As a Bachmannia skeptic, however, it bears pointing out that she flopped in the straw poll at Steve King's Iowa event this weekend, finishing far behind Herman Cain and a bit behind Newt Gingrich and no-show Tim Pawlenty. Bachmann "won" the most second-choice ballots, which probably means that she was the second choice of some of those who like Cain best. And yet there's no Cain-mentum or Cain-mania in the press...reporters have basically ignored the Georgia businessman. And rightly so: he's not going to be the Republican nominee. And neither is Michele Bachmann. This week, Bachmann's weird claims of a hidden spending item in the Affordable Care Act was shot down by CBO director Douglas Elmendorf. And her former staffers continue to flock to Tim Pawlenty. As her former chief of staff Ron Carey put it: "I agree with Michele Bachmann 99% of the time on policy issues. But just like Dorothy, I've been to Oz and I've looked behind the curtain." (I'm sure Tim Pawlenty is saying, "Yay. More people who staffed Bachmann are behind me. Great.")
Haley Barbour wants everyone to know that he thinks that slavery was bad and he fully supports the Union Army, hooray! Haley Barbour, the Mississippi governor and likely 2012 Republican presidential aspirant, has recently made a series of missteps involving race and the Civil Rights Movement. He seemed unclear about basic historical points. But he has now made a forthright declaration about the events swirling around what some Southerners still call the War of Northern Aggression. "Slavery was the primary, central, cause of secession," Barbour told me Friday. "The Civil War was necessary to bring about the abolition of slavery," he continued. "Abolishing slavery was morally imperative and necessary, and it's regrettable that it took the Civil War to do it. But it did." People are still making "forthright declarations" about this in 2011! What a world, you know?
Herman Cain got off to a great start this week when he said that he would not allow Sharia law to influence his delicious pizzas not appoint any Muslims to his administration. I'm pretty sure that I can count the number of Muslim-Americans clamoring to work with Herman Cain on zero hands, so this is not really going to be a problem for anybody, but it's worth pointing out that appointing Muslims is something that New Jersey Governor Chris Christie can both do and passionately defend when people give him crap about it, so points to Christie. This earned Cain a whole lot of bad attention, so what to do to turn that news cycle around? How about follow Donald Trump down into the whirlpool of birther dementia? LET ME GET IN ON SOME OF THAT, said Herman Cain. Meanwhile, Cain believes, apparently, that "the media is scared 'a real black man might run against Barack Obama.'" "It's an unoriginal hustle," notes Ta-Nehisi Coates. It's also pretty patently untrue. No one in the "media" is "afraid" of Herman Cain. Right now, Cain is one of their moneymakers.
Mitch Daniels spent most of his week tending to the local politics that he's previously contended might keep him from running for higher office. He's beefed with Indiana Democrats, lately returned from the quorum-busting flight into Illinois, and it's easy to see why: those efforts were rewarded with no small measure of success. Daniels continues to be embroiled in an offstage drama between Senator Dick Lugar and Indiana state treasurer Richard Mourdock, who are presumed to be in future competition with each other in the upcoming Indiana Senate GOP primary. Which one of Daniels' besties will he choose in the end? This is what a telenovela set in Indiana looks like. At any rate, Daniels was one of the people who Joe Klein said could enter the 2012 race and thus end his emo panic attack about the state of American politics. Kevin Drum has some thoughts: ...I agree that Mitch Daniels seems like he ought to be a decent candidate. He's a genuine conservative, not a RINO sellout, but also not a wingnut. He's a midwesterner, has experience in the Bush administration, and commands a fair amount of establishment respect. Not my cup of tea, obviously, but his background ought to be appealing to a fair number of Republicans. But the usual question remains: how does he get through the primaries? When he hops over to Iowa, they'll expect him to denounce sharia law, make jokes about Obama's Kenyan birth, throw himself wholeheartedly into the culture wars, pretend that global warming is a liberal conspiracy, and make dire remarks about the specter of socialism taking over America. In other words, he'll have to act like a public clown, and if he doesn't do it, he'll lose. It should be noted that it's actually totally okay to lose the Iowa caucuses.
Last week, Newt Gingrich imposed a no-fly zone over his thought processes on Libya. This week, America is going to become a haven of Islamist-atheists...or atheist Muslims. Or something? Godless sharia druids? We'll go with that: America will soon cede control to the trees, who will impose sharia law, and we will not pray five times a day in the direction of nowhere. Okay, explain this, Matt Yglesias: I think it's important to actually understand what Gingrich is saying here and not just make fun of him for contradicting himself. This speaks, I think, quite accurately to what the conservative movement in the United States is about--the identity politics of middle aged white suburban conformists. [...] You have to think of "America" in Gingrich's eyes as constituting not so much a place as a specific tribe of people. The concern is that tribe of people might all go secular, which will leave the country exposed to takeover by radical Islamists. This is what many conservatives appear to believe has happened in Europe. A place like France has supposedly managed to both go secular and also be ground zero for Eurabia. Those two things are causally related because secularism enfeebled France by undermining support for Christian patriotic militarism, and they're non-contradictory because French Muslims aren't "really" French. This is how it gets to be the case that overturning marriage equality in Iowa is somehow a blow against the threat of creeping sharia. Okay! I'm still going to be giving the trees a wide berth, but whatever. Meanwhile, Newt now claims that he'll have forthcoming announcements of further pondering the possibility of considering to explore a potential run for President, in say, early May. PICS OR IT DIDN'T HAPPEN. (In the meantime, please enjoy Dave Weigel's video about Newt and Callista exciting journeys in the world of documentary filmmaking.)
So, there was kind of this one-act play between Mike Huckabee and Haley Barbour this week: HALEY HEARTS HUCKABEES DRAMATIS PERSONAE: Haley Barbour, a Southern governor Mike Huckabee, a Southern governor [Lights up.] Haley Barbour: Hmmm. It seems that I'm totally running for president. Mike Huckabee: I saw that! That's really great, Haley. Haley Barbour: You, on the other hand, not so much, right? Mike Huckabee: Well, Haley, I'm not really ready to say, actually. Haley Barbour: Well, say, Mike, if you're not going to run, maybe you could help a brother out? Mike Huckabee: Oh, Haley, you know, I sure do have nothing but nice things to say about you! You are "maybe the most brilliant political strategist in America today, bar none." Haley Barbour: People should be forced to listen to me at gunpoint, I imagine! Well, Mike, "I have a great affection for" you. A "great admiration." Mike Huckabee: Awww. XOXOXO! You know, if I were to run, I tell you what, I'd totally "covet" your "Rolodex." Haley Barbour: I imagine you do, seeing as how Tim Pawlenty is straight up poaching from yours. Mike Huckabee: Ha ha! And hey, you know what? Polls say I still top you in your home state! Beat that with a stick, you know? [pause] Haley Barbour: Well! Great talk, right? Mike Huckabee: Oh, absolutely.
Depending on who is saying what when, Jon Huntsman is either gearing up for a 2012 run, or maybe just strolling cautiously along, for the purpose of running in 2016. If there's one thing that's getting clearer, it's that Iowa is slowly turning into an inhospitable place for the Huntsman campaign. According to the Daily Caller: ...the initial strategy for Huntsman's campaign-in-waiting at Horizon PAC is to avoid focusing resources to campaign in the nation's first caucus and socially-conservative state of Iowa. "We haven't ruled out playing in Iowa, but we have a huge disadvantage when it comes to the infrastructure, money, and time other candidates have spent in Iowa," a Republican strategist aligned with the Huntsman campaign, told TheDC. The reality for Huntsman is also that Iowa is turning into a mecca for social conservatives, an unforgiving situation for a guy who's worked with Obama and supports same-sex civil unions. (Frankly, the entirety of the 2012 campaign season may be unforgiving for those reasons, hence the hesitancy.)
So, last week, Fred Karger actually became the first person in the GOP field to officially enter the Presidential race. He is, naturally, the longest of shots to take the nomination, but we appreciate his pure moxie, and -- memo to Joe Klein, if you're interested! -- we note that Karger has not descended into the open trench of birtherism and paranoia that many of the other avowed contenders have decided to splish-splash around in, like children. And you know what? Maybe someone noticed Karger, because he actually won a straw poll this week! California gay rights activist Fred Karger won a straw poll of potential presidential candidates at St. Anselm College Thursday night. Karger, who was the only potential candidate to address the group, has made college campuses a central part of his budding campaign so far. Karger received 79 votes out of 322 ballots cast for 16 candidates. Finishing a close second with 74 votes was former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney. It's some terrible luck that this story broke on April 1.
It was a slow week for Palin, for a while anyway. She invented a new word, and she badly bungled some facts and figures, and she got into a shooting war with Bill Maher -- whose vulgar broadsides didn't do much to improve the discourse, either, frankly! But then the Daily Caller took a statement from Palin, printed it in full, in English and put it on the web, transparently, for all the world to see, thus violating whatever rules of journalism Palin picked up in Clown College. Alex Pareene can explain this, while Elyse and I take a nap: To sum up this lesson in modern press relations, Palin made the Caller jump through a ridiculous hoop to even obtain her self-serving statement, which it used to provide balance to what had been printed elsewhere as a negative, anti-Palin story, and its reward for jumping through that hoop was that she declared war. She is a very classy individual. Palin's statement to the Caller is more than 600 words long. Her Facebook post expressing rage at her complete statement's relegation to Page 2 after being extensively quoted on Page 1 is nearly 1,000 words long. She really has a lot to say! Or maybe a little bit to say, at length. Or like one or two things to say, over and over again. I kid. Her complaint does have some merit. If Sarah Palin herself is too stupid to click on the button that sends you to the second page of an article, she can't possibly expect her admirers to figure it out. Next time, Daily Caller, make Palin's 600-word statement the headline of your piece, or else there won't be any more statements from the former governor. I feel so rested now! Anyway, Palin's approval ratings continue to fall. Her fault, says her co-worker, Bill O'Reilly.
Ron, Rand...so many Pauls! Why have one when you can have them all? Ron is the money man, raising the bling-- While Rand's silver tongue offers exquisite zings! And while the rest of the field dithers and farts, Paul pere and Paul fils, just love the late start. Rand, Ron...so many Pauls, Happily sprawled as we stall to a crawl! --W.B. Yeats
There has been a Buddy Roemer sighting, everyone! He's okay! And he's campaigning in South Carolina. This is good news. Roemer seems like a generally nice fellow, and we were worried about him when he disappeared completely, like the Bronx Zoo cobra. Who is also okay! Also, Roemer finally got a place on Politico's "candidate hub" this week, so he's got that going for him, too.
What's Mitt Romney been up to this week? Mostly cold chillin' up in the cut, thanks for asking! Most of what Mitt wakes up to each day is pretty decent news. He's raising decent sums of money, and while Bachmann's apparently raising more, he's not sweating it, because he's not even begun to fight that battle. (Plus, we remind you, he's unbelievably wealthy!) Besides that, GOP insiders still love them some Mitt, he's welcomed back one of his key advisors from 2008, and he's one of three GOP figures that runs close with Obama, polls say, and two of those three -- Mike Huckabee and Chris Christie -- are either probably not running for president or definitely not running for President. Anything bad happen this week? Oh, hey, what's that former key advisor to RomneyCare been saying? As the fifth anniversary of the Massachusetts law approaches next month, it has become Romney's chief handicap in the former governor's prospective bid for the Republican presidential nomination. The state law is also expected to serve as a preview of how the federal law will -- or will not -- work on the national level in a few years. For the federal law, "Massachusetts absolutely was the model," [Jonathan] Gruber said. "It would have been much harder if we didn't have a working example to show that it worked." And, uhm: Gruber tells me, "What I can tell you is that there was an active debate on the individual mandate." He explains, "On one hand, Romney felt people were free-riding" on the health care system -- that is, remaining uninsured but burdening the government health care system when they became sick or injured. On the other hand, Gruber says, was the "freedom" argument about the mandate. He says, "What I'd like to think carried the day was that I pointed out that without the mandate you would spend the same money and cover fewer people." So, yeah, Mitt Romney is still ruing the day he totally invented Obamacare!
This week's big Santorum news came when he tied the Social Security "crisis" to the "abortion crisis" and created, essentially, the Sum Of All Santorica: "We don't have enough workers to support the retirees," Santorum said in a radio interview. "Well, a third of all the young people in America are not in America today because of abortion." According to Santorum, "These demographic trends are causing Social Security and Medicare to be underfunded." We could, maybe, equalize that by pushing the olds out onto ice floes? That would be a reasonable response to this sort of amateur freakonomics. (Also: I'm pretty sure that Rick Santorum would actually prefer to just end Social Security, so the scaremongering is useless to anyone who wants to actually preserve it.)
Talk of putting the President through a primary has been intermittent, but hey, look what showed up in Matt Taibbi's mailbag this week! Matt, Last night I listened to the Citizen Radio episode where you appeared with Sarah Silverman. You mentioned Elizabeth Warren possibly challenging Obama for the 2012 nomination. Do you think it will really happen? Carter Carter, A few months ago I heard a vague rumor from someone who theoretically would know that such a thing was being contemplated, but I don't know anything beyond that. I wish she would run. I'm not sure if it would ultimately be a good thing or a bad thing for Barack Obama - she could fatally wound his general-election chances by exposing his ties to Wall Street - but I think she's exactly what this country needs. She's totally literate on the finance issues and is completely on the side of human beings, as opposed to banks and oil companies and the like. One thing I will say: if she did run, she would have a lot more support from the press than she probably imagines, as there are a lot of reporters out there who are reaching the terminal-disappointment level with Obama ready to hop on the bandwagon of someone like Warren. I've met Warren, and she is, indeed, "completely on the side of human beings."
Donald Trump has basically been blah blah blah Birther ever since Birthers started sending him emails and stroking his ego. So, naturally he's been made a Fox regular (though this is also a sign that he's not a serious candidate, since Fox has cut loose those who have made it clear that they are). Trump went on to explain that his skepticism stems from knowing "Wall Street geniuses" who commit "fraud" and "change documents," that he never thought to turn in so that they'd be held responsible for their crimes. Naturally, the Tea Party has embraced him, because woo, Wall Street fraud could we please have some more, love the Tea Party! Ben Smith pulled a great quote that gets to the heart of what's wrong with the way that Rudy Giuliani campaigns (and which New York colleagues repeatedly told me was his biggest personal flaw in 2008). The anecdote come from New Hampshire GOP Chairman Fergus Cullen: In the course of the last campaign, during which I was state Republican Party chairman, I must have met Rudy Giuliani a half-dozen times. But for Giuliani, it was always the first time; he gave no indication of recognizing me. Getting to know individual voters was unimportant. In contrast, McCain and other candidates routinely picked me out of crowds. Mitt Romney even did so at a South Carolina event asking, "Fergus, what are you doing here?" Gary Johnson is going to make some kind of formal announcement of Presidential something in April. By all means, go, because Gary will probably be holding. And oh yeah, Roy Moore, famed Ten Commandments judge, has decided to jump into the race, because everyone else seemed to be having such a good time without him.
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