The big news this week is that the long-awaited and art-film teased Jon Huntsman campaign finally got off the ground, with the newly-declared candidate making an appearance in New Jersey, with the Statue of Liberty in the background, because, well... because Reagan once did it? Most of the reviews features descriptors that ranged from tepid to anti-climactic (perhaps motorcycle stunts were anticipated?) to confused. Here's Walter Shapiro at The New Republic:
While the pyrotechnics accompanying the presidential rollout were impressive (two dozen TV cameras chronicled a GOP candidate hovering at 1 percent in the national polls), Huntsman's words themselves were flickering sparklers rather than skyrocketing Roman candles. The former two-term Utah governor repeatedly resorted to the well-crafted banalities that speechwriters use in place of original thought. Calling for "leadership that knows we need answers," Huntsman boldly declared, "We can and will own the future." In an era of persistent 9-percent unemployment, Huntsman confided a revelation that came to him only because he held elective office: "I learned something very important as governor. For most American families, there is nothing more important than a job."
The reason for dwelling on Huntsman's anodyne rhetoric is because his presidential campaign remains curiously inchoate. I am perplexed whether there is more -- or less -- to Huntsman's political persona than meets the eye.
Lots of questions remain with Huntsman, and a lot center on style. Did the Huntsman campaign realize how hackneyed a roll-out in front of the Statue of Liberty looks? What we know of this campaign so far is, there's no way of knowing if they intend to be conventional or if they're offering some kind of meta-commentary on conventionality. Surely this campaign exists, at least in part, as a rebuke to the conventional wisdom that says he can't win in the 2012 environment.
Right out of the gates, he's considered a media darling, but the media tends to love a candidate who's nice to them while not posing much of a serious threat to win the nomination. Speaking of, the trendy thing to say about Huntsman is that he's running in John McCain's footsteps. (I guess that means he'll win New Hampshire, get victimized by racially-coded dirty tricks in South Carolina and be positioned for a shot at redemption in another election cycle?)
There's also a specter of religious prejudice that hangs over Huntsman's campaign. Like Mitt Romney, Huntsman is a Mormon, and this week, a Gallup poll found that one-in-five Americans were uncomfortable voting for a Mormon in a presidential election. There's plenty to lament in those results, if you've a mind for being fair.
But Huntsman and Romney aren't really in the race for Mormon votes -- they're actually both in a larger race for the votes of people who prefer a "sane and reasonable" candidate to a red-meat scorching conservative firebrand. They're both on the hunt for those voters who like their candidates "electable."
To that end, Huntsman has made a promise to be a Boy Scout during this race. In large part, it's how he's going to deal with the fact that he worked in the Obama administration and seemed to enjoy it. But that promise will also govern how he copes with the field.
"I don't think you need to run down somebody's reputation in order to run for the office of president," Huntsman said. And in a fine example of where our insane standard for credibility is at the moment, his pledge was declared a dead letter after Huntsman offered some painfully mild criticism of Mitt Romney: "If you're talking about free market health care -- the kind we did in Utah and the kind that is needed in this country -- then [Romney] has little credibility."
Oh, dear! Call out the scolds!
Meanwhile, others have decided to take up the "Get Mitt" cause. Michele Bachmann and Rick Santorum both went after Romney for refusing to sign a pro-life pledge -- Santorum managed to catch Huntsman up in his critique as well, despite Huntsman's generally standard-issue pro-life legislative record. And even Tim Pawlenty -- recognizing that he made a terrible mistake by passing on the chance to criticize Romney to his face -- found the courage to renew his attacks on the frontrunner during times he wasn't standing nearby.
Outside of that, there was plenty to chew on from another week on the campaign trail. Matt Taibbi may have inadvertently boosted Bachmann's stock with a Rolling Stone story that was sloppily sourced. Herman Cain indulged himself in some "blame the media" hissy fits. Ron Paul came out for marijuana legalization. Buddy Roemer bit the hands that feed his party. President Barack Obama punted away an opportunity to make a difference to some of his core constituents -- twice. And Newt Gingrich? After hitting rock bottom, the master of denial has decided he's going to grab a shovel.
For all of this and more, please feel free to enter the Speculatron for the week of June 24, 2011.
Michele Bachmann's performance in the New Hampshire GOP debate has gotten her candidacy off on the (far) right foot. Her favorability rating took a nice bounce, as did her poll numbers. She's performing strong across the board, and in at least one poll, she emerged as the frontrunner. All this and she has hasn't even officially kicked off her campaign. Next week, she'll hit the road, visiting key states -- going from Waterloo, Iowa to Raymond, N.H., to Myrtle Beach, S.C. As always, woe betide anyone who underestimates her ability as a fundraiser -- and she's only growing more popular lately. And she's getting good reviews -- relative to Bachmann, anyway. Things like, "She seems far less crazy in person than she does on TV," and, "She does not seem crazy." Also, she's been glitter-bombed. In short, she's having a moment. And with that moment comes her very own Matt Taibbi article, in which he refers to Bachmann as "a religious zealot whose brain is a raging electrical storm of divine visions and paranoid delusions." That piece, however, has done more to earn Taibbi blowback than it will harm Bachmann. Over at The Awl, Abe Sauer warns that Taibbi's treatment is only going to redound to her benefit: The profile is the kind of battle-axing of Bachmann that is going to do great pageviews for the magazine but ultimately play right into her hand. It gives Bachmann legitimate evidence that the fabled leftist mainstream media is attacking her. Consequently, it will make her more popular with a base that looks for which conservative leader is being most reviled in the media, and then assumes that person is their best bet. (It's not a coincidence that Tim Pawlenty has completely avoided harsh criticism from the MSM while at the same time being unable to gain traction with Tea Party-influenced primary voters.) Not only is the profile unnecessarily mean, it's sloppy. Sloppy may be an understatement, actually! Taibbi apparently borrowed pretty extensively from a piece from Minnesota's City Pages, and its author is not pleased with the lack of citations or Rolling Stone's response -- somehow, "space constraints" prevented adequate sourcing. (Links are promised for the online version.) Go read the whole thing to find out more about what Abe's talking about, but it amounts to an unforced journalistic error, upon which the Bachmann campaign may feast. Chris Cillizza says that Bachmann has embarked on what he refers to as a "silent strategy," in that she's building "message discipline" and striving to cut back on her "outspoken" ways. Which makes sense if you just ignore the way she's lately contended that Canada hasn't embarked on a stimulus program (they have), that she didn't express her anti-science views down at the Republican Leadership Conference, and sort of accidentally defended the principles of a single-payer health care system (because she often doesn't know what she's talking about.) She also decided to publicly attack Mitt Romney for his stance on abortion, so if this is a "silent strategy," it still seems to feature a lot of amplified sounds coming out of her word-hole. (What actually happened is that some "Bachmann adviser granted anonymity to speak candidly about strategy" told Cillizza that they were pursuing a "silent strategy," and Cillizza said, "Okay, awesome, let me just scribble that down.")
Herman Cain spent most of his week being pissily miffed at someone or another. He's apparently really getting sick of everyone asking about his stance on discriminating against Muslim-Americans on the grounds that there are other people in the world who adhere to quasi-Islamic terrorist death cults, and nobody of any other race or religion has ever threatened the U.S. government or its officials with violence. I think it gets the attention it does because right now, Cain's one bonafide "plan" is to exclude Muslims from government. On all other matters, his "plan" is to "get some people" and "do some planning." Maybe once he does that, reporters will have a second Cain plan to talk about. Cain's conniption fits aren't limited to reporters asking about one of the few remarkable features of his promised reign. He is clearly mad that reporters keep writing down the words he says to people and subsequently going and telling other people the things he said, verbatim. He is, apparently, often "kidding" about the stuff he tells people -- except for the whole discriminating against a cross-section of American citizens. Reporters, he says, are too "nitpicky." That's his word for it, by the way: "nitpicky." By pointing it out to you, we are the nitpickiest of nitpickers. He's also decided to "play the race card" against Jon Stewart, because Cain is the only political figure, apparently, that Stewart is not allowed to lampoon or criticize. Cain has said that he "does not care" about what Stewart says or does, but that all comes after a monologue where he works himself into a lather about it. He should probably revisit his definition of caring or not caring about something. Here's a hint: When you "don't care" about "The Daily Show," you just say, "Oh, what they say about me on 'The Daily Show' doesn't matter to me." For what it's worth, Cain is also mad that Mitt Romney will be skipping a debate in Las Vegas, despite the fact that Mitt Romney has agreed to another debate in Las Vegas, anyway. Want to know what Cain loves, though? Regulatory capture! He loves nothing more than major industries being overseen by themselves: CAIN: The EPA is the biggest barrier to more permits, more drilling, more shale oil production. So I'm going to have a regulatory reduction commission that I'm going to appoint that's going to go in and determine how we make things move faster. Some regulations we need. I'm not anti-regulation. I'm just anti-too much regulation. And the people on this commission are going to be people who know something about coal, oil, shale oil, natural gas, and they will be people whose businesses or individuals who have been abused by the EPA. If you've been abused by the EPA like Shell Oil, I'm going to ask the CEO of Shell Oil would he like to be on this commission, and give me some recommendations. The people closest to the problem are the ones who can solve the problem. The CEO of Shell Oil's first recommendation will be, "Let us poison the air and water with pollution, please." Then Cain will respond: "This will create jobs!" The good news for Cain is that pizza dudes who run for office are having a moment this week!
When we heard this week that another bunch of staffers up and quit on Newt Gingrich, our response was, "Who knew he had any other staff left?" Who still works for the Gingrich campaign? Vanity Fair's Juli Weiner spoke to Gingrich's new spokesman, R.C. Hammond, and got the answer: "Over a dozen." That's pretty impressive, considering the "Gingrich campaign" is little more than a retail operation to move Gingrich family merchandise. Compared to most people with Etsy accounts, Newt is in good shape. But if we must continue to pretend this is some kind of presidential campaign, here's the story. Gingrich is Nowheresville, staff-wise, in Iowa. As such, he was unable to bid on space for the upcoming Ames Straw Poll. Embarrassingly, some mystery man repping way-out possible contender Thad McCotter was more prepared to get into the Straw Poll than the "man of ideas." His campaign is carrying $1 million in debt, despite the fact that its one singular achievement is massive cuts to overhead. And it turns out that he had a second line of credit at Tiffany's. Because the first wasn't enough? Gingrich, however, is not going down without issuing some laughable statements attesting to his greatness. "Philosophically," Newt said, "I am very different from normal politicians, and normal consultants found that very hard to deal with." Yeah, man! You're just so different and unusual, and all us squares just don't get him! He's also "blaming the media," telling Neil Boortz, "I didn't think they would realize this early just how dangerous this campaign is and go after it so hard." Yeah, dude. Not since the Roxette song of the same name has America had to contend with something so "dangerous." Here's a picture from Newt Gingrich's super-dangerous birthday party -- so full of ideas!
Huntsman's candidacy -- confusing though it may be to people like us who still think the general tenor of the GOP base makes it hard to conceive of a conciliatory, moderate, Boy Scout-type ascending in the primary process -- continues to shape up with competent staff and a clear strategy in mind. Huntsman landed the support of Bushland veteran C. Boyden Gray to lead his policy team, a move that lends his candidacy a healthy dose of old-school GOP-establishment cred. He's also not entirely giving up on Iowa. While Huntsman will skip the caucus, he'll nevertheless travel to the state to appear in an upcoming debate. And he finished second in the Republican Leadership Conference's straw poll -- though it needs to be noted that he got a little bit of tricksy help to pull off that particular feat. Still, better to be the guy who can marshal forces than the guy who can't. Huntsman staked out the sort of position on Afghanistan that squares nicely with the mood of actual Americans but will surely bring the new cadre of "OMG OMG ISOLATIONISM" fearmongers to spit criticism in his direction. After President Barack Obama's speech on the Afghanistan drawdown, Huntsman was pretty much calling it not good enough, instead coming out in favor of a "safe but rapid withdrawal," and a "focused counter-terror effort," to replace the boots-heavy counterinsurgency strategy underway. (Joe Biden could maybe be his vice-president!) Huntsman also came out in favor of a balanced budget amendment, which sensible people see as something that needlessly cripples the government's ability to function. But this is the primary season, and it's typically safe to voice support for such things in order to signal "deficit seriousness" to people who don't know any better, safe in the knowledge that Congress will never be able to pass such a measure anyway. (Support for the amendment is also one of Sen. Jim DeMint's litmus tests.) Well known for his support for civil unions, Huntsman sent the best of mixed messages that he could, saying that as president, he would "respect" New York's decision -- should it come to pass -- to allow for marriage equality. That separates him from most of the GOP field, who said they wouldn't. At the same time, he snuggled up with the rest of the field as well as he could by saying that "redefining marriage is something that would be impossible and it's something I would not be in favor of." (I'm pretty sure that history demonstrates that a redefinition of marriage is eminently possible, but whatever.) Huntsman still has to cope with a number of factors that imperil his nomination prospects. The fact that one-in-five Americans would not vote for a Mormon remains one key vulnerability, though -- let's face it -- it hasn't really been put to the test yet. The more troublesome shots Huntsman is taking are coming from within the GOP tent. For example, I doubt many in the Republican Party will take kindly to the news that the Huntsman family have been big supporters of Harry Reid. And, as Benjy Sarlin reports, the Club For Growth isn't too terribly impressed: The conservative anti-tax outfit dubbed Huntsman a "frustrating figure," whom they nevertheless credited with pursuing "pro-growth" policies in Utah. On the negative side, they took off major points for increasing state spending ("inexcusable"), backing TARP, and once supporting cap-and-trade legislation to combat climate change. They were especially concerned with the governor's belief that Americans deserve proper health care. "We find Governor Huntsman's statement that 'health care is a right' to be simply flabbergasting," they wrote. "We're not sure what part of the United States Constitution Governor Huntsman was referring to when he made that statement, but he certainly needs to explain what he was thinking." And neo-con anger-walrus John Bolton is straight up indignant at Huntsman for daring to serve his country under the Obama administration: "There is no patriotic obligation to help advance the career of a politician who is otherwise pursuing interests that are fundamentally antithetical to your values. That's not the call of patriotism," said Bolton. "I don't understand it. This is not like World War II, when we are facing an existential threat to the country as a whole, and you do put partisanship aside." David Axelrod counters by saying that Huntsman was a big help to and "effusive" supporter of the Obama administration -- oh, wait -- that's not going to help, either.
Gary Johnson will also apparently be sort-of, kind-of skipping the Iowa Caucus. It's a curious decision considering that, the last time we checked, he was going to be participating in a "Tea Party bus tour" of the Hawkeye State. (Maybe Sarah Palin has just ruined "bus tours" for everyone.) Instead, Johnson is focused on New Hampshire: Former New Mexico Gov. Gary Johnson said Thursday his path to victory for the Republican presidential nomination is predicated on a strong showing in New Hampshire, the early primary state that can make or break a bid for the White House. Johnson, who is polling in the low single digits in national polls, said he's not necessarily skipping Iowa, the first state to weigh in on the 2012 GOP nomination, but acknowledged his centrist views on social issues will not play very well in the Hawkeye State. He said his brand of retail politics will be successful in New Hampshire and after his showing there the "light really goes bright." "What you do with the bright light, that's success or failure," Johnson told CNN. National Review, in assessing the jobs record of the GOP candidates shone something of a bright light on the former New Mexico governor when that noted that he "has the best record of the official candidates, with a job-growth rate of 11.6 percent during his tenure." Oddly enough, Johnson decided to hide that light under a bushel, by refusing the credit: "Don't get me wrong," Johnson said in a statement. "We are proud of this distinction. We had a 11.6 percent job growth that occurred during our two terms in office. But the headlines that accompanied that report -- referring to governors, including me, as 'job creators' -- were just wrong." "The fact is, I can unequivocally say that I did not create a single job while I was governor," Johnson added. Instead, "we kept government in check, the budget balanced, and the path to growth clear of unnecessary regulatory obstacles." This is actually a very good time in America to be able to take credit for creating jobs. This is not a good time in America to be sounding like Sharron Angle.
Fred Karger's quest to get into a debate and match up against the rest of the field continues apace. But at the very least, he's starting to get heckled by the supporters of other campaigns -- in this case, someone who supports Rick Santorum. Towleroad put it more wittily than we could hope to do when it refered to the heckler as someone "angry that he took some of her anti-gay time." As the Laguna Beach Patch notes, Karger's "aims involve moving the GOP from a far-right position back to the center -- more along the lines of the fiscally conservative, socially progressive Republican party Karger grew up and worked in for years." Obviously, that heckler proves this will be a work in progress! Speaking of works in progress, Gay & Lesbian Victory Fund President Chuck Wolfe made news this week when he predicted that America would see the rise of a viable, openly-gay presidential candidates within 20 years. Where does that leave Karger? Well, "the Victory Fund has not endorsed him given his lack of electoral experience." Even if he can't win their favor, we think Karger, at the very least, may have his revenge on the Victory Fund by laying the groundwork for their prediction to arrive ahead of schedule. We'll be eager to hear, by the way, how Karger responds to President Obama's remarks this past Thursday night on the issue marriage equality in New York -- which were generically supportive, but specifically tepid.
The end of last week brought a tiny bit of mini-excitement on the Sarah Palin front. The American Spectator reported that she was "expected within a week to make a decision on whether to enter the 2012 presidential campaign." But Palin soon responded on Twitter: "Really? Hmm, guess they forgot to inform me what I'm 'expected to do' next wk." Boo on the Spectator? Well, the guy who reported it, Robert Stacy McCain, is typically well-sourced and prone to keen insight -- he was maybe the one guy who correctly predicted that Herman Cain would be deemed the runaway winner of the South Carolina debate -- so, he's got game. (McCain quipped after Palin's shoot-down: "OK, fine, governor, but I was reporting what my source had been told. Has my source been misinformed?") Maybe what no one could have known at the time was that Palin, apparently, has been called up for jury duty. This is the reason she's giving out for putting what's said to be a temporary end to her bus tour. And by the way, when we heard that the bus tour was cancelled, we were surprised to hear that it was even still going on! People stopped pointing teevee cameras at it, anyway, which all but eliminated the purpose of it. But Palin maintains her bus tour will be back! In the meantime, she's also cancelled a charity trip to Sudan -- probably because she'll be at the movies, on another sort of "charity trip." All of this has her most ardent fans terribly confused. As Alex Pareene reports: "Her Internet fans are a bit frustrated, though! I read some comments at Conservatives4Palin, where the regulars are split between growing anger and stubborn self-delusion." RuthieAbramson is tragic: "But if she's not running, she would have said so long ago, right? She certainly wouldn't let us all hang on and on like this." Yes she would, Ruthie. Yes, she would. About the only other Palin news is that various members of the Palin family are seeking to trademark their names, which means we may have to start referring to her officially as "Trixie Klondike" to avoid having to pay her. My feeling is, why stop at a mere trademark? Palin should officially sell the naming rights to her name: "ConocoPhillips Presents Sarah Palin (TM), all rights reserved" sounds good to me.
Ron Paul had a lot going for him this week, actually. At the Republican Leadership Conference, he did what he's always done: win a straw poll by dint of having the most passionate (and least undecided) supporters in the room. The national mood is shifting against the wars in Afghanistan and elsewhere, and those who want to see those entanglements ended can look to Paul for a strong and definitive voice of support. And Paul continues to look at the changing tide of the electorate, and sees that more and more, people are either coming behind his libertarian opinions, or at the very least, giving them more consideration than they ever have before. As he put it at the RLC: "I have great news for the cause of liberty: The country is coming our way." Paul's never been more in the mix: the question is whether this cause can spawn a legitimate candidacy. But those are questions for another week. This week, the big Paul news is that he and Barney Frank are sick of the pointless and ineffective "War On Drugs" and so they are going to try to legalize pot. Per the press release from the Marijuana Policy Project: Other co-sponsors include Rep. John Conyers (D-MI), Rep. Steve Cohen (D-TN), Rep. Jared Polis (D-CO), and Rep. Barbara Lee (D-CA). The legislation would limit the federal government's role in marijuana enforcement to cross-border or inter-state smuggling, allowing people to legally grow, use or sell marijuana in states where it is legal. The legislation is the first bill ever introduced in Congress to end federal marijuana prohibition. Rep. Frank's legislation would end state/federal conflicts over marijuana policy, reprioritize federal resources, and provide more room for states to do what is best for their own citizens. This is bad news for the Gary Johnson campaign, as Paul will now steal his key issue, consolidate libertarian support under one banner, and probably pick up that loose Willie Nelson endorsement.
"Hey guys? Guys?" Tim Pawlenty asked. "Mitt Romney's not hanging around, is he? You see him out there?" "No," came the response. "You sure? He's not standing behind a door or something? He's really nowhere to be found?" "Yeah, Tim. Mitt Romney's not anywhere nearby." "All right! Then I'mma about to SET IT OFF!" yawped Pawlenty. Yes. The Shy Ronnie of the 2012 campaign season went on the attack this week just as soon as he heard the person he was attacking wasn't in close proximity. Obamneycare? You are going to hear it from Tim Pawlenty! "Well, I don't think you can prosecute the political case against President Obama if you are a co-conspirator in one of the main charges against the president on the political level. And so, it really puts our nominee -- if that's who it turns out to be --in a very difficult spot. And I understand Governor Romney's arguments, that it's different at the state level. But when you look at these two plans, with only modest variations, they're very similar, and nearly identical." Yep, Pawlenty is back to trying hard, and making an attempt to demonstrate some political courage, if that's okay with everybody. And for what it's worth, Pawlenty is starting to get back something that looks like "momentum," even if it's largely coming his way because of Newt Gingrich's ongoing, slow-motion implosion. Pawlenty is out courting Christian conservatives and Wall Streeters -- moneylenders, Tim Pawlenty's got a place for you in the Temple. And he made news this week with a modest ad buy in Iowa, as well, so the state's teevees will soon rock with his thrilling Michael Bay-style homages. Next week, he'll head to the Council on Foreign Relations to give a "major speech" on foreign policy. (SPOILER ALERT: He wants to stay in Afghanistan way past 2014!) And, as Jon Ward reports, he's "out-hustling" this week's belle of the ball, Michele Bachmann: But while Bachmann has the buzz, Pawlenty "is diving for loose balls," according to one Iowa Republican. "In a state that demands organizational prowess, that kind of hustle may make the difference." Apparently, this is all part of some "Field Of Dreams" campaign strategy: "In fine Iowa fashion, he's taking a 'Field of Dreams' approach," said Robert Haus, a veteran Republican strategist. He's watched Pawlenty's "grind it out" approach to constructing a campaign and wooing fickle Republicans in the first states to hold nominating contests. "If you build it, they will come," Haus said. So far, it's an open question what Pawlenty's one-voter-at-a-time approach has earned him. In polls nationally and in early nominating states, he trails better-known candidates who haven't put in nearly the hours Pawlenty has in New Hampshire and Iowa. He acknowledges that he will raise less money than front-runner Mitt Romney and perhaps others when fundraising reports are released next month. If T-Paw builds it, they will come. And, by the looks of things, they will then go on to vote for someone else.
Buddy Roemer and his anti-influence peddling platform finally got some measure of robust attention this week when he went to the Republican Leadership Conference and loudly critiqued the people who typically decide who will become a Republican leader -- Wall Street banks and powerful corporate interests: Former Louisiana Gov. Buddy Roemer, a longshot candidate for the Republican presidential nomination, said at the Republican Leadership Conference Saturday that America is in the grips of "institutional corruption" due to the corrosive presence of special interest money in politics. "I've never seen anything like the tyranny that walks our land, the tyranny of the special interests that walks America today," said Roemer, who is also a former congressman. He told a relatively subdued crowd of conservative activists that he has "seen the rigged money game grow and grow and grow." "Political giving has mushroomed into a casino for favors for the special interests who live off government," said Roemer, who said more money was given in the last presidential cycle by people in the Washington, D.C., area than in 32 states combined. "One percent of the people give the money, and they want a favor, an access, a help, a relief," he added. He singled out Congress for the way they have been largely pathetic over the past few decades: "They don't read the bills... They don't have time to. They're working out lobbying jobs." ThinkProgress has the money quote: ROEMER: I know when we're getting taken advantage of, and I know our own corporate giants have never been more profitable than they are right now because they keep sending these high priced American jobs overseas. I promise that we'll change the tax code and the spending policies and stop using your taxpayer money to defend the practice of, and enable the procedures of sending American jobs overseas. Fair trade. Fair trade. Fair trade. [...] Washington is bought and sold. The status quo will win, they'll fight me every step of the way. Why? The political elite, the politically entrenched never had it so good. America's hurting, and D.C. never had it so good. Wall Street is near an all time high. Unemployment is at nine and a half, nine point one. The Wall Street banks are as greedy as ever. No one's gone to jail. Obama is raising a billion dollars for reelection at thirty five thousand a ticket. Obama didn't cause this recession, he's just made it permanent. That actually got Buddy some media attention, at last. As for the attendees, Stephanie Grace of the New Orleans Times-Picayune reports that they responded exactly the way you'd expect: "intermittent but obvious confusion" and "scattered, tepid applause." You say that stuff as if it was a bad thing, Buddy! Well, it is, and Buddy is right.
This week, there were some bumps in the road for wealthy unemployed person Mitt Romney. Gallup's pollsters found that 20 percent of America seems to have an extant problem with the idea of voting for a Mormon president. His refusal to sign an anti-abortion pledge drew barbs from Michele Bachmann and Rick Santorum. John McCain included Romney among the GOP candidates he flamed for "isolationism" -- which is newly defined as "not wanting to participate in senseless wars HARD enough," apparently. And, not that anyone in the GOP is going to care about this, but Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid said he preferred Huntsman to Romney (probably because Huntsman's family made many campaign contributions to the Nevada Senator). But what, Mitt worry? Heck no, people! Mitt is up in California, up in Florida... rarely is his polling stride broken. And there is so much money, everywhere! Karl Rove's Crossroads loves him so much. And he's told Wall Street that he'll never regulate them ever again, referring to regulators as "gargoyles." That's actually a compliment: The purpose of gargoyles is to ward off evil spirits. They should hang over Wall Street en masse! But all of that is just small taters, because LOOK WHO GOT A SUPER-PAC! A group of prominent Mitt Romney backers has quietly started a "super PAC" to raise and spend unlimited amounts of money in support of his bid for the Republican presidential nomination, according to organizers and others involved in the effort. Restore Our Future PAC, spearheaded by several former Romney aides, is the latest in an expanding list of groups that have formed to take advantage of court rulings that allow corporations, unions and tycoons to spend millions on elections without restrictions. This is among the reasons why Romney, as he schleps around talking to unemployed people, will never be found with money in his pocket smaller than a benjamin. The guy just knows how to relate to people!
It was a meeting of minds. Glenn Beck and Rick Santorum. Fox News Channel. And the mixture soon got frothy: "I could kiss you in the mouth," Beck said. He quickly backpedaled. But the affection was there: Beck told Santorum that in his dreams, he is known as "President Santorum Tomorrow." I am going to assume this means that Rick Santorum would change his name to "Santorum Tomorrow." Though I'll admit: That's what I was hoping Ron Artest would change his name to. Beyond that, Santorum spent his week doing what he always does: yelling at people who don't hate abortion as much as he does, accusing Attorney General Eric Holder of 'shrooming and supporting his colleagues who like to go a-whoring.
Last week's Netroots Nation conference revealed some of the fraying between President Barack Obama and some of the progressives that can typically be counted on to provide energy and commitment to a lefty political campaign. But there are some limits to the disconnect -- provided you don't dig too deeply below the top lines of approval polls: A straw poll conducted by Greenberg Quinlan Rosner Research showed that 80 percent either approve or strongly approve of the president more than a year before voters head to the polls to decide whether he deserves a second term. The results broke down to 27 percent strongly approving of Obama and 53 percent approving "somewhat." Thirteen percent said they "somewhat disapprove," and 7 percent strongly disapprove of the president. This indicates that the people who voted for Obama last year are favorably inclined to doing so again. But people who "somewhat" approve don't exactly spend all their off hours knocking on doors and manning phone banks in battleground districts, so the work of shoring up the base is sort of underway. Thing is, those "somewhats" are stuck peering at a panoply of partial measures. You into some troop withdrawal, for instance? Yeah, there's a promise of a tiny bit of that. You'll need to be enthusiastic about staying in Afghanistan until 2014, though! But there was a key test Thursday night in New York City at a top-dollar LGBT fundraiser. As you may have heard, Obama has been "evolving" on the issue of same-sex marriage. And with the city -- and the state -- hanging on every little bit of intrigue as lawmakers in Albany work out the end game on what could be a landmark victory for marriage equality, the stage was set for the president to complete this "evolution." I mean, why tell people you're "evolving" if you aren't more or less on the trajectory of coming out in favor? (For the record, the authors of the Speculatron support marriage equality, not because we have "evolved," but because we believe ourselves to be "intelligently designed," to steal/take back a term.) As for Obama, well, he mostly "punted," as our own Sam Stein reports: "Right now, I understand, there is a little debate going on here in New York," he said, as the crowd muted their cheers and chatter in anticipation. "Under the leadership of Governor [Andrew] Cuomo, with the support of Democrats and Republicans, New York is doing exactly what democracies are supposed to do. There is debate and deliberation about what it means here in New York to treat people fairly in the eyes of the law. That is the power of our democratic system. It is not always pretty there are setbacks there are frustrations. But in grappling with tough and at time emotional issues in the legislatures and the courts and the ballot box and, yes, around the dinner table and the office hallways -- sometimes even in the Oval Office -- slowly but surely we find a way forward. That is how we will achieve change that is lasting. Change that just a few years ago would have seemed impossible." It was not a deviation from the usual script. Nor was it the "fierce urgency of now" that Obama had often blared on the 2008 campaign trail. But, save a few hecklers, it would suffice for the night. "Everyone in the room would have been thrilled if he had come out for marriage equality," said Sarah Holland, an attendee. "I think for some people it rang hollow for him to be talking about equality and not going the full distance. "At the same time," she added, "people in that room are politically astute." Holland said Obama was the president who had made the most impact in her lifetime. "I think he really believes in equality," she said. Wow, where do we pick up our "WE THINK WE BELIEVE 2012" tee-shirts? They'll be out there, right?
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