For many, many weeks, we've been told the same old story: no matter who joins the GOP field, no matter how many different varieties of candidate there are on offer, it's never been good enough for anyone.
This was the story in April, in May, in June, and in August. (We're guessing it was the same way in July, while we were on vacation.) "The field of candidates suck, send us someone new, and, no, Tim Pawlenty, we're not interested."
Mostly, voters were paying attention to the pundits, and the pundits had arranged the field into three piles of undesirables: fringies that no one should pay attention to, the unelectable and "people named Mitt Romney." Had some sort of savior candidate jumped into the race this week, you can imagine the frantic headlines: "Paul Ryan Shakes Up The Field Like An Earthquake!" Or, "Chris Christie Enters Race Like A Hurricane!" That the political press would gravitate toward metaphors reflecting the disasters du jour would be a matter of little notice.
But a funny thing started to happen this week. As the possibilities of future entrants diminished, and as the GOP base and conservative-leaning independent voters started to get more and more personally engaged with the race, the view of the field from street level changed: "An Associated Press-GfK poll released Friday found that two-thirds of Republicans and GOP-leaning independents are pleased with the party's presidential field, compared with just half in June." Could it be that the weak field was just a media contrivance? Is it possible that all the real pissing and moaning over the need for a Jeb Bush or a Marco Rubio in the mix was just an obsession of elite, establishment pundits?
Yes, and yes.
Anyway, here's where this story is going. Pretty soon, the settled field will be campaigning against each other. Voters will pick sides, become invested. A few straggling pundits will keep moaning, but pretty soon, they'll all come around to the consensus that the clear frontrunners are strong candidates. Come June of next year, no one will remember that anyone thought the field was weak. Unless, of course, the eventual nominee loses the election. Then, every Republican Party bigwig, in an effort to explain away their own failings, or the failure of the policies they advocated, will say, "Oh, well, let's remember, it was a pretty weak field."
And that's the Story Of The Weak 2012 Field, decoded for you.
What else happened in the week that brought America to the brink of a George Pataki candidacy? Rick Perry decided that the book he wrote and has been touting all year had to disappear. Depending on your point of view, Mitt Romney became either excitingly emotional or rattled under the stress of running, at a town hall meeting. Ron Paul finally got some coverage -- not all of it was good. Jon Huntsman tried to distinguish himself as the Jon Huntmaniest candidate in the race. Michele Bachmann was declared over, Barack Obama's polls continued to take on water, Herman Cain went to the Holy Land, Fred Karger got some access, and Buddy Roemer's campaign manager? That dude just went OFF. Learn the details on all of this and more by entering the Speculatron for the week of August 26, 2011.
Well, it's been a nice run, Michele Bachmann. That's the overarching message that the media seems to sending to the Minnesota Representative-turned-default-touting presidential candidate. Back when Rick Perry entering the race was just a figment in the easily-agitated minds of political reporters, it was nevertheless presumed that the Texas governor would stride into the race and immediately take hold of the scene, grabbing up support from the far-right of the GOP base, turning Bachmann into a mere temporary steward of Tea Party aspirations. As theories go, it wasn't a bad one, way back then -- recall that Bachmann campaign manager Ed Rollins said his wish was for Perry to stay in Texas. And it's not a bad theory now that we see it playing out. Iowa was seen, earlier in the week, to be shifting slowly in Perry's direction. And while national polls have their limitations when you're months away from the Iowa Caucus, Bachmann had also ceded some ground there, as well. Bachmann's loosening grip on the retail politics didn't help -- she was dogged all week by criticisms of chronic lateness and restless crowds at events. And campaign press secretary Alice Stewart gave an odd answer as to why Bachmann would not try to manufacture new straw poll momentum at the upcoming Presidency 5 Straw Poll -- they weren't going to dedicate any resources to that event. But as Katrino Trinko points out, that event doesn't demand the expenditure of resources. It all gave rise to the question: "Has Michele Bachmann peaked?" There may be more to it than polling. On the ground in South Carolina last week, more than one unaffiliated professional Republican said that Bachmann's crowds were still of the more extreme activist variety, leaving her with a narrow slice of the primary electorate. Bachmann's pitching a relatively extreme message on the trail as well, despite the Ames win that raised her profile beyond the Tea Party, where her popularity is never in doubt. Perry, on the other hand, is actively rounding off his sharper policy edges, allowing him to still exist in the Tea Party sphere while leveraging his office for maximum electability. Bachmann, on the other hand, is still talking about shutting down the Department of Education and standing by her refusal to vote for an increase in the debt ceiling under any circumstances (not to mention her social views, which she mentions often). That definitely makes some in the GOP very happy, but it also makes her a tougher sell to Republicans hoping for a candidate with a reasonable shot at the White House in 2012. Of course, coming in at the end of the week is this bit of news: A new Wilson Perkins Allen poll of likely Republican Iowa caucus-goers finds Rick Perry leading Rep. Michele Bachmann, 23% to 20%, with Mitt Romney at 16%. Has wondering if Michele Bachmann has peaked, peaked? I suppose we'll find out soon. Meanwhile, if you're wondering whether Bachmann has any new daft ideas to campaign on, wonder no more! Her latest schtick appears to be her promise to bring gasoline prices under $2 per gallon. Asserting some sort of executive role in fostering a command economy in commodities seems like a weird thing for a small-government conservative firebrand to say, to be sure. Don Shelby says, however, she has options. They include: stealing oil from Libya and/or Iraq, draining the Strategic Petroleum Reserve (one month of low prices!), drill ANWR (a whole year's worth of consumable petrol may be there), or plunge the nation into a depression. Oh! There's also shale oil, with its a pricey and poisonous extraction process. That carries with it a little bit of irony for Bachmann: [Shale oil] contains a higher level of nasty chemicals that tend to pollute and harm humans. The process, known as retorting, also yields significant amounts of mercury. I'm not sure how she squares her comfort with that kind of mercury with her horror for the mercury in compact fluorescent light bulbs. Details. Coming soon: Michele Bachmann will be releasing a health care plan! Speculation is that it will be like "Paul Ryan's plan," but it will probably go an extra mile in mistreating members of the LGBT community. One of Bachmann's donors was revealed this week to be one of those pro-bully-the-gay-teens-into-suicide types, which is a slight improvement over the Bachmann aide who was one of those pass-laws-that-allow-gays-to-be-put-to-death-by-the-state types. (Small government! Freedom!)
With everyone wondering if Michele Bachmann has peaked too soon, it's a curious thing that no one seems to want to talk about how Herman Cain's day in the sun appears to be over. Brian Kilmeade, the brown-haired dude from "Fox And Friends" whose face makes us wonder how many hours of the day he spends as a Botox pincushion, was about the only man in America heard gushing over the pizza-dude this week, claiming he has "charmed the country." Yeah, maybe three months ago! But everyone is now either way into Rick Perry, or desperate for Mr. Perfect Republican Hero-Savior to enter the race. Cain seems to know this, which is why he's abandoned his generic "I'm Herman Cain and I'm going to plan to plan to do things" schtick for some more attention-grabbing campaign lazzi. Last week, Cain was all: "Sure, let's impeach Obama, for, you know ... something?" This week his latest bid for attention is the whole, "I'd be dead under Obamacare, y'all, think about it!" Well, we thought about it! The fact that Cain was wealthy enough to jump to the front of the cancer treatment line is not something that's changing under the Affordable Care Act. What is changing is that some people -- with regrets, not all! -- who might have otherwise died of cancer because they don't have access to health care, or because their insurance company dropped them from their rolls (because they had cancer) might not die as well. What's the alternative plan here? Universal pizza chain ownership as a path to decent health outcomes? (Actually, that's probably what the plan is.) At any rate, that bit of embarrassing bluster is actually the most effective thing Cain has done this week, because some genius convinced him that the best thing he could do was schlep off to Israel and attend the poorly-attended "Glenn Beck Blows A Shofar For Courage Encounter Session And Potluck" thingy, as opposed to -- you know -- campaigning for President in America. Remember, this is the guy who says that the first thing you have to do to fix things is identify the correct problem. Well, Cain's problem isn't that he wasn't spending enough time listening to songs from "Fiddler On The Roof." (But since he's taken an interest, the operative song is "Sunrise, Sunset.")
Newt Gingrich was in Hawaii this week. I mean, what else needs to be said here? This guy likes to vacation the way that James Franco likes actually working. But none of this is sabotaging Gingrich's campaign, because it's not actually a presidential campaign. It's a marketing campaign for Gingrich's brand of political bric-a-brac. We've said this before. We'll keep on saying it until everyone else who covers politics is smart enough to realize this. Oh, but hey, what big ideas can be heard resonating from Newt's wordhole this week? Seems he believes the Dodd-Frank bill -- as toothless a bit of banking regulation as ever there was -- is "killing banks." Straight-up slaying the banks with daggers, leaving their bloody bank corpses in the streets! Only it doesn't actually seem like this is the case: So is Dodd-Frank "killing" the industry? In fact, "bank profits rose substantially" in the first quarter of the year, with banks showing the biggest profits since before the recession. Things were sunny in the second quarter as well: - Profits at JPMorgan Chase, the nation's second largest bank, were up 13 percent. - Third-largest Citigroup's profits soared 23 percent. - Fourth-largest Wells Fargo's profits shot up 29 percent. - Fifth-largest Goldman Sachs, meanwhile, "disappointed investors" when it merely "more than doubled its profits." - Sixth-largest Morgan Stanley's profits were up an impressive 17 percent. The only top-tier bank to have a rough second quarter was the nation's largest, Bank of America, which has been dragged down in part by its acquisition of investment house Merril Lynch -- a move that, ironically, would not have been allowed under the Glass-Steagall Act, the repeal of which Gingrich spearheaded as House Speaker in the 90s. Let us be the first to say that if this is what death looks like, then we too would love to be murdered by the Dodd-Frank bill. And we mean murdered HARD. In other news, Gingrich was "vindicated" in that whole Twitter follower thing from several weeks ago, which, if you even remember, is probably something you are mad about us even mentioning in the first place. We apologize for that!
Jon Huntsman suddenly found himself getting some media attention by being reasonable on Twitter, and so he's decided that what he'll do is go out and try to "be Jon Huntsman" even harder than he was already being. So, all week he's sort of generically expressed some surprise that everyone he's running alongside seems to be some kind of nutter. Jon Huntsman likes science! And being nice to people! And he thinks gays deserve respect, even if his actual policy position on the matter doesn't make a whole lot of sense. The press has eaten this up! Jon Huntsman! He's a maverick because he accepts science and material reality and cognition! (In other news, surely we are but two or three steps from the arrival of full-blown idiocracy if generically accepting the science of evolutionary biology as fact now makes one a "maverick." Oh, man! Jon Huntsman is really going out on a limb with his support for the Pythagorean theorem!) As far as being Jon Huntsman goes, we think that Ross Douthat has his number. Huntsman defines himself in opposition to the rest of the field, sure. But the territory he claims for himself is of no real salience to the current debate. 2012 is not going to be a campaign about Darwin. It's going to be a campaign about the economy, and on those issues, Huntsman is only too happy to follow the herd to whatever daft plains on which they all choose to graze. For instance, in an interview with Jake Tapper last Sunday, Huntsman said of Michele Bachmann's pledge to drive gas prices below $2 a gallon, "I just don't know what world that kind of comment would come from ... It's talking about things that may pander to a particular group or sound good at the time, but it's simply not grounded in reality." That's from the same guy who stood on the stage with everyone else with their hand raised, indicating that they too would reject a debt deal that had $10 in cuts for every $1 in revenue. We just don't know what world that kind of thing would come from. It's talking about things that may pander to a particular group or sound good at the time, but it's simply not grounded in reality. But, OK, you know, Jon Huntsman ... he believes in "shared sacrifice." He'd ask the rich to contribute to the common good by having them ... do some stuff ... or something. Means test Social Security, maybe. Probably not raise the income caps on contributions, though. And he wouldn't raise their taxes. But he would be all: "Come on, guys! Sacrifice some stuff!" Oh, and for whatever reason, Huntsman said he'd be amenable to being Michele Bachmann's running mate, an outcome so unbelieveably unlikely that he may as well have said he'd be amenable to giving birth to a pegasus foal. So, Jon Huntsman! Somewhere in all that mess is a "campaign rationale."
Gary Johnson has placed all of his hopes in New Hampshire, and so he spent this week traversing the state, chatting up voters in every venue he could. At a meeting of the Concord Rotary Club, Johnson talked up his remarkable career as a sometime-thrill seeker ("People say, 'Wow, you conquered Mount Everest,' and I say, 'No, she lifted her skirt and she gave me a peak and it was really cool, I gotta tell you,'") and as a full-time "penny pincher." He laid out his platform: fair tax, balanced budget, eliminating HUD and the Department of Education, and an end to foreign wars and interventions -- fairly straight stuff from the libertarian hymnal. Courting Tea Party types, Johnson apparently amped up all of his talk of anger: "I'm finding myself really angry over spending and the deficit," he said in an interview with POLITICO. "I'm finding myself really angry over what's happening in the Middle East, the decision to stay in Afghanistan indefinitely. I'm angry about cap and trade. And I've been on record for a long time on the failed war on drugs." And at the New Hampshire Technical Institute, he extended that anger to airports, which to his mind have become "Constitution free zones" under the Transportation Security Agency. He went on to talk about Liberty, and how he loves Liberty, and about how "America has a date with Liberty," which means that Johnson has some kind of "open relationship" with Liberty, and that's pretty libertarian, you know, to share intimacy with Liberty and whatnot. But Johnson's larger problem is that he's having trouble reaching a certain level of intimacy with voters, because he keeps getting denied the opportunity to make a bigger name for himself through debates. As Dave Weigel reports, more and more, the officials behind these debates keep moving the goalposts for participation in a way that continues to exclude candidates like Johnson, using shifting standards based in national poll results. And national polls don't really matter: But, OK, fine, we're using a national poll. By this standard, Michele Bachmann, Mitt Romney, Rick Perry, Herman Cain, and Ron Paul should all make it in -- they regularly poll higher than 4 percent. The Reagan Library debate also includes Newt Gingrich, Jon Huntsman, and Rick Santorum, while excluding Gary Johnson, Buddy Roemer, and Thaddeus McCotter. That's odd: According to the last Gallup poll, none of those candidates break 4 percent. Aha -- NBC doesn't say they have to be recent! So Gingrich, who's collapsed, and who no reporter would say "in a credible position to be a principal competitor," can count the recent polls that have him over 4 percent. Santorum can count a Gallup poll from two months and three weeks ago, even though that poll didn't include Perry and did include Tim Pawlenty -- it took a snapshot of a fundamentally different election, one in which Santorum had more of a dark horse's shot in Iowa. Huntsman can count the CNN poll from earlier this month that put him at 4 percent, even though that poll included Giuliani and Palin, who aren't actually in the race. The effect of all this: Johnson and Roemer, both former governors, and McCotter, a fairly interesting gadfly candidate, are denied free media coverage. They're saddled with an extra fringe burden -- surely, the undecided voter thinks, this candidate must be a little nuts if he's never in debates. Hey, he's not in the debates because he didn't score high enough in a poll of an electorate that isn't actually going to pick the nominee! We, of course, would like to see debate access more fully extended. Yes, there's a chance that more people will create chaos, and interfere with set narratives, and potentially make a hash of things. But again, these are debates that are taking place in August and September of 2011! Their very existence makes a hash of things. It's just sad that people think their many-months-too-early debate is some precious sacred game-changing event in the life of the Republic. So we may as well go all in.
Fred Karger's story continues to be one of a struggle to gain access to the larger campaign conversation. When we last left off, he was still passionately arguing against his exclusion from the most recent debate. Of course, the next war sets an even higher bar for candidates -- the MSNBC debate is calling for a 4 percent polling threshold, and at the moment, they aren't being particular about the current standings -- if you were ever doing well, like Newt Gingrich was for a time, the fact that you've cratered makes no difference. It exacerbates the age-old catch-22 -- sometimes, you need the exposure of a debate to get a rise in the polls, but you need a rise in the polls to get the exposure. Which isn't to say Karger hasn't had some success getting exposure -- his Fox debate fight earned him a spate of press, and now that he's camped out in New Hampshire, it's a net gain for his campaign that he got a profile in the Nashua Telegraph. Karger gets another round of biography, and gets to discuss his historic bid as the first openly gay candidate for president, with a dose of non-triumphalism: "It's funny. Republicans don't like me because I'm gay, and the gay population doesn't like me because I'm Republican," he said, seated comfortably in the living room of his rental home in Manchester, which doubles as a campaign headquarters. "It's an interesting place to be." As interesting as it may be, people are starting to speculate that it's playing a role in his overall exclusion. Zack Ford took up the issue this week: But as conservatives argue that his exclusion has nothing to do with his sexuality, they manage to prove the very opposite. Jimmy LaSalvia of the gay Republican group GOProud epitomized this point as he tried to downplay Karger's legitimacy as a candidate: LASALVIA: Fred Karger is not a credible candidate. I would love for there to be an openly gay, credible candidate for president who was out there making a case for why they would be better than Barack Obama. Unfortunately, Fred Karger is playing a stunt, and his stunt has run its course. His whole schtick is ... running around the country with a rainbow flag, saying 'I'm the gay guy.' But he hasn't made a case about why he should be president of the United States. This is a catch-22 for the tokenized Karger: being "the gay Republican presidential candidate" has helped him gain notoriety, but now it seems to be the only aspect of his campaign conservatives are willing to mention. They dismiss him as "just the gay guy," but simultaneously deny him any opportunity to engage with the other candidates about other issues in his platform. It's political homophobia in action. Conservatives say they aren't discriminating against him -- he's just not a "credible" candidate. But they don't hesitate to say they think he's not credible because he's gay. If that's not the reason he continually has to fight to be included in debates and conventions, what is? Of course, the counterargument is that Thad McCotter and Gary Johnson and Buddy Roemer are similarly excluded, and they're not gay. But maybe they are excluded for reasons that are just as insidious, like they are pro-union (McCotter), or nobody wants a second anti-war libertarian (Johnson), or nobody wants someone railing against lobbying and the influence of corporate money (Roemer). In any event, such speculation will continue. And, beleaguered as it may be, so shall the Karger campaign. And this week, they enjoyed a minor breakthrough in the quest for inclusion: after being initially denied access, Karger will speak at the California GOP convention in September. There, he'll have a chance to demonstrate that he's more than just the candidate with the rainbow flag. And if he gives the lie to that perception, what's the next excuse?
Thad McCotter finished last in the Ames Straw Poll. But did you know that he's finished third in a straw poll since then? It's true! Why hasn't this gotten all sorts of heavy-breathing or panic or attention? Well, we don't know why ANY straw poll gets that sort of treatment. "Holy crap! A handful of people got in a room and had opinions and we counted them up and one opinion 'won,' stop the presses!" But if you must know, it was a New Hampshire straw poll that no one cared about, because there will probably be about 38 other New Hampshire straw polls between now and the middle of next month, and, oh yeah, there's this: The campaign's release said McCotter tied with Texas Gov. Rick Perry and finished ahead of Minnesota Rep. Michele Bachmann and Georgia's Herman Cain in the straw poll of 302 people among 11 candidates. The release omitted that the weekend poll was dominated by Texas Rep. Ron Paul at 45 percent followed by Michigan native and former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney at 35 percent. So, Ron Paul won another straw poll, beating out the people in the room who knew that Mitt Romney is running for president, and Thad McCotter got the best of the leftovers. McCotter's taking it in stride, however, telling a Tea Party conclave in Oglesby, Ill., "Right now I revel in my obscurity because look how the country acts about the people they do know." Why is he campaigning in Illinois?? Hell if we know. Just go with it. Lest you think that McCotter's running some sort of quiet operation, look at the way he laid the wood to Standard and Poor's! When Standard & Poor's downgraded the U.S. credit rating, they weren't just making a doubtful statement about America's debt, but about democracy in today's world, said GOP presidential candidate Thad McCotter to The Des Moines Register. "[T]hey criticized our process and used it as a rationale for downgrading the United States," said the Michigan congressman. "Now, we might not have enjoyed the process, but the strength of the United States is that you have people who passionately believe something on either side. They go into a heavy, heated discourse, but eventually a resolution is found. That's called free speech. It's called the political process. "For Standard & Poor's to use that as a rationale, to me, was telling me that they believe that a government that does not allow that type of free and full and fair debate to get to a broadly bipartisan resolution, is the preferred model of government - there's communist China." Wow. Just ... okay, wow. S&P is a straight Maoist, or something! And speaking of cultural revolutions, McCotter will tell you that Rick Perry and Mitt Romney weren't present at the one most important to him: "I think if you look at Mr. Perry or Mr. Romney and me, they're 20 years older than me, but there's an interesting dichotomy at work here," McCotter said. "I have something that I can say that they can't: I was a Republican during the Reagan administration. Neither one of them was. My question is why? Why was I at the age of 21 able to join the Republican party as a precinct delegate? And yet there was something about the Reagan agenda that they found to be particularly off-putting, so they didn't bother to join that party that they now seek to be the standard-bearer of."
The story with Ron Paul was that he wasn't getting much coverage, except in terms of people covering the fact he wasn't getting covered. And then people thought: "Well, there you go, he's now been covered!" But Paul presses resolutely onward, and he continues to do the sorts of things that entitle one to coverage. For instance: he remains a top tier, double-digit candidate. And he's making gains at the same time many of the other also-rans are having their support absorbed by Rick Perry. In those periodically-taken match-up polls, Paul is one of those GOP candidates that ends up in a dead heat with President Obama. No, these polls don't mean very much in August. But to whatever limited extent that they do, Paul is in the mix. And, of course, the Ron Paul community is always good for a money-bomb. At the grassroots level, in fact, there may be no one better: Rep. Ron Paul (R-Texas) raised $1.8 million in 24 hours between Saturday and Sunday, a major online "money bomb" timed to coincide with his 76th birthday. This is the fourth time Paul has raised more than $1 million in a day this campaign cycle, and a signal that he will have the money to compete as long as he wishes for the Republican presidential nomination. Of course, if you want coverage, it comes at a cost, and that's critical coverage. This week, Alex Pareene engaged in a thought exercise about what a Paul presidency would look like. His conclusions aren't that controversial -- Paul would be generically good on civil liberties and would reign in America's ever-expanding international misadventures. But he'd spend most of the time in a stalemate: "A Ron Paul presidency would really not get very much done, at all, actually. That is by design, because Ron Paul does not much like the government he seeks to sit at the top of, and by necessity, because the things Ron Paul will want to do will be opposed by the legislature." And that's the good part: Basically, a Paul presidency would be very, very bad for millions of Americans, especially ones reliant on government assistance (state or federal). And the dysfunction would, I imagine, be so bad for the economy that I'm not sure the American working and middle classes would ever recover (not that I'm sure now anyone will ever recover, with our current situation). I mean, if you think "uncertainty" is what's stopping business from hiring now, can you imagine how "uncertain" things would be with President Paul wielding a veto pen and controlling the U.S. Department of the Treasury? And can you imagine Paul dealing with a 2008-style financial crisis? I am guessing he'd let all the banks fail -- which has its good points and its very terrifying points. Matt Yglesias questioned whether you could call Paul an actual libertarian: After looking at his positions and statements, the most remarkable thing is that if it weren't for his loud fanbase of self-proclaimed libertarians you wouldn't really think this is the platform of a libertarian. He's loudly trumpeting his plan to impose criminal penalties on women who terminate their pregnancies and he makes it clear that his interest in freedom doesn't extend to the freedom of anyone unfortunate enough to have been born in a foreign country. His campaign slogan of "RESTORE AMERICA NOW" is strongly suggestive of conservative impulses and nostalgia for the much-less-free America John Boehner grew up in. The mainstay of his economic thinking is the ridiculous proposition that "[t]here is no greater threat to the security and prosperity of the United States today than the out-of-control, secretive Federal Reserve." Not only is Paul's goldbuggery nutty on the merits, like his affection for forced pregnancy and severe restrictions on human freedom of movement it's difficult to see what it has to do with freedom. The freedom of the government to set a fixed dollar price of gold? America's current monetary policy--a fiat currency that's freely exchangeable for other currencies and commodities--is the free market position. Paul's views, in short, seem much closer to the isolationist nationalism of Pat Buchanan (complete with some good points about foreign policy) than to the libertarianism of Milton Friedman. One thing you can definitely dig out of both critiques and then re-emphasize is that Paul's version of liberty will never be a genuine extension because he believes that woman are chattel. And now, Ron Paul supporters will spend their weekend yelling at your Speculatron. And that's OK!
One week into the Rick Perry boomlet, and the consensus is in: Rick Perry is "dominating the race!" He's the greatest thing since soft ice-cream! Michele Bachmann is toast! Mitt Romney is in trouble! All must tremble before Rick Perry, for some reason! And, look, we get it. Perry is going to be the last really big deal candidate into the race, after all, so this is our last chance, as a nation of media people, to get swept up in the pageantry of newness. He's suddenly surged atop many a poll. He's signing pledges. And he's stacking up endorsements and support. Like Sen. Jim Inhofe, who loves the climate denialism. And, Iowa Gov. Terry Branstad, who loves Iowa, and the fact that Perry came to Iowa. Don't forget Haley Barbour, who's helping his fellow Southern governor. And Dean Cannon! Whoever that is! Here's Bruce Bartlett, chief domestic policy adviser to Ronald Reagan: "Rick Perry's an idiot, and I don't think anyone would disagree with that." Okay, okay, so not all of the endorsements are glowing. But it's an important inclusion all the same, because it reminds us that no one is guaranteed smooth sailing. As Paul Waldman notes, Perry has "not yet begun to squirm," and sooner or later, he might encounter a reporter who's up to the task of interviewing him with a critical eye. You know...maybe. Stranger things have happened! As Greg Sargent points out, Perry's problem is that he actually took all of his weird, extreme positions on how the country should be run (into the ground, after dismantling all of its institutions) and put them in books, which everyone can read. Which is why in this first week of his presidential campaign, Rick Perry is disowning his last campaign -- the campaign to promote his book, "Fed Up!" Campaign spokesman Ray Sullivan is basically telling reporters that the book was a "look back" and "not a path forward." Oh, ha ha, you think that Rick Perry imagined that he'd be running on this as a platform for a future campaign? Heavens no! Still, you should definitely go out and read it, like Perry constantly urges people! Allow Perry to flip-flop on repealing the 16th Amendment, and privatizing Social Security. (Granted, this still puts Romney ahead on flip-flops by about 7,000.) Beyond that, we keep finding new things to cherish about Rick Perry. He thinks gays are like alcoholics. He's got no desire to see Social Security and Medicare continue. He will defund Planned Parenthood. He believes that corporations are currently in need of a civil rights movement of their very own. He hates climate science. He wanted to allow Wall Street to make mad green speculating on how long it would take teachers in Texas to die. Of course, all of these positions only make him more attractive to the GOP base, and enhance his prospects of winning the race. Did Mitt Romney have the balls to allow Wall Street speculation on teacher corpse futures? No sirree. And none of these positions take away from Perry's ability to line up corporate cronies, their itchy palms extended for the phatty-boombatty government contracts. Those types of dudes flock to Rick Perry. Only this week, Perry encountered some creepy Bank Of America executive, who brushed by Perry, offering only: "Bank of America. We will help you out." (With what? Mistakenly foreclosing on thousands of people? These days, Bank Of America really needs to set some more achievable goals for itself.) At any rate, if this doesn't end up working out for Rick Perry, he will have many, many gifts from well-wishers on which to fall back. (For some reason, many of those gifts are "medical tests.")
In the contest between the blocked-from-debate candidates to see who can come up with the fiercest response, Buddy Roemer is currently lapping the pack, thanks to his campaign manager Carlos Sierra. As The Daily Caller reports, Sierra went nuclear on the organizers of the upcoming NBC News/Politico debate in an email. And then, Sierra took shots at the rest of the GOP field, President Obama, the impact of money in politics, corporate media, corporate fat-cats, the whole damned system. It's EPIC: Once again, due to arbitrary, or as I call them, bullshit rules, Governor Roemer will be left out of the September 7th debate hosted by Politico and NBC News. It's a sad day in our country when a former Congressman, Governor, and current successful businessman is not invited to be on-stage to discuss the corrupting influences of money in politics and the continued demise of our economy. It's laughable and disappointing that there will be someone on stage whose ignorant mind compared homosexuality to bestiality; the Godfather of Obamacare will also be allowed to defend his unconstitutional law; there will be a former pizza chain executive who discriminates against the Muslim faith; and there will be someone on stage who thinks it's more important to vacation in Hawaii than to campaign for the most important office of the free world. I don't know about you, but I'm truly disgusted by our system right now. There is a candidate in this race who has the courage and intelligence to fight for what is right. He will never bow down to China like our current President does, or to the OPEC thugs that pray we will always depend on their oil. We finally have a candidate who doesn't care about the money and the corruption it causes. Buddy Roemer will always put America first! Again, it's sad day when a former Governor, a former Congressman and a successful businessman is left off the stage. NBC News, FOX News, Politico, and the rest of the corporate-owned media are essentially choosing our nominee for us. What happened to the voters deciding instead of corporate fat cats behind smoke-filled rooms? Shots fired! Roemer also got a shout out from Jack Daniels this week, though it's not the Jack Daniels that immediately springs to mind -- you know, the one who manufactures the bourbon, a bottle of which Buddy should probably buy his campaign manager?
Mitt Romney has decided that maybe he'll get angry now, for a while. Or, to use a term that makes more sense relative to what we're used to with regard to actual "anger," Mitt Romney is getting, "super-duper snippy." You behave yourself, town hall audience member with opinions, or else you will make Romney "super-duper snippy." Romney fans will call this "being like Chris Christie." Perry fans will say, "Yeah, we're gettin' in ol' Mittens' head." Neutral parties will at least allow that the Romney-bot's recent upgrades now appear to allow for the simulation of actual human-like emotion, within strict operating parameters. Romney's on a collision course with Perry now, and the media doesn't know what to think. Maybe this is Romney's "nightmare scenario!" Nate Silver did some Euclidean geometry and sabermetrics and arrived at that possibility. But the Romney camp is determined to continue its "Don't Panic Strategy." "If you're running for president, your focus should be on the person who is president and his failures, and how you're going to make America better," Romney told reporters in Claremont. About the only thing he changed this week, he said with a laugh, was his shirt. He cut short a question about the Gallup poll. There are many polls, Romney said, although he conceded, "Rick is a very effective candidate." But a shirt change? Romney also responded to the threat of Rick Perry by going all squish on climate change. Now he doesn't know what to think about it! Would you like him better if he went one way or the other? Because he'll go that way! He'll totally, totally do whatever you want. Still, the problem that Romney has isn't Rick Perry, it's the fact that GOP establishment elites remain cool to his candidacy. As hopes dim for a savior to jump into the race, and the base starts to pick sides, however, that may change. In the meantime, though, he doesn't enjoy that intellectual air support from the conservative intelligentsia. The big line from Politico this week was: "Rick Perry is a dope, Michele Bachmann is a joke and Mitt Romney is a fraud." Could be worse, of course. At least they don't think Romney is a dopey, fraudulent joke! (We're guessing, anyway.) Is this why Mitt Romney is doing Rich People Things this week? To appeal to elites? He's passing on going to South Carolina and opting for a trip to the Hamptons. He's telling Wall Street for the millionth time that he will repeal all reform attempts and let the casino kids run wild again. Do you think that Mitt Romney, who does have pals that will form corporations in order to funnel him money, is jealous of the fact that Rick Perry has Bank Of America offering to be his sugar daddy? Perhaps! Also, Mitt Romney, unemployed person, will be quadrupling the size of his 3,000-foot California home. Keynesian stimulus! Job creation! Speaking of jobs, Mitt got all upset with Obama for waiting too long to release his jobs plan, then he realized that he didn't have a jobs plan, so now he's going to release his jobs plan on the same day, which he had previously called too late. (We are guessing that the Mitt Romney "jobs plan" is a single page of paper that reads, "BUILD ME SOME MORE HOUSES.")
Rick Santorum thinks that Rick Perry and Michele Bachmann don't hate gays enough, though no one hates the LGBT community as much as Rick Santorum, so there's no point in even trying to compete. He doesn't think Perry's done enough to defend the border. He's mad at Jim DeMint for excluding him from the meeting of the Special Jim DeMint club, which was determined by "silly rules." Did we mention that he hates the gays? Even his "friends" that are gay? Who don't respect him enough? Oh, well, he does. So, yeah, that about sums up the week in Santorum stuff.
President Barack Obama had another week of staring at poll numbers that offered mixed reviews and a cloudy future. His Gallup drag continued -- approvals hit a new low this week, alongside head-to-heads that put him on even footing nationally with many of the GOP's top-tier candidates. Swing state polls, which are of more utility in gauging presidential elections, shone more brightly. But the numbers aren't ideal, by any stretch of the imagination. Of course, polls, especially the ones conducted in August, aren't worth a hill of beans. It's the fundamentals that count, and the fundamentals...well, they're bad. This week, the CBO "projected the unemployment rate, now 9.1%, will decline to a still-high 8.5% by the end of next year and will remain above 8% until 2014." That's not an environment that suits an incumbent president. Obama will have to run on the argument that he kept the economy from sliding into a hole. The fortunate thing is that after an exhaustive study by Dylan Matthews, the prevailing consensus is that the stimulus package did exactly that. Still, you'd much rather prove you fixed something in plain sight, rather than prevented something that could have happened. We tend to lionize firefighters because we see them putting out fires and rescuing kittens from burning buildings. The same isn't the case for the engineers and inspectors and bureaucrats who develop the safety standards and codes that keep buildings from catching fire in the first place. Of course, the other critical fundamental is voter enthusiasm. Obama will, of course, benefit from those generic Democrats who generically vote for Democrats. In poll after poll, it's indicated that those votes are staying with him. But Obama didn't win in the first place because he simply had the support of generic Dems. He won because he got over with other voting blocs. At the moment, Obama will have a decent amount of die-hard supporters. They're out there, and ready to lend the campaign, manning the phone banks, going door-to-door, helping to persuade neighbors and friends. But the rift remains between the White House and another large group that can manufacture some enthusiasm -- the activist left, who have been historically picked on by this administration. There's plenty of time to heal that rift, of course. There's maybe no better prescription than the thought of President Rick Perry. But when the Obama administration is seen doing things like trying to pulverize New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman, who's maybe the last honest man in Christendom when it comes to reining in the Wall Street scofflaws of 2011, that divide grows wider. Can Obama win re-election in a terrible economy without energy from both the Obama-fans and the activist left? I suspect we are going to find out!
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