Running for president: it used to be cool, something young kids and starry-eyed dreamers actually aspired to do. And understandably so. To be the leader of the free world, man! Whether you want to max out your ambition, boldly strive to change the world, or just succumb to the indulgences of power, the Oval Office is one of the ultimate highs.
Yet 2012 is shaping up to be the year where the people who are held in the highest esteem are those who aren't choosing to run for president, while the candidates themselves are kicked at, like the last remaining shoes at a DSW clearance sale. Sometimes, it seems like the GOP elites have barely spent any time at all with the raft of candidates they actually have on offer. Over the past year, they've hoped for Jeb Bush, stared dreamily at Marco Rubio, mourned the opt-out decision of Mitch Daniels, and coveted the candidacy of Paul Ryan. And as they've swooned, the media has followed, because if nothing else, they know the value in the Shiny Thing, and, as NYU's professor of journalism Jay Rosen might point out, they know that fueling the speculative fires of these wanted-but-not-obtained campaigns makes them look savvy. There's nothing a decadent intelligentsia loves more than to try to spin substance out of non-thought.
This all reached an apotheosis this week, as the Last Great Hope of the Underserved Elites, Chris Christie -- after making it firm all year that he wasn't going to run -- finally succeeded in making this clear just as hard as he could. He staged a press conference, to tell the world that he was going to go on not doing the thing he'd said all along he had no intention of doing in the first place. And he went on to tell this to the world again and again and again and again. After about 20 minutes of Christie answering what amounted to the same question over and over, the event was no longer a press conference -- it was a screensaver. And MSNBC stuck with it for another 30 minutes! Here's hoping everyone at 30 Rock got to take a long lunch.
Meanwhile, at the top-tier of the primary pile, life is getting weird. Take Herman Cain, for example. Weeks ago, it looked like his quick rise had given itself over to a slow fade. But with a couple strokes of good fortune, matched by his rivals hitting some unexpected shoals, Cain surged back -- jumping to second place in some national polls. This is his big moment. This is his time to shine! And what's he doing? Well, he's quitting the campaign trail to go on a book tour. It's utterly inexplicable! Unless, of course, you figure that he understands what's going on: like Christie and Daniels and all the people who are fawned over, he's better off not becoming president. He's better off maximizing the lucrative opportunities that being in the 2012 mix provides. And that book? Well, it ends with Cain becoming president. So, in his mind, he's already achieved his goal. Doing anything more to achieve it is pointless!
And then there's Rick Perry. He was supposed to be the down-home, straight-speaking, gun-toting solution to all of that fussy talk of "compassionate conservatism." His big advantage was a long Texas career and a desire to be nothing more than a vessel -- into which Tea Party resentment, and corporate crony cash, could be poured, stirred, and steeped in a unite-the-base brew. It was all going according to plan until people discovered that the man had actual convictions -- actual beliefs that weren't tied to party dogma. He thought teenage girls in Texas should be shielded from cancer. He thought that not giving the children of undocumented immigrants an education and a chance at a life was heartless. And Perry's luster began to fade the very minute it became apparent that he actually believed things.
Finally, Mitt Romney. The best thing he's got going for him is that his campaign has cagily positioned him as the 2012 Default Setting. Folks might not like Mitt Romney, or want Mitt Romney, but it's slowly dawning on the elites that they might be stuck with him anyway. Romney's fall from esteem has been especially noteworthy. Four years ago, a sizable portion of the GOP loved the fact that he could attract Democratic voters because he had a health care reform plan that could be a model for the entire nation. Today, a sizable portion of the GOP is deeply aggrieved by the fact that Romney's positions are still comparatively attractive to Democrats, and that his health care reform actually ended up becoming the model for the entire nation.
Earlier on Friday, as Fox News' Chris Wallace came on the air to briefly talk up his Sunday morning guests, he described the state of the field in these terms: "It looks like we've got to go to war with the field we've got." Note the use of the first person plural, by all means, but let's acknowledge the air of resignation. Wallace clearly points to the sidelines for the people with whom he'd rather "go to war." That's where all the people who've earned admiration and respect are standing, and they're sitting this one out. (Also Sarah Palin is there, but her announcement was met with a shrug and quick step to more important news.) It's never been more uncool to want to be president. But in a world where it's not cool to be president, Mitt Romney may be just the guy the GOP is looking for.
Elsewhere on the trail: Ron Paul brings in an impressive haul of cash, while stepping slightly away from his libertarian roots. Rick Santorum sees a conspiracy in the way the primary calendar is shifting. Michele Bachmann is urging people not to "settle." Buddy Roemer makes his most daring move yet. And for some reason, we now know what Newt Gingrich's favorite movie is -- naturally, it's about marriage mishap! To learn more about this week in the 2012 campaign, we invite you to enter the Speculatron for the week of Oct. 7, 2012.
The long, slow decline of the Michele Bachmann candidacy continues this week, as the Minnesota Representative's campaign labors under any number of woes. The Bachmann team has had to resort to some magical thinking of late to describe the current state of campaign coffers, which is grim. The combination of empty warchests and diminishing hopes have led to staff departures, and this has left Bachmann's Iowa operation -- now the campaign's last hope for staying alive past January -- "sputtering," according to the Los Angeles Times's Seema Mehta: "She's a great candidate but has turned into a really bad campaigner," said one longtime Iowa GOP operative who spoke anonymously to preserve relations with the campaign. "She has not gone to northwest Iowa, to the heart of where her support would be. Of Iowa's 99 counties, she's only visited a handful, most of which are urban counties. She needs to go out to the rural counties -- she would be well received." Bachmann has dropped in the polls here, as she has nationally. Top advisors have left or been forced out. Reports of lackluster fundraising were bolstered by her campaign's plea to supporters last week for "emergency" contributions. At an event in Cedar Rapids, aides handed out leftover brochures asking for support at the straw poll, more than a month ago. A strong presence in early Republican debates, she was starved of airtime in recent face-offs, to the point that during the last one she interrupted so she could answer another candidate's question. Lesser media presence and fewer well-attended events have become the norm, says Mehta. And the lack of an Ed Rollins-type steady hand at the top of the campaign means more of those quintessential Bachmann moments, like this one: Rep. Michele Bachmann (R-MN) recently thanked a caller on a radio show who said he'd rather vote for infamous serial killer Charles Manson over President Obama. "Hey, thank you for saying that," she replied. On top of all of that, Bachmann made news this week for both her truancy rate in Congress, where the "tip" of her "spear" has been notably absent, and the fact that she's terrified of college students. So, Bachmann has a new message. That is, it's a pretty old message: "Don't vote for Mitt Romney or Rick Perry." But she dresses it up as "Don't Settle": BACHMANN: This isn't the time for settling. About three weeks ago, I started hearing the mantra, 'Anyone but Obama. We need to make sure the conservative candidates stand next to the wall and get behind the moderate candidate.' This is not the year to get behind the moderate. There's a moderate? Even Jon Huntsman would reject a $10-to-$1 tax cut-to-revenue deal! Well, at the very least, Bachmann remains in full flight from anything resembling moderation. She'd reinstate Don't Ask Don't Tell, she said this week, in a move that would lead to lots and lots of job creation. She's also decided: what the hell, let's just say the deficit reduction super committee is unconstitutional, for some reason. Last week's dilly, by the way, that China had been blinding our spy satellites with lasers, was debunked. She still gets to sit on the House Intelligence Committee, though! The good news is that "the police have agreed to find [her] Stooges tape."
Success in the Florida Straw Poll, combined with Rick Perry's steep and sudden decline, have been a tremendous boon to Herman Cain, who's suddenly surging back into contention as party elites, who just don't want to have to embrace Mitt Romney, give him a second look. It's all added up to a superb week for the pizza guy. He's now definitively in the top tier of the candidates. In some polls, the Cain Train is pulling in at second place. At New York City's famed "Monday Meeting" confab of conservative luminaries, Cain was a huge hit, earning "lots of good buzz" from deep-pocketed donors. And the Club For Growth has been giving Cain a once-over as well. In short, this is exactly where "Black Walnut" should want to be -- bringing heat in the polls, with party elites signaling support and fresh donor blood on the wing ... this is when you'd expect a candidate like Cain to seize the moment and make his next move. And that's why his next move is so inconceivably puzzling! So Cain now has his moment, and guess what: He doesn't appear to be using it. For starters, with about three months until the Iowa caucuses, he's going on a book tour for much of October. Second, he's not scheduled to be back in Iowa until mid-November. And third, his communications director just left his campaign -- to work for the re-election of Louisiana's lieutenant governor (!!!). Those aren't just signs of someone who's unlikely to win the GOP nomination; they're signs of someone who isn't really trying to win, a la Mike Huckabee in 2007-2008. Cain does, however, meet with Donald Trump today. If you judge Huckabee's 2008 campaign as a success, then Cain is on a successful path. That's right. At the very moment Cain's wave is cresting, the candidate is fleeing the beach. This makes it pretty hard to take Cain all that seriously as a candidate. The Huckabee comparison is apt -- Cain may just be using this platform to earn himself a Fox News show. Within the current campaign milieu, it means that Cain is more like a Newt Gingrich, more concerned about his own bottom line than he is about America. It may be just as well, as Cain is learning that this whole "running for president" thing can be really hard! Last week, Cain responded to the whole Rick Perry N-WordHead scandalette in an understandable way: He said he found that racially insensitive word to be racially insensitive. This is a perfectly mainstream opinion to have in most quarters. But within the confines of a GOP primary election, it was a terrible mistake to remind anyone that blacks have been the victims of racial intolerance, because the current thinking within the circles of the supporters Cain was trying to win is that only white conservatives have ever been the victims of racism. Bad Herman Cain! Bad, bad, Herman Cain! Well, Herman Cain backtracked and fell in line with a quickness. That was the Cain Gravy Train that he'd offended! (While Cain was in the mood to be supine, he also backtracked from his earlier comments that the al-Awlaki killing was disturbing, in terms of civil liberties.) Elsewhere, economists continue to kick the tires on Cain's "9-9-9 Plan" and have found little to praise: "This, even conservative experts agree, wouldn't provide the federal government with enough revenue to maintain the safety net and would lead therefore to either persistent deficits and growing debt, or a drastic reduction in social programs." It's not particularly good as a means of reducing income inequity, either: Cain's elimination of taxes on investment income like capital gains, meanwhile, would hugely benefit the very rich, driving down their taxes. "It would be the biggest tax shift from the wealthy to the middle-class in the history of taxation, ever, anywhere, and it would bankrupt the country," said Center for American Progress Vice President for Economic Policy Michael Ettlinger when asked about Cain's plan. Lawrence Mishel, president of the Economic Policy Institute, said the plan "would disproportionately tax lower and middle income earners." And how would it alter the deficit picture? Well, it would "cause [the] largest deficits since WWII." More and more, Cain's becoming known as the guy who "doesn't have the facts to back this up." It's applicable everywhere! His nutball Sharia panic sessions, his belief that homosexuality is a choice, his weird conspiracy-laden take on the Occupy Wall Street protests (and his stunning ignorance about what's caused the unemployment crisis) ... If Herman Cain was an action figure, not having the facts to back things up would be its kung fu grip. So, no, Patrick Caldwell says, "Herman Cain probably won't be the GOP nominee": Yet I can't see his poll bounce lasting more than a few weeks. Cain has gained primarily from Rick Perry's drop after the Texas governor flubbed the last debate. Cain is just the latest flag bearer for the Tea Party wing who has not been subjected to much national scrutiny, so the areas where he has broken from Tea Party purity haven't received the harsh glare of media attention or debate attacks. With his increased presence, Cain has already begun to be attacked by conservative outlets for daring to question Rick Perry's racist ranch. Much like Michele Bachmann after her Iowa straw poll win, Cain will fall back in the field again, with his new supporters likely returning to Perry's camp as the actual nomination process begins and the combination of social conservatives and Tea Partiers muster their forces around one candidate to prevent their dreaded-moderate Romney from leading the ticket in 2012. And based on the fact that Cain is going on a book tour at the moment he's finally found himself in the position to win, we're guessing that not being the nominee was his intention all along.
Newt Gingrich. He is just against so many things! Opposed to so much stuff! Like having a presidential campaign that makes sense, for instance. But he's not limited. Gingrich wanted voters to know this week that he's against the repeal of Don't Ask Don't Tell, and that the repeal showed that Barack Obama had an "anti-military prejudice" ... for ... helping to affect the change the Joint Chiefs wanted? He's also against evolution, which is probably a bias rooted in his own personal life and political career. He thinks marriage equality is "a temporary aberration that will dissipate" -- when in fact the only thing that will dissipate is opposition to marriage equality, which is most strongly argued by people who are close to being dead. He's also against having economic advisers on his campaign (not that he could get any to work with him), because he is his own best economic adviser! This met with contempt from Andy Kroll: This, of course, is the same Gingrich whose campaign racked up $1 million in debt in a short period of time (and is still paying it off), and the same Gingrich who, in 1993 as House speaker, slammed President Bill Clinton's budget, which raised taxes, as a job-killer and a big step down the road to recession. Of course, the opposite happened: Thanks in part to Clinton's policies, the US economy added 21 million jobs during his spell as president. The economy soared through the 1990s. Gingrich got it wrong. Gingrich, you could say, is promising the opposite of what Reagan preached. After all, it was Reagan who described his leadership style thusly: "Surround yourself with the best people you can find, delegate authority, and don't interfere." Surely Gingrich--a history buff and a Reagan lover if there ever was one--must know that defying the Gipper is no way to win the GOP presidential nod. What does Newt Gingrich like? Well, "The Hangover," apparently. He says he's watched it seven times. And because this is a Gingrich-branded merchandizing campaign, and not a presidential campaign, he loves moving them units! This week, Gingrich Corp has got a sweet deal on Callista's new book about a time-traveling elephant who destroys the middle class, or something. This is basically what a Gingrich White House would look like -- Newt in his long johns, watching "The Hangover" in order to fight off the sadness that comes from no one wanting to be seen with you, while his wife makes cartoons in the East Room.
It's basically becoming a chore to keep trying to figure out what's going on in Jon Huntsman's sad single-digit campaign that he never should have mounted because the people who plan to vote in the GOP primary clearly don't want a guy who used to work for Barack Obama and wants to fight for the acknowledgement of heliocentricity. But let's see. Okay. Huntsman is mad at Sarah Palin for stringing people along about her presidential campaign. He's upset that Mitt Romney has, in his estimation, been mucking about with the primary process so as to advantage the former Massachusetts governor above the rest of the field. And he's probably somewhat miffed by the fact that another staffer quit on him and didn't have the decency to go to work for someone whose electoral fortunes are also in decline. He's going to try to gain some degree of marginal interest with a foreign policy speech in Manchester this coming week. This is part of the new strategy that the Huntsman campaign has hastily embraced. Last week, Huntsman sped off to New Hampsire, abandoning his Florida beachhead when he realized that, in all likelihood, his candidacy would be pushing up daisies by the time it got to Tallahassee. So Huntsman, like Bachmann, has a state in which he must do well in order to get his ticket punched. E.J. Dionne says that this is now Huntsman's "only shot": This is a good bet because it's his only bet. Huntsman was always going to count on New Hampshire for a breakthrough. I've always thought he had at least some opportunity there because the Granite State primary is open to independents, who will have no Democratic primary that matters to cross into. Huntsman's best bet is to run to the left of the current Republican field -- there's a whole lot of room there -- and pick up crossover votes from independents (including Democratic-leaning independents) who decide to cast a protest vote against the rush of the GOP to the right. This doesn't mean Huntsman becomes a leftist -- his economic proposals are really, really conservative -- but I suspect he will sharpen some of his rhetoric against the more extreme positions some of his opponents are taking. Of course, "sharpened rhetoric against extreme positions" is exactly what the GOP primary voter base hates like grim death. What can we say? He should have waited to run!
For Gary Johnson, his return a few weeks ago to the debating stage is looking to be short-lived. And with that comes the diminishment of his unique perspectives -- he joins Ron Paul in sounding concerns about the Executive Branch's right to have a secret list of people who can be targeted for assassination, for instance -- which, agree with them or not, are always offered with respect, good-humor and a distinct lack of pandering. So he's had to return to fighting against exclusion. The Concord Patch caught up with Johnson on the matter, and Johnson offered Slate's Davie Weigel a nice name-check: "It sucks," he said. "It absolutely sucks ... it really smacks of somebody making a decision from on high to exclude me." Johnson said his positions in the race, like wanting to legalize marijuana and being the only non-social conservative in the race, set him apart from the other candidates. He said he has reached out to all the networks that had hosted debates and only Fox News allowed him into their Florida debate. "I think Dave Weigel summarized the inclusion from the debates the best," he said. "They sit around beforehand and they come up with the Gary Johnson rule -- what does it take to just exclude Gary Johnson from the debate -- I mean, that's what it appears, that they invoke the Gary Johnson rule." At the time, Johnson was at a scheduled town hall meeting, which -- in a pretty unlucky break -- was poorly attended after a glitch in the robo-call invitation sent New Hampshire voters the wrong information. Still, Johnson has his ways of staying serene. The avid outdoorsman is logging a lot of miles in the Granite State on his beloved bike, vowing to traverse the entire state to meet voters. "I'll ride every mile regardless of conditions," he said, suggesting that he might just "do a 475-mile ride across New Hampshire, going to 26 different towns, doing town halls every night." Johnson's love of outdoor sports earned him a profile in Outside magazine. If you've a passing awareness of the piece, it's probably for this quote: "Pot smokers may be the largest untapped voting bloc in the country. A hundred million Americans have smoked marijuana. You think that they want to considered criminals?" He's right; they don't!
Perennially excluded from debates and discussion, Fred Karger is set to work hard in New Hampshire over the next two weeks, with appearances coming up in Concord, Nashua, Laconia, Manchester and Plymouth. He'll be doing a blend of traditional Republican retail politics -- hitting GOP dinners, celebrating Octoberfest with Rockingham Republicans, and meeting with the editorial board of the Nashua Telegraph -- and focusing on the key issue that animates Karger's candidacy: rights and respect for America's LGBT community. To that end, he'll be making appearances at a Laconia High School "Stop Youth Bullying" event and celebrating National Coming Out Day with the St. Paul's School Gay-Straight Alliance. This week, the Karger campaign sent along this email from a supporter to reporters: "I'm living in KY and I'm 20 years old. When I go to work each day, I fear that my employer may find out that I am gay and will fire me. In this state, it would be completely within his "legal right." Growing up knowing I was gay and living in such a socially narrow-minded society, I fell into deep depression and attempted suicide many times. Since coming out in 2010, it has been a struggle to find my "place" in this world, but I am so blessed to have good people in my life who support me and build me up. I stumbled upon your page while researching candidates for the 2011 presidential election, and I am overjoyed for your running. As Harvey Milk said, we have to elect gay people. For all the teens out there who will be watching the news, wondering if this world will ever except them or not... Thanks for giving me a little more hope today!" That's the sort of thing that provides some comfort to a campaign that no one wants at their debates.
Ron Paul got to release some gaudy-by-Ron-Paul-standards fundraising numbers this week. His total haul in the last quarter? $8 million. That's real good. Sure, Rick Perry managed to double that amount. But would you want Rick Perry's problems? One thing that Ron Paul doesn't have to spend any money on is a bunch of high-definition turd polish to keep his support from cratering. While Rick Perry struggles to hold on to voters, Paul's got a stable floor. As Alex Burns notes, his "campaign has more than 100,000 donors -- five times as many as Rick Perry." Pauls' challenge, as always, is to try to build on the stable of diehards who have made him a "force." What prevents that from happening, of course, are some of his libertarian stances. His opposition to the targeted killing of American-born Yemen-based terrorist supporter Anwar al-Awlaki puts him squarely in the minority camp within the larger GOP. When the herd next meets in a debate, you can expect Paul to catch a question on the topic. You can probably also expect him to get crossed up with Rick Santorum, to whom Paul has become a foreign policy bete noire. But Paul is not likely to be talked out of his position. This week, he raised concerns that one possible abuse of the presidential assassination list could come in the form of rubbing out troublesome journalists, Putin-style. He's even gone as far as to say that President Barack Obama's decision to order the drone strike that killed Awlaki rises to the level of an impeachable offense. As far as building on that base of support, Paul has some moves -- but they're hard to reconcile with the libertarian leanings he claims to espouse, and will test anyone who's come to the Paul campaign expecting some philosophical rigor. For instance, he'll get props from religious conservatives for contending that making birth control products more widely available to the public is a way of "mocking" Christian conservatives. Yes, Christian conservatives oppose birth control. But what happened to liberty, Ron? No one is forcing Christian conservatives to use birth control. Additionally, Paul has strangely come out against birthright citizenship. Yes, this positions him within the new GOP mainstream that's suddenly turned against something that was actually a major conservative accomplishment. But what happened to that love of the ol' Constitution, Ron? That's where birthright citizenship is enshrined. Chances are, the Paul campaign understands that in order to move into the top tier of candidates, they're going to have to sell out their principles a little bit. And that's not unreasonable, considering the fact that every day, when they look at who they've got to beat, they see Mitt Romney.
There are a lot of ways of looking at the current state of the Rick Perry campaign, and almost all of them resemble something like a disaster. Kevin Drum slices it two ways: You can peep the big headlines that Perry's made in just two months, or you can gawk at a line on a graph that depicts a steep rise and a sudden free-fall. The two are more or less related. Signs point to a wide-scale abandonment by the Tea Party types whom Perry had hoped to court, an overall thinning-out of support across the GOP base, and now we're starting to see Perry's campaign aides head for the exits. Worst of all, Perry's decline can be most keenly felt in the state of Florida, which could be where the Perry vs. Romney battle gets decided for good. But there's another way of looking at the Perry campaign. Sweet fancy Moses, does he have a lot of cash! Money for days! Sweet, sweet, time-buying ducats. More cheddar than he knows what to do with. Rick is stacking so much green that even Matt Drudge, whose lack of support for Perry has been conspicuous, has got to give props. He needs the cash injection, too, if only to wait out the whole Hunting Camp With A Racist Name problem that he's been having lately. He's still hearing it from critics this week. Joe Scarborough, of the "Morning Joe" Joe Scarboroughs, says that it's "disqualifying." Former RNC Chair Michael Steele called it "very troubling." And for a brief while, Herman Cain was upset about it as well, until he backtracked after learning that he might lose all of his new GOP besties over the criticism. So he dropped the matter. (Still said that he wouldn't pick Perry as a running mate, though.) But, in other circles, Perry's getting a solid defense -- even from critics, who insist that Perry is no racist. Actually, he might be better off embracing his critics here, as some of his pals are not being helpful. As usual, all the attention given to Perry's hunting camp is crowding out a more substantive report. As the Washington Post reports, Perry got loose and fancy-free using taxpayer dollars to feed the subprime mortgage maw, and while the state made out well, it helped scorch the rest of the country: As Texas governor, Rick Perry spent tens of millions in taxpayer money to lure some of the nation's leading mortgage companies to expand their business in his state, calling it a national model for creating jobs. But the plan backfired. Just as the largest banks began receiving public cash, they aggressively ramped up risky lending. Within four years, the banks were out of business and homeowners across Texas faced foreclosure. In the end, the state paid $35 million to subsidize it. An Associated Press review of federal mortgage data, court filings and public statements found that Perry downplayed early warnings of an impending mortgage crisis as alarmist. That's even as Perry's own attorney general would later investigate whether Countrywide Financial Corp. encouraged homeowners to borrow more than they could afford. As Perry offered $20 million in grants to Countrywide and $15 million to Washington Mutual Inc. -- each blamed for having a major role in one of the country's most serious recessions -- he took in tens of thousands of their dollars for his gubernatorial campaign. Perry, a Republican candidate for the White House, did what any governor would want to do: bring in jobs for his state. He also supported a cap on how much consumers could borrow against their homes, which experts credit for softening the blow of the mortgage crisis in Texas: by the end of 2008, more than 22 states had a greater percentage of foreclosures. Yet Perry didn't appear to recognize that the industry his administration had subsidized was damaging the national economy. This might be another thing reporters might want to ask about -- especially considering the implication here is that the "Texas Jobs Miracle" helped spur the "Just About Everywhere Else Jobs Calamity" -- but smartly, Rick Perry ain't the interviewin' sort.
Buddy Roemer is probably having the best week of his campaign so far. And that's a good thing, because he's been largely excluded from debates and has not garnered much media attention. A big reason why he hasn't been given a shot is because he's the only candidate in the race who's running on a "get money out of politics/end corporate coddling" platform and seeking a fairer electoral system, in which ordinary folks who donate $100 -- the maximum Roemer will allow one to donate to his campaign -- don't get drowned out by the Super PACs of the world. But this week, Roemer found a movement full of people whose complaints mirrored his own -- the Occupy Wall Street demonstrators. And so Buddy Roemer has become the first presidential candidate to offer his endorsement to them: As I continue touring college campuses throughout New Hampshire, I am reminded of all the young Americans currently taking part in the Occupy Wall Street movement. Please know that I stand by you. It is Main Street that creates the majority of jobs in America; it is Main Street that sends our brave young men and women to war; it is Main Street that hurts when another manufacturing plant closes only to be re-opened in China; it is Main Street that is being foreclosed on; and it is Main Street that is suffering while the greed of Wall Street continues to hurt our middle-class. Too-big-to-fail banks have only gotten bigger thanks to government bailouts, and as president, I will end the corporate tax loopholes that un-American corporations take advantage of only to ship our jobs overseas. Fair trade not Free trade. Money in politics has created institutional corruption. Both parties are guilty of taking the big check and are bought by Wall Street. My campaign is the only one that speaks out against this and I look forward to the day lobbyists are not allowed to donate to campaigns. Wall Street grew to be a source of capital for growing companies. It has become something else: A facilitator for greed and for the selling of American jobs. Enough already. As Dave Weigel pointed out, "This will be a test if anything Roemer says can get attention." Well, he's moved the needle a bit. Reuters ran a big profile on Roemer's candidacy that captures the candidate in free-wheeling flower. There, he fairly accurately describes Congress as a "circus where the clowns just rotate" and says of the current state of the nation, "This is a country numb from abuse ... It is deadened to it. I am trying to stick a pin in it." Roemer also got a booking on the "Dylan Ratigan Show", where he said, "People are desperate to have some power ... some participation in their government. And they know Washington, D.C., is bought and sold."
Just as there are many ways of looking at the Perry campaign, there are different ways of viewing the state of Mitt Romney's candidacy. For example, you might look at Chris Christie's decision not to run for president and say, "Damn, ol' Mitt's luck just never runs out." That wouldn't be wrong. It's pretty clear that Chris Christie was the last best hope of getting a candidate into the race who could be a Romney-alternative whom the party elites could embrace. Christie would have competed in the same space, ideologically and geographically. The fact that the space to Romney's right flank is currently being filled by Herman Cain, who's clearly not all that interested in winning, seeing as he's leaving the race to go sell his book, is a stroke of luck as well. And Romney is going to be just fine with the support he's been getting lately from David Brooks and, perhaps more importantly, Matt Drudge. But it's not just luck. Like we said last week, the actual campaign strategy that Team Romney is running is quietly emerging as the smartest in the race. So if you want to talk about Christie's decision as a lucky break, remember: It probably happened because of a key strategic alliance with Meg Whitman. And is Romney working to game the primary calendar to his advantage? Maybe he is, maybe he isn't. But if he is, let's face it: that's a smart thing to do. And you'd do it too, if you thought it would benefit you. Haters gonna hate, as they say. And that campaign is still working to crush the Perry campaign while it's reeling. In Florida, the line, "The problem is not that Social Security is a Ponzi scheme. The problem is keeping it from becoming a Perry scheme" rings loud. His response to Perry's hunting camp problem was pitch-perfect: "I've followed it from afar ... I think it's offensive. I think most people think it's offensive." In other words: "It's not something I plan on beating to death, but I happen to agree with most people, and that's all." (Note the absence of Perry-specific criticism that got Cain in trouble -- Romney activates the Perry critique without putting his finger on the button.) If there was a bit of a misstep, it may have been their spoofed version of "Perry's economic plan" -- a lot of blank pages and some pictures of Perry looking like a buffoon. Jonathan Chait wonders if suggesting that Perry is dumb is a step too far. Igor Volsky points to one curious move the Romney camp has made this week: signing up the support of Paul Singer, a conservative bundler who happens to be a full-throated advocate of marriage equality who has lent his voice and his wallet to the cause on behalf of his gay son. As Volsky points out, Singer comes aboard right as Romney's set to appear at the Value Voters Summit, where no one expects Romney to do anything other than come out against same-sex marriage. So it's unclear how this alliance was forged, and the timing is pretty strange. (Romney also declined to criticize the people who booed the gay soldier at last month's debate, on the grounds that he didn't want to scold people. But he's applied that standard pretty selectively.) So yeah, at the moment, there's plenty of people who don't like Mitt Romney. But he's starting slowly to take back the mantle of inevitability. The Romney conversation will next turn to foreign policy, as he delivered a major speech on the subject today at the Citadel. It will probably cheer GOP elites to learn that his foreign policy team is primarily composed of just the sort of folks they prefer -- tatty neocon retreads who were wrong about the pointless war they waged in Iraq. For a rundown on Romney's Citadel speech, here's our own Joshua Hersh.
OH MAN, WHO IS RICK SANTORUM MAD AT THIS WEEK? Well, he's upset with Mitt Romney, because Rick's convinced that all the changes to the primary calendar are coming about because of Romney's diabolical machinations. PLUS MITT ROMNEY KEEPS MOVING HIS SHOES! IT TAKES HOURS TO FIND THEM, EVERY DAY! He's also all GRRRR, RON PAUL, because Paul went out and pondered some legitimately disturbing things about an executive branch that has a secret assassination list, and now Rick Santorum knows that at the next debate, he's going to have to grit his teeth and mansplain to Ron Paul about how we've got to be allowed to target people secretly for assassination. FOR FREEDOM. Here is a literal thing that the Paul campaign said in response to Rick Santorum: "We don't pay a lot of mind to the bottom tier candidates." That's a pretty good burn, Ron Paul campaign! We do, however, pay attention to all tiers, which is why we know that some people are talking about the Santorum campaign in the same terms as they used to talk about the Huckabee campaign, and why we know that Santorum told the Value Voters Summit that his economic plan is better than Cain's "9-9-9 Plan" because his is the "Zero-Zero-Zero Plan," and also why we know that he's still pretty sure Google could have done something about his Google problem. That is the only reason why we know these things.
President Barack Obama says that he understands that he is an "underdog" in the 2012 race. That's pretty astute of him, seeing as how most Americans, fully cognizant of the turd sandwich that is the U.S. economy, also figure that Obama's not likely to win re-election. But Obama's not regretting the decision to affirm what we already know (economy=turd sandwich), because the best thing he has going for his re-election hopes at the moment is the American Jobs Act. Though, for a guy who's always bringing up the terrible economy, he does tend to send an awful lot of emails begging for cash. Still: Jobs Act! Important! Though it's importance is not necessarily knit up in what it will accomplish if it's passed. In all likelihood, it won't be passed! But in losing the skirmish, he might rescue his re-election hopes. Steve Kornacki explains: In theory, it should be simple: The individual components of the plan are all popular when pollsters ask about them (even among Republicans). But, of course, it's not that easy -- public opinion can be maddening to interpret, with voters frequently expressing contradictory views. Saying they support specific ideas in Obama's jobs plan doesn't necessarily mean they will support Barack Obama's Jobs Plan. And even if they do say they support Obama's plan, it doesn't mean they'll alter their overall judgment on his performance as president and his handling of the economy. Thus do polls continue to show Obama in perilous territory: A new CBS survey has his job approval at 44 percent, while ABC pegs it at 42. When it comes to moving public opinion in a significant way, a miserable economy imposes profound constraints on a president. It's tough to get around the public's bottom-line desire to hold the White House occupant accountable for their anxiety. But this doesn't mean Obama's strategy is foolish. It just means that if he's going to break through to the public in this climate, it will be around the margins; there's really nothing he can say or propose that will lift his job approval to 60 percent. But the 2012 election will probably be won or lost on the margins, with a swing of a point or two in either direction potentially making the difference. Obama right now is in real danger of being defeated for reelection, but he's also capable of winning a second term. That's the promise of the jobs push. Obama is making it clear that he's going to make this his priority for the foreseeable future. But there's always going to be a divide between those who like to notch short-term wins and those who see his taking a stand as a way to forge long-term successes from short-term setbacks. Obama's choosing to shift directions here -- for the large part of his Presidency, he's looked to put points on the board. That's the bind he's in, however: All those points haven't offset the wretched state of the economy, and getting re-elected depends on whether or not he can convince voters that he's the only one who can fix it. It's not a particularly enviable position in which to be.
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