This week, one of the few things that anyone found worth talking about in the 2012 race was the extent to which money was likely to determine everything. Let's summarize, shall we? Mitt Romney -- he's got a lot of money. Maybe even most of the money in the entire world? Most of the rest of it is being vacuumed up by President Barack Obama, who's been on a West Coast swing for Hollywood and Silicon Valley ducats to fuel his re-election bid. Newt Gingrich has a little scratch, but a lot of debt. Rick Santorum has got almost nothing. Ron Paul? He's probably got enough to fuel the operation he hopes will make him delegate-rich at the end of the process. And, yeah, Buddy Roemer thinks the whole damn system needs to be thrown on the junkheap.
The dynamic we're seeing ahead of the Michigan Primary, where Rick Santorum has a real chance to derail Romney's machine, is almost entirely governed by money. As we'll go on to detail, Romney's biggest endorser at this point are Stacks Of Cash. Those Stacks Of Cash have really shown up for him in a huge way already. But Stacks Of Cash have some big plans in store for Santorum, in the form of a "coming two-front attack" that will paint him as both an experienced Washington insider who loves pork and lobbyists and an inexperienced yutz who doesn't know his ass from a hole in the ground.
Just how confident is the Romney campaign in the ability of Stacks Of Cash to make the difference? Consider this quote, obtained by Ben Smith:
"The expectation is that Santorum, just given his personality, is going to whine like crazy about this," the advisor laughed.
You realize that it's impossible to say that sentence while laughing without sounding like a complete dick, right? Go ahead and practice it! You'll see what we mean. But that's how sure of itself -- or rather, how sure of those Stacks Of Cash -- the Romney campaign is right now.
And that's despite the fact that the poll numbers currently favor Santorum. But the Michigan primary is still many days away, and there's no guarantee that he can keep those numbers up and turn them out if he can't finance the sort of operation you need to keep everyone organized. He's making a game of it, by going on the offensive and releasing ads of his own. But his cash-strapped campaign has limitations.
Just how skint is Team Santorum? Consider this, from Jonathan Chait:
Here are some things to keep in mind when assessing Rick Santorum’s chances of beating Mitt Romney. He has no pollster, no campaign headquarters, and no paid advance staff. He’s currently getting outspent on television in Michigan by a ratio of 29-1.
Santorum is mainly getting help from his super PAC's sugar-daddy, Foster Friess, and boy howdy, if there was ever a time that Santorum probably wishes that guy would just go off somewhere by himself and quietly spend money on his behalf it was this week, when Friess told a shocked Andrea Mitchell that as far as birth control went, women should just content themselves with keeping a Bayer aspirin pinched between their knees. Friess is now doing his version of the "Sorry I'm not sorry and anyway I was only joking gee whiz you ladies take everything so seriously and get so hysterical" routine, but it probably isn't a big help that he accidentally slipped with what Santorum himself likely feels about birth control.
Friess actually ended up being the capper on what had to have been one of the worst weeks for womankind since the invention of foot binding. Between Chris Brown using the Grammys as a means of absolution, Virginia Republicans' plans to expand the State to allow it to have "transvaginal" adventures, and Darrell Issa's all-male mansplanation revue on how birth control is sending everyone to Hell, Friess' remarks almost qualified as comic relief.
Of course, this whole birth control debate we're having was touched off by the White House in the first place. Last week, those inclined to impute an eleven-dimensional chess gambit behind the president's every action were inclined to remark that inviting the conflict was a shrewd move. By agreeing to a compromise, the Obama administration managed to isolate those who oppose birth control outright from those who were merely concerned about the First Amendment. But the compromise has clearly failed to recage that beast.
Again, the multi-dimensional chess enthusiasts are likely to say, "Fine. This issue isn't a winner in Peoria, let those who are bonkers remove their masks and reveal themselves." All well and good if the economy continues to improve. If it doesn't, and bad economic indicators have their historical impact on an incumbent's chances, it may not matter if those masks are off. In the end, this could be an awfully dangerous game the White House is playing.
So. Money, misogyny, madness ... that covers the larger discussion of the week on the campaign trail. For the rest, we invite you, as always, to enter the Speculatron for the week of February 17, 2012.
For Rick Santorum, the surge-a-licious rise to the top of the polls continues. In various national polls, Santorum has opened a yawning gap between himself and Romney. And his recent successes have garnered him leads in the critical state of Ohio, and the more immediately important Michigan. As Jim Geraghty puts it, "Beating Romney in Michigan... would be a game-changer." And for once, we're okay with someone using that criminally overused phrase. Santorum helped himself considerably when he showed up at CPAC and provided the most obvious contrast to Romney possible. Namely, he showed that he is not some sort of unfeeling android programmed to awkwardly walk amongst humanity, guessing their ages. Romney ended up prevailing at the CPAC straw poll (and Santorum was miffed about that), but these representative quotes, pulled by Dan Amira, tell you all you need to know about the sort of impact Santorum is trying to have: Afterward, CPAC attendees streaming out of the ballroom were impressed. "I thought it was an excellent speech," one undecided woman told us. "He's down to earth. I don't think of him as necessarily a politician." Another undecided man said he liked Sanotrum's "family values" because "they're steadfast. He doesn't have to try to turn them into a soundbite that sounds good. It's really what he believes in and I think that's really important to me and my family." And Santorum continues to play up what he perceives as Romney's weaknesses, characterizing him as a "desperate" candidate: "Mitt Romney is the author of Romneycare, which is the biggest government expansion in the history of the state of Massachusetts and was the template for Obamacare," Santorum continued. "He's supported cap-and-trade in Massachusetts. He was for the Wall Street bailouts. He ran to the left of Ted Kennedy in 1994." "You reach a point where desperate people do desperate things," Santorum added. "He's having trouble finding out how to go after someone who is a solid conservative." Santorum also went on the offensive in the ad wars this week, releasing a spot that ridiculed Romney for using his warchest to just shoot some sort of brown, frothy liquid all over the place. (We're hoping he meant mud.) Kevin Drum sees Santorum emerging as the next "Great Conservative Hope," but there's an obvious caveat: "So what happens now that both the national spotlight and Romney's millions are turned on Santorum like the eye of Sauron? Nothing good, I imagine." Yes, Rick Santorum needs money. And not just to keep up in the advertising business. He needs basic stuff, like a pollster and a campaign headquarters. He needs to finance the sort of operation that won't lose delegates downstream as the non-binding caucuses he's won lead to state conventions where delegates are actually selected. And he's got more to contend with than just Mitt Romney, now. Gingrich's big donor, Sheldon Adelson, is getting into the "Destroy Santorum" game, too. Of course, Santorum has a Big Daddy of his own in the form of super PAC founder Foster Friess. His money has kept Santorum in the game. But for Santorum's sake, he should probably try to make himself less heard from. This week, jaws dropped across America as Friess -- in an interview with Andrea Mitchell -- contended that back in his day, a popular birth control method among "gals" was "aspirin" -- they would "put it between their knees, and it wasn't that costly." Of course, Friess might have been taking his cues from the candidate himself, who spent this week doing everything he could to alienate women. His contention that women couldn't serve in combat roles because of all the tricky emotions they elicited drew contempt from Virginia Gov. Bob McDonnell. And by his own words, it's pretty clear that Rick Santorum imagines his role as president would include constant big government spelunking expeditions into the darkest reaches of women's private parts, for Jesus. There may have been a time when Santorum described himself as a "progressive conservative," but after this week, there's no one left that's stupid enough to believe that. Nevertheless, the extent to which he could damage Romney's hopes remain the season's most intriguing mystery and Mitt's biggest fear -- all of which was compounded Friday as Ohio Attorney General Mike DeWine, who had been a Romney supporter, abruptly up and switched sides, reportedly "blindsiding" the Romney campaign. (Picking up DeWine will probably help ease the pain of losing the rumored endorsement of Megadeth's Dave Mustaine.)
Mitt Romney's February has turned into a prolonged period of grave doubts. At the moment, he's up in the polls in Arizona, but the numbers coming out of Michigan, one of his home states (like Hillary Clinton in '08, Romney seems to have seven of those), have been nothing but bad. Beyond that, independent voters are starting to abandon him in droves, and Rick Santorum has started to get closer to frontrunner status nationally. How close are Romney and Santorum right now? So close that now Mitt Romney has got a burgeoning "Google problem" of his own. And the opportunities that Romney has had this week to regain his footing have had mixed results. He was crowned the victor in the Maine Caucuses -- but with Washington County restaging its cancelled caucuses and a statewide recount underway, Romney could, at some point this weekend, have that win taken away from him and given to Ron Paul. He also managed to win the Straw Poll at CPAC, where he was at least better received than he was at the Westminster Dog Show. But he hasn't really gotten a chance to savor that victory, with his rivals accusing him of having bought the result. At CPAC, Romney was in the awkward position of having to do something that Rick Santorum never has to do in that setting: convince the audience that he is, in fact, a conservative. As such, his CPAC speech was loaded up with rhetoric that typically kills in that forum. For the most part, it went over well -- though it goes without question that if Sarah Palin had given the same speech, she would have had the CPAC crowd climbing the walls and crapping their pants in ecstacy. There were, nevertheless, some plodding moments, such as Romney's declaration that he had prevented Massachusetts from "becoming the Las Vegas of gay marriage." From the point of view of a CPAC attendee, that's all well and good, but the point was that Massachusetts became the Massachusetts of gay marriage. But there was probably no moment of Romney's speech that was more roundly mocked when he declared himself -- in an ad libbed deviation from his prepared remarks -- a "severe conservative." That was an odd adjective to use. But as Jim Geraghty points out, Romney spent the bulk of his time trying to channel Santorum -- who Romney likely does see as a "severe" conservative. As Geraghty shrewdly noted: "When a rival starts getting traction against Romney with a particular argument or tone, the former governor just assimilates it." The good news for Romney out of CPAC is that it was pretty clear that if he ends up the nominee, the conservatives who tend to come out for such movement-building exercises will all "hold their noses" and vote for him. But if you move beyond the activist rank and file, Romney's got some problems. Among the greater electorate, enthusiasm for Romney is ebbing. On Capitol Hill, conservative lawmakers are "second-guessing his campaign strategy." On teevee, Sarah Palin is characterizing him as insufficiently conservative. He's got his own advisers worried. And the media keeps turning up things from Romney's past that only confirm that there are reasons to second guess, criticize, and worry. (And it surely does not help that Christine O'Donnell is out there trying to "help" Romney, and telling people that she's "consider an appointment" in a Romney administration, that he'd have to be inexplicably stupid to give her.) And what an odd assortment of surrogates Romney has! Tim Pawlenty, who can't deliver Minnesota. Nikki Haley, who can't deliver South Carolina. Chris Christie, who pressured him to release his tax returns. Donald Trump, who is a complete joke. His allies seem to often work at cross purposes, and that trend continued this week. Let's see: you've got Jim Talent dogging out Santorum for supporting the things Jim Talent supports, Stephen Sandstrom mocking the concept of "self-deportation," Jon Huntsman criticizing Romney's China policy, and new endorser Rick Snyder, who doesn't agree with Romney's take on the "auto bailouts." You know, maybe Christine O'Donnell would actually be an improvement on this crew. But none of this really matters, because Romney's key endorser is several mile-high piles of cash, which have promised to never stop loving him, and are always ready to be put to use in the service of launching attack ads against his rivals. And those stacks of cash have a lot to say about politics -- like that Rick Santorum is a "serial liar" who has voted to raise the debt ceiling (wait...does this mean Romney has gone full loony-bin and now won't vote to raise the debt ceiling?!)...and, uhm...also did you know that Santorum used to be a senator and junk? Yes, much of what Romney has to say about Santorum is really weak junk, but with stacks of cash providing the sort of amplification that only stacks of cash can provide, there's still the possibility that Santorum could get decimated. Unless something goes wrong. Jim Geraghty gets the wisecrack of the week by noting that "At Some Point, the Romney Campaign Runs Out of Commercial Breaks." And there is speculation that eventually, running a campaign that's solely based on using money to crowd out the opposition will backfire. But the greatest concern of all is that Romney may have tapped out all of his big donors -- and he hasn't attracted the grassroots small donors who can make up the difference. Per Zeke Miller: [R]omney has proved unable to tap into the emotion-driven small-dollar contributions that helped power Barack Obama in 2008, and which fueled even his more Establishment rival, Hillary Clinton, this time four years ago when she too began to run out of big donors. The result: Republican fundraisers say that despite his success so far, they think Romney is fast approaching a wall, and that he will likely be forced to pay for the campaign out of his own deep pockets. This may be why Romney is keeping all of that sweet money from pornographers. The more immediate concern, of course, is that a loss in the Michigan primary would be very bad indeed. So Romney has spent the week doing what he can to make a sentimental appeal to Michiganders, calling himself a "Son Of Detroit." It's been an awkward fit. And his position on the auto bailouts has been roundly critiqued. Justin Hyde found Romney's demand for the government to divest itself of its ownership stake in GM to be ludicrous: If the Obama administration sold its 500 million shares in GM today, it would lose at least $14 billion. GM shares have struggled even as the company reported strong profits, in part over concerns about an underfunded pension plan. If GM shores up its pension costs, its shares could rise -- although they would need to nearly double before the government broke even. There's ample factual reasons to criticize the bankruptcies -- from the treatment of Delphi's retirees and GM's unsecured bondholders to the advantages GM, Chrysler and Chrysler's new parent Fiat gained over Ford. But doing so requires acknowledging that Obama's decisions, including his call to save Chrysler when some advisors were ready to let it go, were mostly right: GM and Chrysler came out stronger and leaner, keeping jobs in the country that would have disappeared if they'd gone out of existence. And the Economist was similarly unkind: Free-marketeers that we are, The Economist agreed with Mr Romney at the time. But we later apologised for that position. "Had the government not stepped in, GM might have restructured under normal bankruptcy procedures, without putting public money at risk", we said. But "given the panic that gripped private purse-strings...it is more likely that GM would have been liquidated, sending a cascade of destruction through the supply chain on which its rivals, too, depended." Even Ford, which avoided bankruptcy, feared the industry would collapse if GM went down. At the time that seemed like a real possibility. The credit markets were bone-dry, making the privately financed bankruptcy that Mr Romney favoured improbable. He conveniently ignores this bit of history in claiming to have been right all along. It seems like it may be better to let stacks of cash do all of Romney's talking for him. On the other hand, GOP strategist Mike Murphy believes it's time for Romney to change up strategies entirely: The political terrain has changed in ways Romney never planned for. A year ago, the recession's sharp pain promised to drive an angry electorate to fire President Obama and replace him with an economic repairman. And who better to fix the economy than Romney, a highly successful businessman? Unfortunately for Romney, Republican-primary voters look at Washington and do not want a skilled repairman. They want a TNT- wielding demolition team. [...] He should drop the biography-based message. Nobody wants a well-intentioned accountant in charge when the house is on fire. For the first time in his professional life, Romney needs to stop thinking and calculating and get stupid. Yeah, time to get stupid! (We're guessing that the big stink the Romney campaign made about Eric Spiegelman's parody Pinterest project was part of that strategy.)
For Ron Paul, all of this week's action was way up in Maine, where he was projected to do well in the caucuses. And Paul did do pretty well, finishing second to Mitt Romney in a contest that he kept close. But could he actually have kept it closer? That was the primary concern of the Paul campaign, which has not yet conceded the contest to Romney. They have a case: With 84 percent of precincts reporting, Romney has 39 percent to Paul's 36 percent, and Maine GOP Chairman Charlie Webster declared Romney the winner Saturday night, following a week-long series of caucuses. But in Washington County, where Paul had expected to perform well, the caucus was postponed until Feb. 18 due to an expected snowstorm. Washington County Republican Chairman Chris Gardner told the AP he had no idea when the caucuses were postponed that his county would no longer count toward the grand total. "This is an outrage," John Tate, Paul's campaign manager, said in an email to supporters. "But our campaign is in this race to win, and will stay in it to the very end." Yes, the Maine caucuses were a hopeless mess and Paul was smart to apply pressure when the professionals tasked with creating an orderly process proved to be not ready for primetime. As it stands right now, Washington County is going to restage its conference caucus this weekend -- and that's a county in which Paul expected to do well before it was cancelled. Now that it's Ground Zero for the Paul campaign, you can expect turnout among Paul supporters -- who are all pretty hyper-informed about what's happening on the ground -- to be high. Coupled with the fact that the state is undertaking a recount in order to ensure that it has its ducks in a row, there's a good possibility that Paul could surmount Romney's 194 vote lead. Beyond that, Paul is pretty sure that his organization is capable of pulling the majority of Maine's delegates, now matter how well Romney finishes. It would sure be interesting if Romney's Maine victory -- which he used to build a case that he'd regained some of his footing after Santorum's three-state sweep -- turns out to actually be a Paul victory. Of course, there's some possibility that the same dynamic that dogged Santorum in Iowa will occur: if the press isn't around to crown you as victor, does it still count? Our feeling on this is that a Paul win would be novel enough to get the press' attention. For his part, Paul is aiming some criticism at Romney already, ridiculing Romney's declaration that he is a "severe conservative," telling Bob Schieffer, "That was the first time I've heard that definition, so I guess Mitt will have to tell us exactly what it means." Helping Paul is the fact that more and more, people are starting to take note of his caucus strategy, and speculating on the disruptive effect it could have on the nominating process if he pulls it off. Over at the American Prospect, Jamelle Bouie adds his own smart take on what to expect: This is how you should approach the steady accumulation of delegates from the Ron Paul campaign. Ron Paul isn't as interested in leading the Republican Party as much as he's devoted to bending it to his direction. Already, he's been an influence on key figures like House Budget Chair Paul Ryan, who has adopted a variation on Paul's support for the gold standard. A strong run for the nomination--with a hefty portion of delegates--gives him the power he needs to make his mark on one of the most important things to come out of the convention--the party platform. With a stamp on the GOP mission, Ron Paul doesn't need to win high office--his ideas will pulse outward from within the Republican Party itself, and the Ron Paul Revolution will become another part of the GOP establishment. That sounds about right to us. Paul has ruled out a third party run, and is probably not in the position to take the nomination himself -- but he increasingly has an opportunity to build his movement and carve out a place for it within the GOP. So who's to say there might not a President Paul someday? Rand is waiting in the wings.
This photo of Newt Gingrich's "Rebuilding The America We Love" Bus broken down on the side of the road in West Hollywood with a flat tire basically tells the entire story of the Gingrich campaign. At the moment, Gingrich is broke, begging, behind in the polls, beset by bad fortune and bereft of media coverage. According to various polls, Gingrich is one of the most -- if not the most -- disliked politicians in America at the moment. We're talking numbers that are north of Sarah Palin. And yet, he continues to vow to stay in the race. He honestly believes he's got one more comeback left in him. As The New York Times reported, Gingrich was upbeat during his fundraising swing through Pasadena, California: "Twice I've led in the Gallup polls," he said, referring to his surge in early December and following his victory in the South Carolina primary in January. He predicted that he would return to the top of polls in a few weeks. And in nearby Tulare, he sounded similar themes: "I'm very happy to continue this campaign based on real solutions that ... are going to attract a lot of Americans...We've done it twice and I suspect you're about to see us do it again." Those comeback hopes, however, have been dealt a few setbacks. In Texas, a wide fight over redistricting has gotten so constipated that the state is now having to push back its primary to late May. Gingrich had hoped that a few wins on Super Tuesday, coupled with a strong showing in April in Texas, would be enough to catapult his campaign back into relevance. Making things worse is that the two debates -- a setting that Gingrich has exploited to catalyze interest in his campaign -- that were to be held before Super Tuesday have been cancelled. The loss of CNN's debate in Georgia is especially detrimental to Gingrich's hopes, as that would have been a home game for the former speaker. Regardless, what's keeping Gingrich in the contest is that he's still getting mad sugar daddy love from a few donors, most notably Sheldon Adelson, who's not just out to support Gingrich -- he apparently wants to help everyone pulverize the Santorum campaign into dust as well. In addition to Adelson, Gingrich is getting support from Mike George, the corporate cultist who developed "Lean Six Sigma" -- a management theory based on teamwork, insight, brutality, male enhancement, handshakefulness, and Play Hard. Gingrich apparently has some kind of deal where everytime he mentions Lean Six Sigma, George puts a few million pennies in his cup and pats him on the head. Have we mentioned how fiercely independent Gingrich is? Gingrich's hotly anticipated CPAC speech seems to have been rated as kind of a dud, though he did manage to touch on some themes that are dear to his heart, such as the awfulness of poor people, tentherism, and destroying the EPA with fire. None of this impressed the people over at the National Review, who this week restated their desire to see Gingrich get gone. National Review's Maggie Gallagher said that Gingrich's "big mistake" was his decision to "to attack Romney from the left," which she says is a "bizarre move, both politically and morally." Santorum, on the other hand, is "pounding Romney relentlessly from the right, with the confidence that comes from having actual core principles." In what amounts to a Valentine's Day "TMI Moment," Gingrich did indicate that he was prepared to start some manner of "relentless pounding." So he's got that going for him.
Gary Johnson continues to enjoy a certain amount of freedom, now that he's out of the business of trying to make it as a GOP candidate. As a Libertarian Party contender, Johnson's been afforded the opportunity to run an issue-rich campaign -- and we can only imagine that it is somewhat...well, liberating...to run on substance, rather than on someone else's super PAC money. This week, Johnson expanded his critique of contemporary policy by raising concerns over the rise in the use of unmanned drones over U.S. airspace: The threats to privacy in America - from our own government - seem to never end. Does Congress really think they can just stick an 'oh-by-the-way' provision in an obscure piece of legislation directing the FAA to clear the way for 30,000 drones to fly over our neighborhoods, and have no one notice? Big Brother is alive and well, and now we're talking about making it easier for him to fly remote control planes loaded with cameras over our neighborhoods. Based on our experience with the Patriot Act, the National Defense Authorization Act, and several other laws Congress has enacted in recent years, it is not alarmist to fear or assume that when we give the government the power to snoop, they will indeed snoop. It's no wonder that Johnson has already begun to win over members of the party whose banner he'd like to carry in 2012. This week, he won the Florida Libertarian Straw Poll and earned the endorsement of Libertarian Party of Florida Chairman Adrian Wyllie. Over at In These Times, Theo Anderson writes that Johnson "poses a problem for Barack Obama": What's striking about Johnson isn't just the fact that he's to the left of Obama and most other elected Democrats on many issues. It's also his boldness in comparison with the Democrats' timidity. He's been a fierce critic, for example, of the warmongering and civil-liberties abuses by both major parties over the past decade. In January, when he spoke the ACLU's National Staff Conference, he called for repeal of the Patriot Act. "Ten years ago," he said, "we learned that the fastest way to pass a bad law is to call it the 'Patriot Act' and force Congress to vote on it in the immediate wake of a horrible attack on the United States. The irony is that there is really very little about the Patriot Act that is patriotic. Instead, it has turned out to be yet another tool the government is using to erode privacy, individual freedom and the Constitution itself." All of which probably sounds scary to the Democrats until you get to this part: "Of course, most of Johnson's other positions on domestic policy are outrageous to progressives." Well, then.
This week, Buddy Roemer continued his slow struggle to make inroads into the political process. Like Karger and Johnson, he's been pretty much shut out of playing in any of the GOP's reindeer games. He managed to secure a place for himself on the Rhode Island ballot this week, but he is still beseeching his supporters for assistance in getting on the Pennsylvania ballot. That said, Roemer's campaign began to evolve somewhat this week, as he's found more time to spare from struggling with procedural concerns and return to issues like trade with China. His pet issue, money in politics, got a substantial hearing from Medill On The Hill this week: As the race for the Republican nomination for president rages on, Roemer stands alone as the most outspoken candidate on campaign finance reform. But though he remains in the race, Roemer has not been invited any Republican debates due to his low polling figures. "[We need] full disclosure, quick reporting and broad limits," he said. "I think there ought to be criminal penalties for violations, there are none now. We ought to take reform more seriously than we do, but these are the kinds of reforms that are essential to restoring balance in the political process. But while Roemer does not see himself as a one-issue candidate, he believes the best way to ultimately reach the electorate starts with campaign finance reform. "The issues I really want to talk about are tax reform, jobs reform, trade reform, immigration reform, energy reform, banking reform, health care reform," he said. "I think this country needs reform with a capital R. But it won't get done until we do campaign reform. We've got to chase the corrupters out of the room and I am so excited about it." This has been, by and large, an uphill fight, in that Roemer's good government message hasn't turned out primary voters in the tens of thousands. Funny thing, though: when Roemer does get a hearing, he leaves a big impression. The Philly Post's Larry Mendte gave Roemer a chance, and was left wondering why the GOP is so "afraid" of him: I first heard Roemer speak on MSNBC's Morning Joe. He was quick, engaging and thoughtful. He also said that if he were allowed to debate, he would point out that the other candidates were bought and paid for. He would rail against the Super PACs that have corrupted the political campaigns. I don't normally get involved with conspiracy theories, but it is not a big stretch to surmise Roemer is being kept out of the debates so he doesn't derail the money train that feeds the candidates, the party and the TV networks. This is far from an endorsement for Buddy Roemer. I need to hear a lot more from him. You deserve to hear a lot more from him. In a year when none of the candidates seem to be perfect, why are the networks and party bosses keeping a candidate from us? This is supposed to be our choice, not theirs. And Dennis Mikoly of the Atlantic Highlands Herald is calling for a "Roemer revolution" in the form of a third party bid: "It is time for Buddy Roemer to leave the Republican Party behind. He has remained above their tomfoolery for years, and there is no reason for him to remain in a party that doesn't share his ideals or ethics."
Throughout the campaign season, Fred Karger has been thwarted by various authority figures. Pollsters won't include him in their polls, which has meant that debate organizers have kept him off the stage, which has meant that his poll numbers have not gone anywhere, which has meant that he's had to spend an inordinate amount of time beseeching others for a rememdy to his exclusion, which has meant he hasn't always had the bandwidth to do basic things like get on the ballot in all of the early contests. That's all been pretty bad. But did they have to shut down his CPAC party as well? That seems like the greatest indignity yet. And from what we've heard, it was a great party. And wherever a great party is shut down by the killjoys of this world, don't we all suffer? We submit to you that we do. At any rate, Fred Karger is back in Michigan now, campaigning and trying to turn people on to his message and out to the polls. One thing Karger has learned during his time on the stump is how to take his biggest liability and turn it into a marketing camapaign. He told students at Central Michigan University, "I do everything the big campaigns do but on a more limited basis...Everything's done differently -- you don't see the big entourage; you don't see the national press with me." In Michigan, he's released his latest ad, "Fed Up," which decries the rest of the candidates for their extremes and depicts Karger as a sane and "moderate" choice for the GOP nomination. That ad, according to the Karger campaign, "will be running all over Central Michigan including Lansing stations; Fox 47, WLNS (CBS) Ch 6 and cable channels CNN, MSNBC, Fox News, Lifetime, Bravo, and HGTV."
The biggest news for the Obama campaign, besides the ongoing misogynist circus that's been spawned out of last week's controversy over contraception, is that LOOK WHO'S GOT A BUDGET! Yes, this week, the White House released its new budget into the wild, where it was immediately hunted for sport by Beltway wonks of all stripes. It's got a lot of stuff that Democrats tend to like! It's got a lot of stuff that Republicans tend to hate (like Obama's authorship)! And the biggest news of all is that ... well, it's a total nonstarter that will probably never pass in a million years and is only really designed to be a confrontational tool in an election year. Nevertheless, it gives Obama a new thing to talk about while drumming up campaign cash, which is what he plied himself to doing this week. Obama mainly worked the West Coast, but it seems that he's not yet given up on all that sweet, sweet Wall Street boodle -- if there's anything left after it was all spent to defeat him, that is. To get at what remains, Obama is making a pinky swear to stop criticizing all of the hero bankers over that time they nearly destroyed the world, got bailed out by taxpayers, and never thanked them for saving them from their own incompetence and insolvency. But the major thing that Team Obama Re-Elect is celebrating this week is the fact that their numbers are really starting to pick up. While Ohio remains underwater territory for the incumbent, his swing state numbers have really turned around. And the latest CNN/ORC national poll (standard caveats about national head-to-head polls conducted in February apply) has Obama ahead of the entire field, and perhaps critically (PERHAPS!), he's over 50% in every case. Kevin Drum adds that the good news doesn't end there, because Obama is actually starting to rebuild the 2008 coalition of voters that got him in office in the first place. Elsewhere, former West Wing scribe and current MSNBC host Lawrence O'Donnell said that Obama was a way, way better president than magical unicorn President Bartlet was on that teevee show that everyone watched as an escape from the Bush administration. Said O'Donnell: The West Wing writers room would not have come up with the idea of running a presidential campaign in which an African-American gets elected. Because the realism view would have said that's not possible. And I say that with no disrespect for the creative process, but rather with a greater respect and awe for the real world. ... We are lucky enough to live in a country in which our politics in 2008 soared above the creative imagination of its fiction writers. It's pretty remarkable that reality "soared above the creative imagination of its fiction writers" because wasn't head writer Aaron Sorkin basically shrooming at the time?
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