By Mark Green
"I'm a serious candidate for President of the United States," Michele Bachmann repeatedly said. Never was; isn't now. Two experts on GOP presidential contests -- Mary Matalin and Ron Reagan -- debate the remaining candidates and arrive at very different conclusions.
*On Romney. Is the former governor -- unlike Nixon in '68, Reagan in '80, Bush in 2000 -- a "weak front runner in a weak field"? Mary thinks not. She believes that "conservatives like this field... we've never had a race like this in our lifetimes -- we have a choice!" Ron, however, argues that "voters... do... not... like... him. They think he's a phony". In any event, he's happy to see "this rolling carnival keep going."
*On Santorum. There's consensus that he's a hard-working, good retail politician whose county-by-county, person-to-person yearlong-effort in the Iowa Caucuses worked great. And now? Mary's of two minds -- while she thinks it likely that Romney's organization and financial advantage will steamroll Santorum after New Hampshire, she doesn't discount the appeal of the ex-senator's grandson-of coal miner/David v. Goliath narrative.
Ron counters that his far-right views on prosecuting abortion doctors for murder and famous obsession with gays would doom him in big states in any general election. Answers Mary: voters are not "pro-abortion" and are "pro-traditional marriage" but, in any event, the issues next fall will be the economy and maybe foreign policy, where his blue-collar middle-class credentials are fine. *
*On Gingrich. Both are dismayed but not shocked by a "concession" speech that made him more a kamikaze than a contender. Ms. Matalin: "he was Lazarus but now risks being Icarus. Coming across as angry is not good for him or the party." Mr. Reagan: "Does he care?" The Host: "What happens if Romney doesn't win in South Carolina?" There's speculation about whether "Jeb" (last name Bush) would reconsider or whether, for first time since 1940, there would be a draft/brokered convention ("We Crave Christie!")
*On Super Pacs. Many pols and pundits are decrying how the results in Iowa, perhaps even the nomination itself, are being determined by a tidal wave of negative ads from anonymous Super Pacs. Ron condemns the Citizens United decision of last year permitting such unlimited spending (three times more than the candidates themselves) because "money is not speech, it's property. Even Republicans are now saying, 'What have we unleashed?'"
Mary, however, is unflustered by the consequences of such new corporate money in elections since "both sides will do it... and no one cares about campaign finance issues. Also, Newt's problem was that his message about running a positive campaign with a scowl was a loser."
*On Obama's Recess Appointments. Were the president's recess appointments to the CFPB and NLRB lawful and politically astute or not? Mary argues they are illegal and that Bush 43 rejected such a move. Ron completely disagrees since a) other presidents used recess appointments far more than Obama, b) presiding for 9 seconds a day over the holidays is not a "session" and c) the GOP minority is unwilling to confirm ANY nominations to lawful agencies which interfere with POTUS's obligation to "faithfully execute the laws." But both sides agree that it was great politics to side with consumers and workers against a reviled Congress. *
*On 2011 and 2012. Reagan and Matalin review last year's best films and books (Cave of Forgotten Dreams... Unbroken), biggest gaffe ("oops" hands down) and possible October Surprises (Mary says that Obama "is so flagrantly political and unethical that he might pull a wag-the-dog in Iran.")
Mark Green is the creator and host of Both Sides Now, which is powered by the American Federation of Teachers.
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