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.
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