Well, the results of the latest wave of primaries are in. The people have spoken, decisively. All 10 of them.
I am exaggerating. In Rhode Island, well over 3 percent of the eligible voters flocked to the polls on Tuesday, as the overwhelming majority declared their enthusiasm for Mitt Romney as the Republican presidential nominee. We are totally talking mandate.
And I cannot tell you how much excitement there was in New York. Six percent turnout! In my neighborhood, the atmosphere was electric. Voters had not been so politically exercised since that year we had a primary pitting a recently deceased congressman and a member of a cultlike group led by a Marxist psychotherapist.
And, wow, no more Newt Gingrich.
Newt is reportedly planning to drop out of the presidential race on Tuesday. The crushing blow was the Delaware primary, where the Gingrich campaign had hoped to win a dramatic come-from-behind victory under the theory that only a couple of Republicans would actually vote and that they would be the same people who once nominated Christine O’Donnell for the Senate.
Unfortunately, a whopping 16 percent of the eligible electorate showed up, way too big a crowd for the fragile Gingrich candidacy to withstand. This has been a terrible month for Newt. His campaign is millions in debt. His pet billionaire, Sheldon Adelson, seems to have deserted him. He was bitten by a penguin at the St. Louis Zoo. And now this.
Did you ever notice how many of the Republican candidates seemed to have animal issues? Rick Perry shot that coyote, and Jon Huntsman got bitten by a goat — really, that was the high point of the Huntsman campaign. Also, Senator Rob Portman of Ohio, the veep front-runner, recently imitated a chicken on television. You will be hearing more about this incident because I think I speak for the entire national media when I say that we are planning to discuss possible Republican vice presidential candidates nonstop through the spring and summer.
And the winner is the guy who drove to Canada with the family dog strapped to the roof of the car!
“My guess is you’ll see a dramatic difference in the youth vote this time — part of it is you have a younger, more dynamic Republican candidate,” said a Romney surrogate, former Senator Hank Brown.
Take that, young Americans. You can’t find jobs because the baby boomers are never going to retire. The Republicans in Congress want to raise the price of student loans. And, in politics, 65-year-olds get to be the youth candidate.
We are now in for six months of Mitt Romney versus Barack Obama, and with the polls showing the race to be very close, you could argue that it is going to be really exciting. Except for the fact that it’s Mitt Romney versus Barack Obama.
Ignore the polls, I beg you. It will just make you nervous and crazy for no good reason. When it comes to their political preferences, the American people are like a bunch of middle school students picking their best friend on Facebook. Do you know who one of the most popular political figures in the United States is right now? Hillary Clinton! Nearly two-thirds of Americans are crazy about Hillary Clinton, and only 27 percent view her unfavorably. Do you remember when she was the most polarizing name in politics? Do you remember when she lost to Barack Obama and we all said it was like the cool popular guy versus the hard-working student council treasurer? Barack Obama would kill for Hillary Clinton’s favorability ratings now.
Romney is now busy with a passel of closed-door fund-raisers in states like New Jersey and New York, which he will never, ever, visit for any other reason than closed-door fund-raisers. Newt’s future plans are unknown. Perhaps he will go back to that great job he had before, getting $300,000 fees for his advice as a historian to corporations with big financial interests pending in Congress. And what about Rick Santorum? You can’t spend the rest of your life not endorsing Mitt Romney. The only guy who seems to have his future plotted out is Ron Paul, who is apparently planning to continue running for president while we all ignore him.
So many surprises to look forward to. What humanizing interchange will Mitt have with the public next? Will it be as good as the last one, when he insulted the cookies at a Pittsburgh community center? Will he win over the loser Republicans’ billionaires? Their celebrity supporters? Rich guys are one thing, but Gary Busey will take some wooing.
Will he ever release all his tax returns? Will he keep the Kid Rock theme song for his campaign? Have we ever had a presidential nominee who walks on stage to a song that seems to suggest he is “wild, like an untamed stallion?” When we did, would you have imagined it would be Mitt Romney?
By: Gail Collins, Op-Ed Columnist, The New York Times, April 25, 2012
It has all the trappings of a big election night: five primaries, live television coverage, pundits telling us what it all means.
But what if it doesn’t mean squat?
Let’s face it: The GOP presidential race ended weeks ago. You know it, I know it, and every working journalist knows it. Maybe not Newt, but most other sentient beings. If this were a boxing match, the refs would have stopped it long ago.
So why cover contests with about as much excitement as a Politburo election?
There was a time, of course, when this particular Tuesday loomed large on the calendar. Could Rick Santorum win his home state of Pennsylvania? But then Santorum dropped out, leaving Mitt Romney a clear path to the prize.
So those of us who cover politics are left with thin gruel indeed: What would Romney’s margins be in what proved to be a five-state sweep? Would there be a protest vote? How does Mitt do in key counties he’ll need in the fall?
If there was a frisson of drama, it came when Gingrich spoke after Romney was projected to win Delaware. There was some press buzz that Newt, who spent time there, might stay in the race if he carried the tiny state, even though that would have made absolutely no difference in the inevitable outcome. (Nice going, gang, Newt was buried by 30 points.) And Santorum indeed lost Pennsylvania, but then again, he is no longer an active candidate.
Fox and CNN carried Romney’s speech; MSNBC blew it off, with Ed Schultz attacking Sean Hannity instead.
Piers Morgan tried hard to prod Santorum into endorsing Romney, but Rick wouldn’t quite go there, saying the two were going to meet first. So real news was averted once again.
We can’t just call off the remaining primaries: all those congressional and local candidates need to be nominated. And even at the presidential level, the voting often determines which delegates go to the conventions. But that’s inside baseball. We already know the final score.
The cable coverage has been somewhat restrained compared to, say, the night of the Iowa caucuses. In the 8 p.m. hour, Fox stayed with a taped Bill O’Reilly show. Schultz didn’t pause during an interview, even as MSNBC threw up a breaking-news banner projecting Romney the winner in Connecticut and Rhode Island. When I first saw John King hit CNN’s Magic Wall, he was counting how the candidates could get to 270. Mitt didn’t even bother to show up in any of the five states, spending the day instead in New Hampshire.
The truth is that journalists switched to general election mode even while the primaries were still competitive. As a Project for Excellence in Journalism study noted this week, the media essentially pronounced the race over after Romney won the Michigan primary on Feb. 28, even though Santorum would go on to win several more states.
This sort of thing has happened before. Jerry Brown won a couple of late primaries in 1992, after it was obvious that Bill Clinton would be the nominee, but nobody took it very seriously.
So perhaps the events of Tuesday were more of a time-out from the endless general election slog, a last look back at a crazy season stretching back to Donald Trump and Herman Cain. That is, until the crucial North Carolina primary on May 8.
By: Howard Kurtz, The Daily Beast, April 24, 2012
Mitt Romney’s outing last weekend to watch The Hunger Games with his grandkids spurred snickering among the political media. In a Tuesday interview, Wolf Blitzer ribbed the governor about whether the violent flick was appropriate for such young children. Wednesday, Morning Joe’s Mika Brzezinski proclaimed Romney a “nerd,” while Scarborough flatly refused to believe the candidate had either seen the flick or read the book (“He did not!”), likening Mitt’s claims to his previously professed love of varmint hunting.
I get where Joe’s coming from, but come on: how could Romney not love the wildly popular tale of teens fighting to the death for the amusement of a blood-thirsty public? That’s basically been his life for the past several months. And at this point, the governor must be wondering whether it’s time to break out his bow and go all Katniss Everdeen on Newt and Rick.
Everyone knows the HG basics, right? In a post-apocalyptic society, a despotic central government forces teen “tributes” from 12 outlying districts to do battle in a sprawling, nightmarish biosphere of sorts. Twenty-four go in. One comes out—but only after the rest are slaughtered either by fellow combatants or by the lethal traps sprinkled about by Gamemakers to keep things interesting: mutated beasts, fireballs, poison vegetation, blizzards … There are no rules, and the carnage is, of course, televised.
You can see why the story naturally brings to mind the primary. Multiple combatants enter. Only one can emerge the victor. Along the way, candidates face hazards that include gaffes (Perry, Bachmann), scandal (Cain), staff upheaval (Bachmann, Gingrich), money shortages (Santorum, Gingrich), congenital blandness (Pawlenty), perceived nuttiness (Bachmann, Paul), and a complete inability to get anyone to notice they are in the game at all (Roemer, McCotter, Karger).
Once the battle proper begins (Cue Iowa!), most players don’t last long. But there are generally one or two scrappers who, no matter how badly wounded, refuse to die. This cycle, Santorum and, even more so, Gingrich have made clear their intent to limp along, inflicting as much damage as possible on what they see as an unworthy tribute.
How exactly to end this spectacle has proved a thorny question not just for Team Romney but also for a Republican leadership that’s grown weary of the public bloodbath.
The recent flood of pro-Romney endorsements by party elders hasn’t worked. Nor has high-minded talk about the need for unity. Various carrots and sticks are presumably being brandished behind the scenes (for instance, at Newt and Mitten’s secret sit-down Saturday), thus far to no avail. Unless you count Gingrich’s announcement Tuesday that he is shifting to a “big-choice convention” strategy. Tell me that doesn’t have trouble written all over it.
Some candidates might be able to pull off an above-the-fray statesman’s repose while their final opponents expire. Romney isn’t one of them. His position is too weak, his support too tenuous. Nobody liked him much to begin with, and all this slap-fighting has made him look even more unctuous and ineffectual. At this point, the Tribute from Massachusetts needs to take a breath, aim well, and—zing—put one through the enemy’s brainpan.
Not literally, of course. (Although, how awesome would it be to see Mittens decked out in leather hunting gear, shimmying up trees with a quiver of arrows strapped to his back?) But a figurative kill is in the party’s best interest as well as Mitt’s. Besting Santorum in Pennsylvania might take care of Rick, but Newt is beyond shaming and will need to be hit where he lives. You know the kind of thinly veiled brutality I’m talking about: nice little consulting business you’ve got there, shame if anything happened to it.
Of course, any Hunger Games fantasies Romney may harbor contain a fatal flaw: no way he’s Katniss. More than any of the combatants this cycle, the governor has “career tribute” written all over him—one of the privileged killing machines that hail from the rich, well-connected districts and train for battle their whole lives. Think Cato from District 2, only with more money and better hair.
Indeed, if anyone had a shot at the Katniss role, it would be Santorum: the scrappy underdog who entered the arena heavily outgunned and wound up charming the audience with his passion, ingenuity, and fierce will to survive. This is precisely the sort of inspirational, irresistible against-all-odds victory from which blockbuster fiction is made.
Republican nominees, not so much.
By: Michelle Cottle, The Daily Beast, March 30. 2012
There’s always hypocrisy in Washington but past and present Republican presidential candidates have used the debate on healthcare to take it to heights unimaginable even in the nation’s capital. This week the Supreme Court heard arguments on the Affordable Care Act and the GOP tried again to cripple Medicare, the federal health insurance program for seniors.
What do Rep. Michele Bachmann, former House Speaker Newt Gingrich, former Sen. Rick Santorum, and Rep. Ron Paul have in common? They were or are candidates for the 2012 GOP presidential nomination. They all oppose the Affordable Care Act, and they’re all hypocrites. Michele Bachmann feels so strongly about the law that she has been present in the Supreme Court during the oral arguments this week. Rick Santorum is so hostile to the Affordable Care Act that he took time away from the campaign trail to appear on the steps of the Supreme Court building on the first day of arguments. But Bachmann still enjoys the benefits of the gold plated federal healthcare insurance for members of Congress. Rick Santorum enjoyed the same government health benefits when he was a senator.
All of them say they oppose the Affordable Care Act because they claim it is “government run healthcare.” But don’t panic, because they’re wrong. Since President Obama decided not to fight for a single payer plan or even for the public option, healthcare is still in the deadly clutches of the insurance companies.
Even if the Republicans candidates were right, they have some nerve even making the argument. While they all criticize government run healthcare and Medicare, as members of Congress they took full advantage of the gold plated healthcare insurance provided by the United States government. What the Republicans are really saying is that government run healthcare is fine for them but too good for working families. Since Michele Bachmann and Ron Paul are still members of Congress, they could easily refuse their government run healthcare insurance and go into the private market like everybody else. But don’t hold your breath waiting for them to opt out. Bachmann and Paul are still on the government dole, and so are all the others members of Congress who opposed the Affordable Care Act. Hypocrites all.
Then there’s former governor and former liberal Mitt Romney who also has been very critical of the mandate in the new federal health insurance law. But the healthcare reform bill that he signed into law in Massachusetts has the same government mandate for everyone to have health insurance that is in the Affordable Care Act. After the reform bill became law in the Bay State, Romney said it was a model for the rest of the nation. Well he was right. Romneycare became Obamacare.
It’s not really surprising that Romney supported the insurance mandate in Massachusetts. The mandate was originally a Republican idea. Even Newt Gingrich supported the mandate in the 1990s. Republicans felt that people who didn’t buy health insurance were freeloaders. When people who don’t have health insurance are hurt or get sick, they go to emergency rooms and hospitals bill the taxpayers for the cost of treatment. The idea is that uninsured people should take financial responsibility for their own actions. That sounds pretty conservative to me, but it’s still a good idea.
So why do politicians like Romney and Gingrich oppose the mandate after they supported it. They thought it was a great idea when conservative think tanks developed it, but once a Democratic president used their idea in his bill, it became radioactive.
Rick Santorum is right about one thing. Mitt Romney will have a lot of trouble trying to explain why his mandate was such a good idea and why the president’s mandate is such a bad idea.
By: Brad Bannon, U. S. News and World Report, March 29, 2012
It’s not easy letting him go. Not easy at all. Sort of like swearing off bedtime Ben & Jerry’s: there’s valor and the promise of self-improvement in the sacrifice, but also the sad awareness that the world just got a little less naughty. A little less fun.
No matter. It’s time to cut Newt out of our diets.
He has no nutritional value, certainly not at this point, as he peddles his ludicrous guarantee of $2.50-a-gallon gasoline, a promise that would be made only by someone with his own bottomless strategic reserve of crude. Doubly oily entendre intended.
There were calls for him to desist two weeks ago, after he lost Alabama, which abuts his home state of Georgia. But they fell on a deaf Newt.
There were fresh appeals last week, when he failed to wring even one measly delegate from Illinois on Tuesday and then Louisiana on Saturday. But Newt doesn’t need anything as prosaic as delegates, so long as there’s still pocket lint from Sheldon Adelson and the warmth of Callista’s frozen smile.
If he refuses to quit, we in the news media must quit him. Starve him of his very sustenance: attention. Exert a kind of willpower that we’ve lacked in this primary, which we turned into too much of a circus by encouraging too many clowns.
We’ve begun. As the weekend came to a close, The Times’s Trip Gabriel reported that Gingrich’s “full-time traveling press corps is down to a handful of embedded television reporters.” The Associated Press, The Atlanta Journal-Constitution and even Politico had packed up their bags. I envision Newt as a larger, grayer, windier version of the little boy at the end of “Shane,” watching the last of these stubborn scribes recede into the horizon, begging them for one last sweet tweet, promising a tasty sound bite about Trayvon Martin or Robert De Niro or … “The Hunger Games!” There must be some harbinger of cultural decline to rail about there! Do “Hunger Games” contestants use food stamps? Those are always good for a diatribe or three.
I implore Fox News to pull up its drawbridge, CNN to bolt its doors. If a Newt falls in the forest and not a single news anchor listens, can he really hang around?
He says he’s propelled by a desire to promote “big ideas,” but his candidacy has devolved into ever smaller talk and ever more desperate sideshows that drag an already undistinguished debate ever lower. Late last week he actually resurrected the Obama-as-Muslim bile, saying the president’s policies raise legitimate suspicion in voters’ minds.
In truth Newt 2012 has never been a lofty enterprise. Although he loves to tout his intellectualism, he got what brief traction he did for visceral and theatrical reasons, with fits of rage and flights of fancy.
He took off when he lashed out at “the elites,” pretending not to be one of them. He soared when he savaged the news media. He rocketed to a colony on the moon.
And he illustrated a dynamic that will survive this campaign season and that we should all think about: how much the profusion of cable channels, Web outlets, other news platforms and commentary of all kinds (including this column) rewards flamboyance, histrionics and a crowded field. A brash candidate is never more than a bellow away from three minutes of air time or two paragraphs somewhere. The beast is ravenous, and I don’t mean Newt.
Yes, the serial surges of the Republican contest since August had grounding in a fickle electorate and changeable polls. But we eagerly abetted them. En route to our beige destiny of Mitt, we craved color. And showcased it.
Newt is one of the few surviving peacocks, especially if you discount Ron Paul, who’s less peacock than emaciated ostrich — never airborne, head in the sand — and so consistently discounted that no one even bothers to implore him to fold his tent. No one can remember that he pitched one.
It’s time to forget Newt as well. His delegate count is closer to Paul’s than to Rick Santorum’s. His strategy — a generous noun — hinges on a replay of the 1920 Republican convention, which picked Warren G. Harding on the 10th ballot.
The 10th ballot? That’d really send the Republican nominee into the general election with a head of steam. I can see the bumper stickers now. Newt: Battle ready. Ballot hardened.
Great politicians are memorialized with holidays, monuments, libraries. For Newt I think an ice cream flavor is in order, something in the clogged vein of Chubby Hubby or Chunky Monkey, although not so physique-focused. Nutty Professor is too obvious a suggestion, though it opens the door to pralines, aptly Southern.
Maybe Peaches ’n’ Scream? That would honor the state he comes from while acknowledging the state he’s been in — unsubtle, overwrought. Not qualifying for the Virginia primary was a blow akin to Pearl Harbor. The Palestinians are “an invented” people.
Newt is empty calories. A pointless pint of them.
By: Frank Bruni, Op-Ed Columnist, The New York Times, March 26, 2012