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“The Sorry State Of Huckabee And Santorum”: The Only Feeling Voters Have For These Two Is Apathy

Rick Santorum was unhappy.

While other candidates have managed to draw crowds of hundreds and even tens of thousands this cycle, Santorum arrived at Second Street Emporium, a dimly lit restaurant and bar in Webster City, Iowa, on Saturday afternoon, to find that fewer than 50 people had come to see his town hall.

Making matters worse, the majority of them weren’t Iowa voters, but high school students who’d been bussed in from Cincinnati. They couldn’t even vote in the caucus on Monday.

“This is actually more than I expected,” Bob Algard, his field director in the Northwest part of the state, told me. He nodded at the crowd. “So this is pretty good.”

But Santorum, dressed in his signature sweater vest, was finding it hard to stay positive. His speech began optimistically enough—“things are gonna go surprisingly well for us on Monday!”—but he soon dropped the act.

“People always criticize Iowa because you put forth someone—myself and Mike Huckabee—who didn’t win the nomination,” he said, “but they don’t ask the second question: did the person who won the nomination win the election?”

He paused for a second and then answered his own question with a dramatic, “No!”

“So maybe,” he added, “they should’ve listened to Iowa instead of listening to New Hampshire! I think Iowa better reflects the values of this country, frankly, than New Hampshire does.”

In 2008, Huckabee won the Iowa caucus. In 2012, Santorum did. This time around, both men are nonentities. Huckabee polls at 2.5 percent on average. Santorum commands just 1 percent.

It’s hard to say what’s changed since the last cycle, except everything. Santorum, in his remarks, seemed bewildered by this frightening new world.

He is unable to comprehend how people could go from supporting someone like himself—a passive aggressive Catholic with enough kids to form a basketball team and some hours clocked in the U.S. Senate—to supporting a reality TV star the color of a clementine, or someone who boasts that their biggest accomplishment in Washington is the fact that everyone in Washington has learned to hate him in just a handful of years.

“Standing up for principles you believe in and have for 25 years, well, that doesn’t make you newsworthy!” he shouted. “But! If you call Megyn Kelly a bimbo, you can get on O’Reilly!”

For all his supposed disgust with Trump, Santorum did appear with him—and Huckabee—at his Drake University rally on Thursday, but he seemed to have forgotten that Saturday morning. He called the campaign “the Celebrity Apprentice” and “Presidential Apprentice.” He asked the crowd to help him “set things straight.”

Then his tone changed from angry to pleading.

“Here’s what I would suggest: that past is prologue,” he said. There is, according to him, “one person” running who has a history of going to Washington and passing conservative laws (his name rhymes with Shmick Shmamshmorum) and “look, the people of Iowa, four years ago, made that conclusion. So my feeling is, if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it!”

A few hours later, about 60 miles South in Johnston, a bullet casing pegged my ribs. Then another hit my foot.

They came from Huckabee.

He was standing two feet away and pummeling the heart of a target—mostly its left side—with firepower from a handgun.

Rather than complain about his predicament, Huckabee channeled his anger in a different way: using weapons to get as much attention as possible before Monday.

I asked Huckabee if he was picturing anyone in particular as he looked at this target. Deflected. pic.twitter.com/2oYmvugH5l

— Olivia Nuzzi (@Olivianuzzi) January 30, 2016

A modest scrum of a little over a dozen reporters and photographers looked on as he shot, all of us wearing pink protective headsets and plastic eyewear. For perspective, there was just one other member of the media covering Santorum’s town hall.

Huckabee assessed his grouping. “I’m a left eye-dominant shooter,” he said, adding that the last time he shot was “about a a week ago.”

I asked him if he was picturing anyone’s face in particular as he fired at the target. He answered, “I aim for the heart.”

Though it certainly felt happier than Santorum’s event, it was difficult to find any actual Huckabee supporters at the gun range. After asking around a bit, a staffer introduced me to David Haake, Huckabee’s friend of 30 years. He drove in from his native Arkansas to support him.

“There’s new faces in the crowd,” he said when I asked about Huckabee’s performance this time around. People may feel, he said, “like ok, you’ve done this once, let’s look at somebody else.”

“But I really believe that come caucus night, when its all said and done, he will do much better than what the polls say. I really believe so.”

In the distance, Huckabee could be heard firing away.

 

By: Olivia Nuzzi, The Daily Beast, January 31, 2016

February 1, 2016 Posted by | Iowa Caucuses, Mike Huckabee, Rick Santorum | , , , , , | Leave a comment

“What Are They Thinking?”: The Many (Possible) Motivations Of The GOP’s Many 2016 Candidates

The list of Republican presidential candidates seems to be getting longer by the day. On Wednesday, Rick Santorum entered the race, and on Thursday, former New York Governor George Pataki is expected to do the same. Larry J. Sabato, director of the University of Virginia Center for Politics, now counts 18 likely contenders. And yet, only a few have much of a real chance of winning: Jeb Bush, Scott Walker, and Marco Rubio lead the pack, followed by Rand Paul and Ted Cruz.

So why, if you’re Pataki, run at all?

“Pataki—I’m puzzled about this,” Sabato told the New Yorker last month. “I don’t even know what he’s been doing. Has he been on corporate boards?”

Indeed, Pataki hasn’t held office since 2006, and he declined to run for president in the past two cycles. But a number of other 2016 entrants are equally puzzling: Carly Fiorina, a former Hewlett-Packard CEO, who has never held public office; Ben Carson, a neurosurgeon and Tea Party favorite; Mike Huckabee, the ex-Arkansas governor. Even Donald Trump is threatening to run.

Why run as a dead-in-the-water candidate? Maybe God tapped them to run (“I feel fingers,” said Carson). Maybe they want to influence the public policy debate. Maybe they want to return to the spotlight. Or maybe they genuinely believe they can win. After all, in 2012, five different candidates held the lead at some point, including pizza mogul Herman Cain and former House Speaker Newt Gingrich. Mitt Romney won, as expected, but for a while there—especially after Santorum’s early wins in Iowa, Minnesota, Colorado, and Missouri—2012 looked like it could be anyone’s election.

But there are other motivations, too. As four-time presidential candidate Ralph Nader recently explained: “You can fatten your mailing list and your Rolodex for future opportunities. These can include lucrative jobs, retainers, paid speeches or book advances.” Other potential motivatations include selling books, booking speaking gigs, getting a coveted appointment, or just getting an old-fashioned ego boost.

Pataki, for instance, is on a few corporate boards, like the environmental consulting firm he formed called the Pataki-Cahill group, and serves as a counsel for the law firm Chadbourne in New York. He’s represented by the Greater Talent Network. In 1998, Pataki ran into trouble for collecting $17,000 per speech while in office, but it’s not clear that he’s given any recent paid speeches: Speakerpedia, which has multiple speech reports for all of the candidates below, has zero for Pataki.

After 2012, Santorum created a movie production company, EchoLight, which produces Christian films featuring the likes of Corbin Bernsen and Brian Dennehy. Last year, Santorum released Blue Collar Conservatives: Recommitting to an America That Works, a campaign manifesto masquerading as a book. On top of that, he had $455,000 in 2012 campaign debts as of March. To pay the bills, he rented out his list of supporters for a total $37,000 this year, according to the Center for Public Integrity. He also gets paid up to $25,000 per speech, according to Speakerpedia.

Huckabee knows this tactic well. He’s rented his email list of supporters to a group that claimed to have found the cure to cancer in a verse of the Bible. His last bid for president in 2008 paid off well, earning him his own show on Fox News that he ended this year. Speakerpedia says he makes as much as $50,000 per speech.

Carly Fiorina, whose 2010 Senate bid failed, is a popular speaker as well; she’s represented by the Celebrity Speakers Bureau and reportedly can top $100,000 per speech. Her latest book, Rising to the Challenge, came out the same week in May that she announced her candidacy. Many believe Fiorina is vying to be the vice presidential pick (she’s a long shot for that, too), which she denies.

Ben Carson has no less than six books to hawk, the most recent of which, One Nation: What We Can All Do to Succeed, came out in 2014. And according to National Review, “the possible Republican candidate’s schedule includes paid speaking engagements running into the autumn of 2015 — many months after he’s expected to declare his official candidacy.” Those engagements may pay as much as $50,000 each.

As for Donald Trump—well, maybe he just wants a few million more Twitter followers to troll.

 

By: Rebecca Leber, The New Republican, May 28, 2015

May 31, 2015 Posted by | Election 2016, GOP Presidential Candidates, Rick Santorum | , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“The Many Rebrandings Of Rick Santorum”: In The Middle Of At Least His Third Rebranding, And He’s Just Not Very Good At It

Rick Santorum is often portrayed as a stubborn man of principle, an unusual politician who’ll run for president in the face of terrible poll numbers, and despite an electorate increasingly hostile to his unsettlingly passionate social conservatism. But this isn’t really true. Santorum, who announced his 2016 presidential candidacy on Wednesday, is in the middle of at least his third rebranding. He’s just not very good at it.

In his announcement speech in Western Pennsylvania, Santorum pitched himself as a defender of the working man who also happens to be a foreign policy expert. Santorum bragged that in an issue of ISIS’s online magazine, Dabiq, “under the headline ‘In the Words of Our Enemy’ was my picture and a quote. … They know who I am, and I know who they are!” To be clear, while it would be unsettling to find your face in an ISIS magazine, it’s not that hard to get ISIS to know who you are. You basically just have to talk about ISIS. In the same section, Dabiq quoted two other “enemies”: Virginia State Senator Richard Black and former CIA officer Gary Berntsen, a frequent Fox and Friends guest who has less than 1,600 followers on Twitter. Gary 2016!

For someone who is supposedly dedicated to what he thinks is right, not what is popular, a list of Santorum’s political books makes for a decent guide to the trends of the Republican Party of the last ten years. It Takes a Family, released in 2005, was a rebuttal to Hillary Clinton’s It Takes a Village. It is concerned with apparently controversial social issues such as women working outside the home. His 2012 book American Patriots, printed on faux antique paper, is a Tea Partyish celebration of Revolutionary War-era Americans “heroes and heroines from all walks of life” (not just white guys). Last year’s Blue Collar Conservatives is about helping the working class. (“There was a time not long ago when Americans without college degrees could expect to earn a decent and steady income in exchange for hard work.”) His publisher says, “Santorum provides a game plan for Republicans to bounce back, regain popularity, and return to the party’s original values.” It’s less a game plan for the party’s comeback than one for Santorum’s.

Santorum tried to remake himself in both of his last two losing campaigns, in 2006 and 2012. His political career began in the 90s, when Republicans were focused on welfare reform and teen moms and the crime rate, and he ran with those issues. He campaigned on welfare reform, he said single moms were “breeding more criminals” and that politicians shouldn’t be afraid of “kicking them in the butt.” The target of that kind of rhetoric was not lost on black voters at the time. But for a while, it worked really well. The Harrisburg Patriot News reported in July 2005, “A Santorum victory in a state that has voted Democratic in recent presidential elections would solidify his reputation within the GOP and with conservatives nationally. It would also add fuel to a rumored 2008 presidential run, party officials and analysts said.” Maybe that’s why Santorum keeps running these long-shot campaigns. He was promised this, and he can’t believe it didn’t work out for him.

But by summer 2005, Santorum was clearly in trouble, trailing opponents by as much as 14 points in polls. He was closely tied to the increasingly unpopular president, and his social conservatism had started to rub people the wrong way. In 2002, Santorum had blamed the Catholic priest sex abuse scandal on Boston’s liberal culture. In 2003, he suggested that if we allowed gay marriage, we’d have to allow “man on child, man on dog.” It was “man on dog” that led to Santorum’s greatest branding issue: his Google problem. Sex columnist Dan Savage held a contest to turn “santorum” into a sex term. Savage’s SpreadingSantorum.com rose in Google rankings to outrank the candidate’s campaign site. The top result is now a Wikipedia page for “Campaign for ‘santorum’ neologism,” where it remains a reminder of, if not the neologism, the way that Santorum was turned into an online joke by gay rights activists.

Going into his 2006 Senate reelection campaign, Santorum’s persona changed to reflect the times. Demographic trends meant bashing inner cities and women with jobs and gays had diminishing returns. The white share of the vote shrunk from 84.6 percent in 1992 to 76.3 in 2008, according to Pew Research Center. Opposition to gay marriage dropped more than 10 points from 1996 to 2006, though a majority still opposed it. In 2004, as Senate Republican Conference Committee chair, he met with presidents of historically black colleges and universities in an attempt to get the GOP to reach out to minorities. In 2005, The New York Times Magazine explained that Santorum was an earnest man of faith who’d earned endorsements from leaders in the African-American community in Philadelphia. In April 2006, his campaign staged a photo op in which Santorum packed up food for low-income people. (Alas, the TV news cameras did not show up.)

By July 2006, he was distributing a listicle titled ”Fifty Things You May Not Know About Rick Santorum,” which included warm and fuzzy items like cracking down on puppy millsThe New York Times reported:

He needs to reintroduce himself over the next four months, he said, to get beyond the stereotypes. …

A kinder, gentler Rick Santorum? ”People already know about the other stuff,” he said. ”You guys remind them every day about the other stuff. Let’s tell the rest of the story.”

The listicle did not stop the senator from losing by 18 points to now-Senator Bob Casey.

During the 2012 Republican primary, Santorum faced a very different electorate, and he reshaped himself to appeal to people hurt by the Great Recession, trying to distinguish himself as the voice of the working class. He called for manufacturing subsidies. He was the son of immigrants. His grandfather “sort of coal-mined his way to freedom.” (Back in 1994, Santorum talked about how his father got his “biggest break” with World War II; he escaped the mines through the G.I. Bill, which paid for his psychology degree.) He came out against the term “middle class” because it was some kind of class warfare. He even tried to recast his signature issues, telling a Michigan crowd in February 2012, “All reporters in the back, they say, ‘Oh there’s Santorum talking about social issues again.’ … No, I’m talking about freedom. I’m talking about government imposing themselves on your lives.”

Santorum stuck with his new blue-collar image after he lost to Mitt Romney. “When all you do is talk to people who are owners, talk to folks who are Type As who want to succeed economically, we’re talking to a very small group of people,” he said in 2013.

“I never went to a country club until I was in college,” Santorum told the National Review recently, like a true man of the people. But now he’s blue collar plus. National Review explained:

If he runs in 2016, he says, it won’t be as a candidate defined by his Catholic, socially conservative views. He’s been there and done that, he says. In 2016, he is more likely to define himself as an economic populist and foreign-policy hawk.

In the months before his official campaign announcement, Santorum started playing up the hawk thing. In April, Santorum said that in 2016, Republicans will be “going up against a secretary of state, someone with a tremendous amount of experience and knowledge in this area—most of it wrong—but someone who’s knowledgeable, someone who’s an expert.” That means they “need to look at someone to go up against Mrs. Clinton who has background experience and knowledge and has gotten it right when she’s gotten it wrong.” (They both supported the Iraq war.) He pointed to the eight years he served on the Senate Armed Services Committee. At the South Carolina Freedom Summit this month, Santorm said of ISIS, “If these folks want to return to a 7th Century version of Islam, then let’s load up our bombers and bomb them back to the 7th Century.”

“Going up against a potential nominee who’s a former secretary of state, it’d be good to have someone with more experience than just a briefing book for the debate,” Santorum told NPR recently. A couple weeks earlier, he told voters in Iowa, “We have to have a president who understands the difference between a friend and an enemy. … Iran, enemy. Israel, friend. It’s real simple.” Briefing book? No. Little Golden Book? Yes!

Given that he’s polling at about 2.3 percent, Santorum is likely hoping that the 2016 primary is something like 2012’s, and voters will cycle through alternatives to the mainstream moderate Republican candidate until they get to him. What can he do to get Americans’ attention? Voters rarely care that much about foreign policy. Santorum will try on a new identity. For the sake of entertainment, let’s hope he’ll try to compete with Hillary Clinton not on foreign policy but on being a champion of single ladies.

 

By: Elspeth Reeve,  Senior Editor, The New Republic, May 28, 2015

May 31, 2015 Posted by | GOP Presidential Candidates, Rick Santorum, Social Conservativism | , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

“Working Man’s Wingnut”: Huckabee Laid Down Two Markers Directly Across The Class Lines That Divide Rank-And-File Republicans

So Mike Huckabee is “formally announcing his second presidential candidacy this morning from his rather famous home town of Hope, Arkansas. He’s not generally thought to be a threat to win the nomination, partly because his poll ratings in an incredibly crowded field aren’t that impressive, partly because he’s notoriously poor at fundraising, and partly because he has pre-alienated important elements of the Republican Establishment (Grover Norquist) and the conservative movement (the Club for Growth). His other problem is that having won Iowa in 2008, his expectations there are so high that if he fails to win again he may get written off before he reaches the Deep South primaries where he might be able to live off the fat of the land.

More fundamentally (pun intended), Huck’s natural base among white conservative evangelicals is no longer where it was in 2008, when it all but belonged to him after he disposed of Sam Brownback at the Ames Straw Poll. As they recently showed at Ralph Reed’s Iowa cattle call, nearly the entire gigantic 2016 field knows how to pitch the Christian Right, and many of the candidates–viz. Ted Cruz, Scott Walker, Ben Carson, Rick Perry, Rick Santorum, Bobby Jindal and potentially even Jeb Bush–have credentials for appealing to that constituency which rival Huck’s.

What he could bring to the table, however, is sort of a full-spectrum conservative white working class message that transcends the usual cultural issues and spits fire at Republican as well as Democratic elites. He tried that to some extent in 2008, though his “populism” was more rhetorical than substantive. This time around, though, Huck’s laid down two markers directly across the class lines that divide rank-and-file Republicans on the rare occasions their leaders are challenged on them: trade and “entitlement reform.”

Last month in Iowa, Huck attacked free trade agreements with China for depressing U.S. wages, and argued “globalists” had too much power in the GOP. With the Trans-Pacific Partnership drawing a lot of attention right now, it will be interesting to see if Huckabee mentions this topic again in his campaign launch.

Huck got more attention earlier this month for letting it be known he opposed any “entitlement reform” plans that modified Social Security or Medicare for people already paying payroll taxes into the systems for those two programs–in other words, grandfathering current retirees or those very close to retirement, as Paul Ryan’s Medicare proposals do, isn’t enough in Huck’s view. This was taken as an attack on Chris Christie, who had made means-testing of Social Security and Medicare a signature initiative for his doomed proto-candidacy. But Jeb Bush came out about the same time for an increase in the retirement age, and nearly all the GOP candidates have embraced “entitlement reform” in one form or another, if only via serial endorsements of serial Ryan Budgets.

The thing is, “entitlement reform” is very unpopular, not least among white working class voters. So it is the perfect subject for a would-be “populist” conservative.

Huckabee may have competition for this working man’s wingnut approach, notably from the man who inherited a lot of Huck’s 2008 supporters in 2012: Rick Santorum. Santo’s angle seems to be focused on immigration policy rather than trade and entitlements, however. If Huck continues to cover his flanks on immigration by repudiating his earlier openness to comprehensive reform, I think he’s got the broader and more evocative pitch. Even if it doesn’t elevate him into the top tier along with Bush, Walker and Rubio, it will get their attention, and may very well have an impact on Republican fiscal and economic policy.

I said in a piece in the latest issue of WaMo that Huck had more or less appropriated the savage appeal of Sarah Palin, at least in his pre-campaign book, God, Guns, Grits and Gravy. That book is chock full of anti-elite resentment, and implicitly offers Huck’s campaign as an instrument of vengeance for the same kind of working-class conservative activists who lick envelopes for the anti-choice movement, pay attention to Glenn Beck, laugh at the tired jokes about God not creating “Adam and Steve”–and have to worry about their own jobs and retirements and health care.

I don’t know that there’s enough distinctive appeal there to offset Huck’s other handicaps, and other candidates will poach on the same turf. But I wouldn’t write him off just yet.

 

By: Ed Kilgore, Contributing Writer, Political Animal Blog, The Washington Monthly, May 5, 2015

May 6, 2015 Posted by | GOP Presidential Candidates, Mike Huckabee, Rick Santorum | , , , , , , | Leave a comment

   

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