Democracy Soup

Making sense out of the world of politics

Archive for January 2012

Florida notebook: Romney’s $ makes a difference over Gingrich

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Florida may be a Southern state, even a neighbor of Georgia, but as Newt Gingrich is finding out, Florida is part Jewish, part Latino, and part “protect Social Security and Medicare.”

Money is also king in the Sunshine State and Mitt Romney is severely outspending Gingrich, and Florida is a state where you need a lot of money. Even as Romney was losing South Carolina, the campaign and the Super PAC were running ads against Gingrich in Florida before the votes were counted in South Carolina.

While liberals may enjoy what Romney is doing against Gingrich, Romney will still have plenty of money to go after President Barack Obama.

Since Florida is a winner take all state and will lose some delegates, Gingrich will win as many delegates as Ron Paul and Stephen Colbert: zero.

Florida has 50 delegates, down from 99 because the state moved up in the primary process. Remember the MI and FL fiascoes in 2008? The noise came from the Democratic side, because they generally care more about lost votes. Republicans didn’t scream about it in 2008 or aren’t screaming now.

Does this mean Gingrich is done after Florida? The road for Gingrich doesn’t look good, especially in February, but he doesn’t seem to care. February brings more caucuses (not Gingrich’s strength) and the former House speaker isn’t even on the ballot in Virginia. While that doesn’t give Gingrich any more delegates, his desire to keep going no matter what will make Romney squirm a bit.

If Newt Gingrich doesn’t win Florida, he can blame his lack of success with women. Gingrich didn’t help himself by giving a vague answer on which of the potential first ladies would make the best first lady. “Stand by your woman” would be a logical choice, even if the question is a little odd.

If the 2012 election came down to the female vote, Obama would destroy Gingrich. Obama would still beat Romney in the female vote, but the contrast would be larger if Gingrich gets the nomination.

Intense headlines are seen as a way to draw more traffic on the Web to a story, but the truth is that crazy headlines are a part of the journalism landscape for as long as journalism has been around. Though it helps if the headline is true or could be proven.

The Washington Post — you know, that liberal bastion — went with this actual headline: “Obama: The most polarizing president. Ever.”

This headline appeared above a story from Chris Cillizza and Aaron Blake based on Gallup tracking polls. The polls “prove” that President Barack Obama has the highest gap between the parties over whether they approved of the job he was doing. This mark surpasses George W. Bush in 2007.

Polls don’t prove a lot, especially if you don’t know what the questions are. If anything, the 80% mark that Democratic voters give the president seems a little high.

The Gallup polls go back to 1953. So the concept of “ever” isn’t even remotely close. “Most polarizing president”?

Rutherford B. Hayes wasn’t so much polarizing himself, but the circumstances in which he was elected would have scored higher. Grover Cleveland would be upset if he were alive, especially during his first term as president, that he didn’t win that title. John Adams, after signing the Alien and Sedition Acts into law, would have scored pretty high. Franklin D. Roosevelt in 1933, Richard M. Nixon in 1973, and James Buchanan in 1860 all want a recount on the most polarizing president. Ever. This doesn’t even count virtually every second of Abraham Lincoln’s presidency.

We overall like Chris Cillizza though we are frustrated that he literally limits himself to treating politics as if it were sports. Endearing but frustrating. To write a story such as this and not stretch beyond the self-imposed bubble to include one word on why Obama might be seen so harshly, so polarizing: race. Not one single word about the possibility, the consideration that perhaps maybe being the first black president is an element to being “polarizing.”

The MSM ignored the blatant racism coming from the teabaggers. This is not to say all teabaggers are racists; they did nothing to confront the racism. And they ignore that racism can account for being “polarizing.”

The other factor is that the MSM gave teabaggers undeserved credibility. The MSM will go out of its way to not broadcast or show any 9/11 inside job conspiracies, (and we’re not saying they’re true), but those conspiracies had more facts that the “birthers” had. The theory that Bristol Palin is the mother of Trig has more facts behind it than the “birthers.” And yet, the birthers got MSM cred.

Starting an unnecessary war is a polarizing act. Running a milquetoast centrist administration while the country and world crumbles around them is as polarizing as vanilla ice cream or ranch dressing.

Chris Cillizza runs a feature called Worst Week in Washington. Looks like we already have a winner this week.


Gabrielle Giffords, Mark Kirk get to worry about their health; rest of us have to worry about a lot more

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In the limited conversation on health care reform in 2009, one of the simpler suggestions was for all Americans to get the same health care coverage that Congressmen and Senators enjoy. “If it’s good enough for them, it’s good enough for all.”

Gabrielle Giffords and Mark Kirk may not agree on much politically, but both understand that they have a really good health care situation.

Rep. Gabrielle Giffords (D-AZ) resigned from Congress this week, just over a year after being shot in the head at point-blank range in an assassination attempt. Giffords voted only once after being shot, in dramatic fashion, she cast a vote to raise the debt ceiling because the vote was close.

Those in Congress who are ill are given generous amounts of the benefit of the doubt. Sen. Tim Johnson (D-SD), who suffered a stroke and missed most of 2007 in recovery, is one of countless stories where our elected officials got to keep their job while recovering.

Sen. Mark Kirk (R-IL) will discover that soon enough. Kirk suffered a stroke this week, and will have a significant recovery ahead of him. Kirk doesn’t have to worry about his job security. His staff will cover helping citizens while he recovers.

Senators have a distinct advantage over representatives when it comes to illness. Kirk’s next election isn’t until 2016, so he has plenty of time. Giffords’ resignation came on the heels of whether she could run again for her seat in November. As miraculous as her recovery has been, Giffords was in no shape to run for her seat.

Resigning now allows for a special election to fill the remaining term of her 8th Congressional District. Confusing matters is that the districts are being redrawn, and the new 2nd Congressional District is pretty much the people currently in AZ-8.

Giffords could have stayed in the seat until January 2013, but thought it was best to resign now.

President Barack Obama and his challenger(s) will be talking health care throughout the 2012 presidential race. The challenge for the president and his administration is defending Obamacare when millions of Americans haven’t had a chance to enjoy it, and the other side wants to take that way before it can help those who need help.

In the real world, if you get shot or suffer a stroke, you have more to worry about than your health. Keeping your job and the cost of health care are two crucial concerns beyond the obvious health issues. Those elected in Congress don’t have those worries, and we don’t want to change that part of the equation. In fact, we want to join them.

Gingrich-Romney could be like Dems in 2008, but is closer to Carter-Kennedy circa 1980

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Newt Gingrich is from Georgia, next to South Carolina. And Gingrich won South Carolina. Mitt Romney is from Massachusetts, next to New Hampshire. And Romney won New Hampshire.

Republicans are used to things being pretty much done by South Carolina. After all, hasn’t it been drilled into your head that each GOP nominee won South Carolina?

We heard a lot in 2008 that no previous Democratic primary ever was like the one in 2008. While the drama won’t be as intense, 2012 may prove to be a longer battle for the Republicans.

Who would have thought that Newt Gingrich would be on the top of the conservatives list? Last summer, having Gingrich around felt like a 41-year-old guy at a frat kegger, where time had passed him by.

The one major difference between the Dems in 2008 and the GOP in 2012 is that Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton were strong candidates where each major GOP candidate has more holes than Swiss cheese, er, American processed cheese product with holes in it.

If hubris were a presidential trait, Gingrich would be making plans for DC on January 21 (January 20 is on a Sunday in 2013). If being cluelessly rich were a presidential trait, Romney would be planning on how to get his dog on top of the White House.

Romney has the advantage of money, ground forces, and ballot status. Gingrich has the anger, some conservative cred, and did we mention anger?

Ron Paul is staying around, but what about Rick Santorum? You could argue that if Santorum had won Iowa at the time, he could have propelled himself with momentum. Regardless, Santorum should have done way better in South Carolina. Hard to see how Santorum does that well in Florida, if he makes it that far. Unlike Gingrich, Santorum doesn’t have a extra billionaire in his pocket.

Having the first presidential election race under the umbrella of the Super PACs will throw off the dynamic of how things will go. Gingrich has benefited from extra $ (Sheldon Adelson gave Gingrich $5 million and Miriam Adelson, Sheldon’s wife, added another $5 million. The Adelsons get their $ from gambling in Las Vegas. Family values?) and Santorum hasn’t, and $ is why Gingrich is the conservative candidate and Santorum isn’t. Well, that and Gingrich dominates the stage and Santorum is too quiet.

The major path to throwing Romney off the nomination is to have a strong conservative candidate who can go toe-to-toe with President Barack Obama. The teabaggers have had some time to consider this, and the most conservative candidate standing is no pure teabagger, but he does share their anger.

Romney has caught in a 3-way race in 2008 and watched helplessly as John McCain came along and won all the delegates in a state with far less than 50% of the vote. Romney was hoping that Santorum could be the Mike Huckabee of 2008: social conservative that won Iowa but couldn’t win much more than that. Unlike 2008, 2012 is more about $ with the Super PACs, and unless Romney’s SuperPAC helps Santorum, or Stephen Colbert shifts to help Santorum, Romney’s strategy will come up short. Now that South Carolina, Colbert is no longer “running” for President of the United States of South Carolina.

Still, Romney has the advantage. Assumption that you are the likely nominee still gets you far, regardless of party. Perhaps the best analogy for Romney and Gingrich is 1980. No, not Reagan and Bush, but Carter and Kennedy. Yes, Carter was an incumbent, but Romney parallels Carter a little in that “he’s the best we got.” Gingrich as Ted Kennedy — not a phrase you see often — because he has the fire and the soul lacking in the incumbent. Democratic people could only hope the GOP 2012 version comes close to the battle for the Dems in 1980.

If Gingrich is counting on his win in South Carolina matching up to a nomination, that and $374,327.62 gets you Romney speeches for a year. In 2012, the usual rules are up for grabs for the GOP. The Dems learned in 2008 that once you are in one of those cycles, the ride will be long and strenuous. The ultimate victor might be stronger as a result, but even that time-tested virtue is up for grabs in 2012.

Stephen Colbert finished ahead of Rick Perry, Jon Huntsman in South Carolina, but MSM doesn’t care

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2012 South Carolina GOP primary

Candidate Votes % of total
Herman Cain 6,324 1.1
Rick Perry 2,494 0.4
Jon Huntsman 1,161 0.2
Michele Bachmann 494 0.1
Gary Johnson 213 0.0


If you stayed home on a Saturday night to watch the South Carolina coverage, you heard a lot about the top 4 finishers. Though for the one millionth time, Ron Paul got asked (by CNN’s Wolf Blitzer) which of the other candidates he likes best. Ron Paul get asked this question because the MSM loves to pat him on the head like he’s a child wearing a tie or a grown-up dress. To Wolf Blitzer and any other overpriced MSM person: if you want to ask Ron Paul that question, ask it to all the other candidates first and see what their reaction is to your stupid lame question.

What the MSM left out of the conversation was how Stephen Colbert, er, Herman Cain did on Saturday night. True, if you only get 1.1% of the vote, you won’t get much attention. But South Carolina is an unique scenario in the last two election cycles thanks to Stephen Colbert.

The MSM is massively confused by what Colbert does. They don’t even see it as being worthy to be a distraction. Diane Sawyer, reading the story of Colbert’s exploratory committee, had the same look as your dog after someone farts. When Colbert spoke at the White House Correspondents Dinner, the MSM went out of their way not to mention what Colbert did or even his existence. That attitude hasn’t really improved.

Colbert runs for, as he puts it, president of the United States of South Carolina. His attempt is never terribly seriously since he would try to get himself on the ballot. So even during all of what happened, everyone involved knew Colbert couldn’t get on the ballot, and South Carolina rules don’t allow write-in candidates.

Colbert caught a break in 2012 as Herman Cain’s name was on the ballot but had dropped out of the race. Cain’s campaign seemed slightly more legitimate than Colbert’s, yet the MSM gave him much more credit than he deserved. As difficult as it is to believe that a United States state doesn’t accept write-in candidates for the highest office, someone who leaves the race over 45 days before the election can’t be removed.

Herman Cain got 6,324 votes in the South Carolina primary. While that number sounds low, Cain had more votes than Rick Perry, Jon Huntsman (both active when the week began), Michele Bachmann, and Gary Johnson combined.

Even if you think that Colbert was responsible for 80% of Cain’s total, a really conservative estimate, 80% of Cain’s total is still more than the other 4 candidates combined.

Naysayers would note that Colbert was scoring 5% in a South Carolina poll, just before Huntsman dropped out of the race, and only got 1.1% in the election.

Established candidates with staffs and campaigns that just withdrew from the race days before the election did poorly than a late-night comedy show host under a nom de plume that ran a campaign for a week. Colbert didn’t hit the ground in South Carolina until the day before the election, and still outdrew 4 presidential candidates.

The Colbert/Cain rally was described by seasoned political reporters as larger than rallies of major presidential contenders. The idea that people are frustrated with the avalanche of Super PAC ads and that a random billionaire has more power than actual voters is foreign to the MSM. Colbert recognizes this and so does his audience. Colbert’s Super PAC (with Jon Stewart in control) have run spot-on ads criticizing the dependence on money.

We assume that people who run comedy shows are trying to be funny. Colbert and his staff want you to laugh, but his audience is smart enough to know there is a message behind the humor. They are pulling the curtain to expose the madness of millionaires and billionaires who are not “coordinating” with each other.

The Colbert Report has done more to show people the significance of Citizens United on the presidential race. We criticize the MSM as being highly lazy. All we ask is that they watch the Colbert Report Monday-Thursday nights at 11:30 pm Eastern, take notes, and report what you see. MSM people: if you can follow what Colbert is doing, you will be so much smarter.

South Carolina notebook: Candidates rushing to leap rather than be pushed out of the race

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We knew that some of the 2012 GOP presidential candidates would be practically eliminated after South Carolina. Two of them jumped before they were pushed.

— Jon Huntsman’s timing was bad because it looked like he dropped out as he realized he would lose to Stephen Colbert. Huntsman endorsed Mitt Romney, which seemed sad since most independents, if they had to vote for a Mormon former governor with great hair, would have picked Huntsman over Romney.

— Rick Perry’s timing was bad because it looked like he dropped out as he realized he would have to debate one more time. Perry endorsed Newt Gingrich, which seemed sad since if the coin had come up tails, Rick Santorum would have had the endorsement. Perry likes coins because they offer only two options; he never remembers the third option for some reason.

— Herman Cain’s timing was great because it looked smarter for staying out. Cain endorsed Colbert’s bid to campaign under his name, which seemed sad since Colbert is a better candidate as a fake candidate than Cain was as a real candidate.

— Rick Santorum and Newt Gingrich combined would represent a serious threat to Mitt Romney. Not quite in a Barack Obama/Hillary Clinton kind of race, but the tightest race the Republicans have had since, well, William Howard Taft and Teddy Roosevelt. The problem is even though they are vested and experienced politicians, while they know they are splitting the conservative vote, neither of them can get the other one to leave. Santorum’s Iowa win, now confirmed, would give him that momentum, but Gingrich’s loudness overshadows Santorum’s attempts to get noticed. After all, Santorum didn’t have an ex-wife on “Nightline” this week. Gingrich should be thankful it was only one.

— Gingrich got a partial standing ovation for confronting John King on asking the question about an open marriage in Thursday’s debate. As offended as Gingrich appeared to be, he had to love the question so he could react the way he did. As for Gingrich, when you protest that way, we assume your ex-wife’s charge is true.

Gingrich puts his marriages on the record because he preaches family values, the “sanctity of marriage,” and his hypocrisy during the Clinton years. So he shouldn’t pretend to be miffed.

If politicians really could admit what they’re thinking, especially GOP politicians, wouldn’t it have been great for Gingrich to say, “Yeah, I wanted a open marriage. What does that have to do with running the country and getting the economy back on track.” The problem for Gingrich and other “holier-than-thous” is that they would have to admit that family values and “sanctity of marriage” have nothing to do with running the country.

— If you had to name the two most consistent GOP presidential candidates besides Mitt Romney, Rick Perry is the most obvious choice for finishing consistently bad and saying really horrible things but Ron Paul has had two solid finishes and is looking for a third in South Carolina. This isn’t to say that Ron Paul will win or should win. The MSM’s curious coverage of Ron Paul lends itself to conspiracy theories from people who aren’t normally paranoid. The voters have spoken in Iowa and New Hampshire, and later today in South Carolina; the MSM should start listening. If you are running for president and score as high as Ron Paul does, attention should be paid to you. If not, then you aren’t doing your job.

— We would like to welcome back Keith Olbermann to anchor coverage of the South Carolina primary tonight on Current TV. Coverage gets underway at 6:30 pm Eastern and runs 90 minutes. The coverage resumes at 9:30 pm Eastern for another 90 minutes. You might remember that Olbermann sat out coverage of Iowa and New Hampshire.

Building a news operation takes time; even within that, Current TV has been off to a bad start. The graphics issues and lighting problems are real, and Olbermann has every right to be concerned about the professional approach of the cable channel. Cenk Uygur and The Young Turks, Jennifer Granholm, and former Vice President Al Gore, head of Current TV, has done a pretty good job, though their coverage has been sidetracked at times, especially when you want results. I drifted back to MSNBC at times. It does help that MSNBC is in HD and Current TV isn’t, but Rachel Maddow was focused. Olbermann had that potential to keep the focus; Olbermann has done a lot more anchoring than everyone in this paragraph combined. The best solution would be to combine the two approaches into one, but it looks like everyone we’ve seen so far in coverage won’t be there tonight.

GOP voters like that Mitt Romney is so rich, he doesn’t care about an extra $374,327.62

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In the current economy, you have as much of a chance of getting a camel through the eye of a needle than to earn $374,327.62 in a year. I would bet money — not $10,000 — that the camel would pass through before you would look at that amount as being “not very much.”

We talk about the 1% and 99%, but the division is even deeper. In 2008, then Sen. Obama pointed out that 94% of Americans make under $100,000 per year. Given the economic collapse, that number is definitely higher. If you don’t live in a major urban area, the chances of you making close to $80,000-$90,000 is highly slim.

Let’s pretend for the moment that you make $70,000 and somehow don’t live in the region of a Top 10 city. If this is you, your strata is considerable higher than most Americans.

True, you might have 5 children, a home, and maybe a vacation house. Still, you are doing well by modern American standards.

You would have to work at that level for more than 5 years to get as much money as Mitt Romney says is “not very much.” And you will pay a higher tax rate than Romney does.

The almost $375K is 7.5 times the median U.S. household income — median paycheck for 2010 was $26,364. Median, for the non-math majors, is where half made more, half made less. So if you made $27,000 in 2010, you would be in the top 50%.

Rick Santorum has tried to self-portray himself as the grandson of a coal miner, but in this extended era of greed, few care about his background. Newt Gingrich made $1.6 million from Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, and no one blinks at the number.

Democratic politicians are better at portraying a sense of growing up poor: Bill Clinton, John Edwards. Barack Obama probably had the worst of those scenarios, but like a lot of his background, has worked hard to downplay that story.

Democratic audiences care more about this than Republican audiences do. When they say Americans don’t want to punish the rich because they think they will get there, most of those Americans vote Republican.

With Romney winning the polls in South Carolina, the chances of him not winning the nomination are sharply dwindling. Pundits point out that the teabaggers and social conservatives haven’t united behind one candidate, and that is most of the story. Deep down, the GOP wants to nominate a rich guy who isn’t ashamed to be rich. Filthy rich. The GOP faithful want a nominee who thinks $374,327.62 is “not very much.” The question is whether independents want that kind of nominee in November.

Mitt Romney: voters don’t want a president who enjoys firing people

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“I like being able to fire people who provide services to me. If someone doesn’t give me the good service I need, I’m going to go get somebody else to provide that service to me.” — Mitt Romney

Most of us don’t have the power to fire someone. We might know what it is like to be fired (downsized/let go/terminated/laid-off), but no, we haven’t had that luxury.

Mitt Romney knows what it’s like to fire people, and because of his mass earnings, made in part from firing people, hasn’t had the financial pressure that comes from being fired.

When regular people get fired, panic sets in. “How am I going to pay my bills?” “What is my identity without a job?” And of course, in the United States, “what am I going to do for health insurance?”

See when you fire someone, you may not be able to do much for their problems, but you should have a sense of what goes through the minds of the people you are firing. Empathy. Does Romney have empathy?

Did Romney have empathy for his family dog in 1983 as he strapped the dog carrier to the top of the car?

Did Romney and his Bain Capital buddies consider alternatives to firing as many people as they did?

Mitt Romney complains that his quote is taken out of context, a difficult task to imagine given that Romney already took a quote from Barack Obama and didn’t mention that Obama was quoting John McCain in 2008. So let’s put Romney’s quote in context.

We have all been the subject of bad service, whether that be in a restaurant, on a bus, at the grocery store. Even in the worst of days and the worst of moods, regular people rarely root for someone to get fired. Not because we are kind, but we have been there. Regular people know what being fired is like, and we wouldn’t wish that. And if somehow we did wish for that, we still wouldn’t do it with glee.

Romney sees bad service as a reason to fire someone. Not take their business elsewhere, but actually fire someone. In the context, Romney wants us to be able to fire our health insurance company. But we can’t fire our health insurance company, even if we want to do so.

If they mess up, we have to keep them. We can’t go anywhere. Obamacare will help somewhat with that, but keeping the 1800-pound elephant that is the insurance system means it won’t go away, even if we are dissatisfied.

We don’t want to “fire” our insurance company; we want them to do a better job. That is the difference between regular people and Mitt Romney; regular people want to work with what they have to be better. They lack the power that Romney has to fire them.

Single-payer would have allowed us to get rid of our insurance companies, but we know that even under single-payer, insurance companies would still exist and they would try to sell us supplemental policies. With the basics covered, people would have the freedom to shop around and be able to switch companies if their needs weren’t getting met. But we still wouldn’t be firing them.

People joke that they would like to fire their Congressman. Chances are they want to fire someone else’s Congressman, since incumbent retention is still rather high. In the voting booth, you still are voting for someone else, not firing your Congressman.

Mitt Romney would like to fire Barack Obama and be the next president of the United States. No matter if Obama wins or Romney or another Republican or Ron Paul becomes the next president, people are going to worry about being fired. Who do you want for a president when you think you might be fired? Someone who likes firing people?

Romney did say at one point he was worried about getting a pink slip himself. When pressed for details, Romney didn’t have any. The voters might not be happy with a candidate who has never had to struggle, but one who lies about struggling when they haven’t won’t survive for long.