Santorum Drops Out

Breaking news from CNN.com: Rick Santorum will speak live from Gettysburg, PA in a few minutes to “suspend his campaign,” or, as the not so euphemistically inclined among us would say, he’s dropping out.  And so ends one of the more truly remarkable dark horse candidacies in recent political history.  I’m struggling to think of a more unlikely presidential run in recent years and not really coming up with anything.   To the extent that Santorum had any national profile when this race began, he was known for two things: radical social conservatism, particularly in the form of rabid homophobia, and a certain highly successful Google seeding campaign.  For most of the pre-Iowa campaign, he polled in the single digits nationally, raised very little money, and was completely written off by every pundit.  In his last race prior to this one, Santorum was absolutely slaughtered in his 2006 Senate re-election bid, suffering an 18-point defeat that stands as the worst for any incumbent Senator since 1980.

Still, perhaps we shouldn’t have been so taken aback by Rick Santorum.  In this primary season, he proved himself to be a powerful retail politician with a genuine passion that could ignite his supporters.  He was extremely competitive with Romney despite a crushing financial disadvantage and no significant support among GOP power brokers.  I think its very safe to say that if the money were even between Santorum and Romney, the Man with the Sweater Vest would be the presumptive nominee right now.

But this is a cruel, inequitable world devoid of meaningful campaign finance controls, and so it is Romney who will bear the GOP standard against President Obama.  Game on.

The Fundamental Problem of Mitt Romney

David Javerbomb wrote a rather excellent opinion piece in yesterday’s New York Times.  I encourage you to read the whole thing, but one quote in particular stood out to me:

Mitt Romney’s political viewpoints can be expressed only in terms oflikelihood, not certainty. While some views are obviously far less likely than others, noview can be thought of as absolutely impossible. Thus, for instance, there is at any given moment a nonzero chance that Mitt Romney supports child slavery.

The line is obviously tongue-in-cheek…or is it?  It occurred to me, shortly after I began chuckling at the idea of a modern American openly supporting slavery of any kind, that if this became a campaign issue – perhaps because Romney was found to have hired a Southeast Asian factory powered by child slave labor while at Bain – there really would be no way of knowing what Romney really felt in his heart of hearts.  (The preceding sentence assumes that Romney has feelings in his heart of hearts, and that Romney does in fact actually have a heart of hearts.  The extent to which those assumptions are accurate reflections of reality is up for debate).  He’s taken so many stances on so many issues, its impossible to really know what he thinks – you simply have to hope that he means “it” this time, or that he’s just saying “it” for political expediency, depending on which side of “it” you happen to fall.

I know I’m not breaking any radical new ground here, but successful Presidential candidates have to stand for something identifiable and relate-able; they have to give you a reason to feel good about voting for them.  The first time around, George W. Bush stood for “compassionate conservatism” – a vision of governance in which…well, I won’t try to explain it in rational, consistent terms (because it wasn’t), but it was something to do with local control (sometimes) and religious values (sometimes) and lower taxes and returning to a good, decent, sexually responsible America after the various embarrassing dalliances of the last guy.   In 2004 George W. Bush jettisoned all that shit, but stood for something even more compelling: security in uncertain, dangerous times.  Barack Obama stood for “hope and change;” hope for a bright, vibrant progressive American future; change from the multivarious absurdities and abject failures of the Bush era.  Today, Obama stands for largely the same thing, although this time its the somehow-even-more-absurd post-Bush Tea Party Republican Congress that he stands as change from.

Anyone even mildly engaged in politics who is capable of remembering things from 12 years ago could instantly rattle off what the winning candidates stood for in those elections.  But what does Romney stand for?  Can anyone say for sure?  If so, they should be hired by the Romney campaign, which has been flailing around for months years trying to come up with any coherent message beyond “Hey, I’m a rich white guy with great hair who could maybe beat Barack Obama if the economy stays bad and no one actually pays attention to the things I say.”  It seems like that “message” (along with a handy-dandy tankerload of money) is going to be enough to get Romney the nomination, but can Mitt win the presidency without a coherent identity?  Can someone who stands for nothing but “I want to be elected” and “The current guy sucks” really win the presidency?  History says no.  And that’s Romney’s fundamental problem.

Please don’t make me defend Santorum

Please don’t make me defend him. It makes me feel dirty. Frothy even. But, anyway, this is making the rounds on the liberal blogs (including this one, technically).

I think Rick Santorum would be an absolute disaster for this country if he got anywhere near the executive branch of government, and I plan on doing everything I can (which isn’t much, obviously) to make sure that doesn’t happen.

But I just don’t think he was about to say the n-word here. (And yes, I realize that using the phrase “n-word” is just as bad as using the, you know, n-word, and I find this Louis CK bit every bit as funny and true as the next person, but I’m still not going to write the word, um, n-word, here.)

He’d been speaking for 30 minutes and he tripped up. And I’m not even going to make some half-assed defense like, “oh, he’d never say that in public because he knows better.” I don’t think Rick Santorum uses that word at all. I have no idea, obviously, but I have no reason to think that he does, and I’m not going to go out of my way to look for the worst possible interpretation of his actions, when the best possible interpretation is bad enough to disqualify him from ever receiving my support.

Just a distraction. We shouldn’t be getting distracted. We have the facts on our side.

Car elevators in La Jolla

So… Mitt Romney is building a car elevator at his mansion in La Jolla. I have two facts to share before I talk about this: 1) I used to live in La Jolla. And 2) my current neighbor has a car elevator.

Okay, so technically I “lived” in La Jolla because my zip code was 92037, but I was one block East of Interstate 5, by the big Mormon temple there. Not a bad neighborhood, and just a couple miles from the beach, but in terms of real estate, it was a completely different world from where Mr. Romney lives.

I could see Mormons from my house (er, condo)!

And my neighbor’s car elevator is just a hydraulic lift that fits completely into his standard two-car garage attached to his three-bedroom home. It basically allows him to fit three cars into a garage built for two.

So maybe that’s the reason that my response when I first saw the Twittergasm over Romney’s new car elevator was, “meh.” People are suggesting that this is this week’s “Etch a Sketch” moment, but I don’t think so. At all.

I think the first reaction many people will have to hearing about someone building a car elevator will be, “awesome.” If I were Mitt Romney and someone asked me about my car elevator, I’d reply enthusiastically and use the word “neat.” I may not be a political expert, but I think that any opportunity that Etch a Sketch can remind people of Batman rather than Thurston Howell, the better.

Don’t get me wrong; I’m not concern trolling here. If this works, go for it. I just don’t think this is a particularly effective attack on Romney. It’s like Cokie Roberts complaining during the 2008 campaign about Obama vacationing in Hawaii, instead of Myrtle Beach, because it is “exotic” and therefore elitist. The general reaction to that was, “STFU Cokie.”

Maybe it’s more like the John Edwards’ $400 haircut, but $400 haircuts are stupid, and car elevators are cool. (Actually, car elevators sound cool. The reality of a hydraulic lift that allows you to stack two cars in a garage is pretty boring.)

I don’t know. It seems like an envy-based attack, and I don’t think those are nearly as effective as political pundits think they are. People don’t dislike Romney because he is wealthy and has nice things; they dislike him because he wants to use the power of government to protect the wealthy at the cost of the poor and middle class.

Stick with Etch a Sketch. That’s gold.

GOP Primary Update – Another meaningless Romney defeat

So Rick Santorum won Louisiana yesterday, 49% to 27% for Mitt Romney. Santorum picked up 10 delegates while Romney picked up 5. There are still 31 delegates that have not been allocated for Louisiana. While this is somewhat humiliating for Mitt Romney, it doesn’t change the outlook much.

In the only GOP Primary race that matters, Brokered Convention picks up 5 more delegates than Romney, but still remains 108 delegates behind. Here’s the updated chart, with numbers from The New York Times, as always.

April should be a good month for Romney with contests in DC, Maryland, Wisconsin, Connecticut, Delaware, New York, Pennsylvania, and Rhode Island. Aside from Rick Santorum’s home state of Pennsylvania, none of those states look to be upset opportunities for Team Froth.

Wisconsin joined states like Michigan and Ohio as a state that had shown early polls with a Santorum lead and then swinging back to a Romney lead as the primary approached. Nate Silver now projects a Romney with a 96% chance of victory there.

Romney, who has always been considered inevitable by political experts, will most likely wrap this up sometime in June, well ahead of the convention. Pressure is beginning to mount within the GOP for Santorum and Gingrich to stop this embarrassment, but neither seem inclined to do so.

Previous update here.

Rachel Maddow commits journalism again

Unfortunately, I can’t seem to figure out how to embed the MSNBC player into this WordPress blog, so you’ll have to follow this link to see Rachel Maddow do something rather extraordinary in today’s journalism: she finds evidence of a person lying repeatedly and she then says that the person is lying repeatedly.

At one point she even mocked mainstream media talking heads by affecting a deep voice and saying, “Mr. Romney claims… others say.” Some Disagree! For those familiar with the About section of this blog, you’ll probably understand why this made me so happy last night. It’s almost as if Ms. Maddow thinks she is a Truth Vigilante or something, actually checking up on the (non-)factual statements of the people she covers.

It’s distressing that the most surprising part of this story is not that a presidential candidate is able to lie so easily and repeatedly and seemingly without any reservations. Instead, the surprising part is that someone within the media is actually willing to say that. The reason Mr. Romney feels so comfortable with lying repeatedly is that no one on ABC, CBS, or Fox will ever call him on it. And the fact that someone on MSNBC says that he is lying probably only helps his candidacy.