WASHINGTON—Claiming something “just seemed off” with the combination of candidates currently seeking the Republican Party’s nomination for president, voters asked Tuesday if they could see once more what the GOP field would look like with Jon Huntsman and Rick Perry back in the race.

“Could you just show me Huntsman next to Santorum again, and maybe Perry in there, too, trailing just a bit behind Romney? Not too close, though,” said Cleveland-based voter Alan Sanders, squinting as he contemplated the grouping of presidential hopefuls. “No, that’s still not quite right. What if we try Pawlenty, Paul, Bachmann, and Gingrich—in that order. Ugh, never mind, that just looks weird. Maybe take Romney out and put Herman Cain back in? That might work.” At press time, the nation’s Republican voters were asking to see Sarah Palin in there, too, just for fun

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Some impressive political courage by the moderates in Congress:

After indicating that they were placated by President Obama’s tweaked birth control regulation, Maine Republican Sens. Olympia Snowe and Susan Collins appear to be hedging on it, speaking late Tuesday to Jonathan Riskind of the home-state Portland Press Herald.

They appeared to dance around the issue, not taking a stance but saying they aren’t fully with Obama.

I really have had enough of this party. I’ve had it. I’ve had enough of their greedy paymasters, I’ve had enough of their ignorant rank-and-file, and I’ve had enough of the spineless moderates and establishmentarians who know better, but who have been beaten down so much that they can’t even stand up for the most basic things anymore. Nobody is making these people stay in office. They could resign or not run for another term any time they like. I mean, if these two formally pro-choice women can’t even stand up for birth control access, they really ought to take a good look in the mirror. There’s just no excuse for it, none, except coveting more time in office. I sure hope they pay for it.

The pundits will remind us that it used to be the case that moderates in both parties worked together, but those days are over. Snowe, Collins, Kirk, Brown–all supposedly pro-choice, all self-described as moderate, all equally worthless. It’s a sorry situation when certified wingnut Rand Paul has been far more independent, productive, and valuable in the Senate than these four fools combined. And while I’m hardly an overall fan of the guy’s program, I can understand what Rand Paul wants to accomplish out of his public service. These four, I have no idea.

Go away.

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We now see Mittens’s brand-new plan to dispatch Rick Santorum:

First, he’ll be compared to President Obama: “He’s never run anything. The biggest thing he ever ran is his Senate office.”

Second, he’ll be painted as a creature of Washington: “They’re going to hit him very hard on earmarks, lobbying, voting to raise the federal debt limit five times. The story of Santorum is going to be told over the next few weeks in a big way.”

Okay, maybe not so much on the brand-new part.

This pretty weak stuff. Considering that the GOP base largely thought Sarah Palin was entirely qualified to be president (even better qualified than Barack Obama, in their minds), the first point is likely to fall flat altogether. Which is to say, what they see as their best ammunition is going to miss the mark entirely. Furthermore, earmarks and the debt ceiling are entirely ephemeral issues that Republicans seized on for tactical reasons, but there’s not a deep reservoir of concern for (or even a basic understanding about) these issues among the GOP base (or among the general electorate either–remember how McCain flogged the earmarks in 2008?). Rick’s lobbying career might hurt him a bit, but unlike Gingrich he didn’t work for any obvious conservative bogeymen so one wonders how effective this will be. Romney’s prospective attacks on Santorum are interesting in that they don’t attack his point of strength (he is perceived as a sincere and authentic conservative culture warrior), but are trying to persuade voters that Santorum is weak where Romney is strong. But if these voters truly valued executive experience and capability to handle the job more than being a “true conservative” then they’d all be Mitt men (and women) now, wouldn’t they?

If this is the best Mitt has, he might as well just drop out now and end the pain. Santorum will command a lot of attention in Michigan, and his main problem in going after Mitt is where to start because there’s so much for a culture warrior to go after. Seriously, this is an actual problem since he has to have a throughline for his criticism, as he can not bombard the electorate with disconnected negative information. Going after Mitt’s past support for Planned Parenthood would be the natural place for him to start. It’s timely at the least.

It is surreal to me that these people have to ask themselves, “How do I defeat a resurgent Rick Santorum?” It speaks to Romney’s wretchedness as a candidate, to be sure. But the problem with Santorum (as opposed to Gingrich) is that Romney destroyed Gingrich by making Newt out to be a hypocrite and a phony conservative, which was easy since Newt was both. In other words, Romney beat Newt because Newt is one of the few less authentically conservative candidates than he is. Santorum, though, is not obviously either of these things–he’s obviously a creep but that’s no demerit in this case–and Romney’s campaign seems to be visibly flustered on the question of how to deal with this situation. It’ll be interesting to see how they do.

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This really pisses me off:

Well my own view is, it’s a great idea. People who are receiving welfare benefits, government benefits, we should make sure they’re not using those benefits to pay for drugs. I think it’s an excellent idea.

Why not just pass a law requiring HHS employees to just mock people getting their welfare checks? Maybe administer a slap too or something? It’s just such a gratuitous insult to people who are already down. Fuck this smiling rich asshole and his so very banal Oedipal need to one-up daddy.

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Romney, Summering In Florida

Grover Noquist made an interesting argument for why Republicans should elect Mitt Romney in a recent speech at CPAC:

All we have to do is replace Obama. … We are not auditioning for fearless leader. We don’t need a president to tell us in what direction to go. We know what direction to go. We want the Ryan budget. … We just need a president to sign this stuff. We don’t need someone to think it up or design it. The leadership now for the modern conservative movement for the next 20 years will be coming out of the House and the Senate.

So what is Norquist’s fundamental requirement for a Republican President? Apparently: doing what he’s told:

Pick a Republican with enough working digits to handle a pen to become president of the United States. This is a change for Republicans: the House and Senate doing the work with the president signing bills. His job is to be captain of the team, to sign the legislation that has already been prepared.

David Frum scratches his head:

This is not a very complimentary assessment of Romney’s leadership. It’s also not a very realistic political program: congressional Republicans have a disapproval rating of about 75%. If Americans get the idea that a vote for Romney is a vote for the Ryan plan, Romney is more or less doomed.

To date, sad to say, Romney has worked hard to confirm this image of weakness.

Nobody wants a president who acts as the passive instrument of even generally popular groups like labor unions. (Did you know that—despite decades of declining popularity—unions still have an approval rating of 52%? I didn’t until I looked it up.)

But a candidate who appeases the most disliked people in national politics? That guy will command neither public affection nor respect.

via Sully

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From TPM:

On the issue of religious liberty, Obama finds himself in more comfortable territory. His policy tweak placated Democrats and moderate Catholics who had voiced concerns, without alienating his constituencies that championed the original rule. The accommodation also makes it more difficult to argue in court that the rule substantially burdens religious freedoms.

If the debate becomes about contraception coverage, it has the potential to drive a wedge between the GOP. For instance, Sens. Olympia Snowe (R-ME) and Susan Collins (R-ME) have in the past championed a birth control mandate similar to Obama’s, and were in no rush to exempt religious groups. Even prominent conservatives like House Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-VA), Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC) and Sen. Rob Portman (R-OH) have voted for legislation that included a contraception mandate in federal employee health care plans.

What’s amazing about this battle, politically speaking, is that it really is win-win for Democrats. There’s literally nothing they can do to screw it up that I can see. If  Republicans don’t introduce any bills to stop the mandate that employers offer contraceptive coverage, the media will lose interest and Democrats win. If Republicans do introduce them and they fail, as is highly likely, Democrats win even better. If Republicans somehow manage to hold together their entire caucus and peel enough Dems off to force it through, then they’ve shut down contraceptive access and have to get that thrown back at them in November. Democrats still win, probably the most in this scenario. It’s hard to imagine why Republicans were drawn to an issue that combines terrible politics with rampant, obvious insincerity (I mean, if Eric flippin’ Cantor supported the concept…). If, as they say, the field of battle is the biggest determinant of who wins, this field is poor indeed for Republicans. My guess for why it became a thing is that it was a combination of timing–it came along right when they needed something new to keep the dittoheads in a lather about–and that this issue hits too many pressure points (Regulation! Church and State! Damn Planned Parenthood!) for them to wisely lay off. But they didn’t, so now they’re defending the unpopular and arcane positions of a minority denomination that many of their party’s biggest religious supporters regard as little more than a glorified cult. Boffo work there, Boehner!

I can’t get over how dumb this thing is. They’re “winning” this battle in the same way John McCain “won” every week in 2008. Their case is all over cable news and the op-ed pages, but every poll shows that it’s not hitting home with the public. And why should it? The only people who care with the Catholic Bishops think are Catholics, and even they favor the rule. To appeal to the moral authority of an institution that has spent the last decade shredding it is pure fail, and the optics make it look as though Republicans are merely doing the bidding of the Bishops, which is not exactly a favorable image to the 75-80% of the public who aren’t Catholic (and a substantial part of those who are). I can understand why they’re doing it–as I said, the issue does hit an awful lot of pressure points for today’s right–but it’s so poorly advised I can barely believe it is happening. This is why fanaticism can be a weakness.

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I love TNC as much as anyone, but this does not sit right with me:

My sense from the article is that Romney actually was pro-life, in his heart, but had no hope of winning with such a position in Massachusetts. So he lied, claimed to be pro-choice, and has now flipped back again.

That seems par for the course in presidential politics. I don’t see much difference between this and the president’s “evolving” position on gay marriage.

TNC could be right on Romney being pro-life deep down (I have no idea), and I think he is right that Obama’s opposition to gay marriage is entirely political and will undoubtedly vanish around February 2013, one way or another. But Obama’s actual substantive positions are not really that different from what, say, Andrew Cuomo would promise LGBT activists were he running this year. Obama wants to repeal DOMA, which is the whole ballgame on a federal level, and he can package that whichever way he wants to so long as he does his best to follow through. What Obama didn’t do was to promise Rick Warren and NOM that he’d be an exceptional advocate for their positions, adopt a top-to-bottom antigay agenda, et al. Which is the equivalent of what Romney did as Governor of Massachusetts, adopting the substance and the label, and even attempting to be a national leader on the issue.

I think it would be great if President Obama were to favor marriage equality openly. But he favors it de facto, which makes it a somewhat smaller deal for me. Romney didn’t favor a pro-life stance in any way until 2005 or so. Obama plays with the packaging but the substance is essentially unaffected, while Romney is willing to change what’s in the box at a whim. If there’s a good comparison to be made here, I’m missing it.

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More from my Brazilian Girls:

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