The sheer number of patents in the U.S. is fueling frivolous litigation and drastic action is needed to make patents more difficult to obtain and easier to invalidate, U.S. Circuit Judge Richard Posner of the Seventh Circuit said Tuesday. > more ... (0 comments)
Okay, here’s a quick one. The significant other and I tuned into today’s Republican debate (our first, and likely only, one of the cycle). I was expecting carnage, to be honest. With Romney posting the kinds of numbers he’s posting, I figured everyone’s number one priority has to be to completely destroy Mitt Romney. Gingrich, Huntsman, Santorum: they need Romney to die soon for them to have any shot at all, so they’re going to give the Mittster both barrels. Right?
As someone who’s been following politics fairly closely for about seven years now–and writing about them for five–I don’t think I’ve ever seen such a pathetic collective display. In no particular order, you had:
- Mitt Romney reciting one boilerplate phase after the next, without anything resembling conviction at any point. I swear he almost broke into a smile after his BS-filled tirade about Obama’s national security policy. He came off as smug and insincere talking about most issues, essentially validating every fear of the anti-Romneyites. And he had the best performance of the night!
- Rick Perry had one kickass moment where he commanded attention and succinctly gave a pitch for his candidacy that fit what was needed and commanded real authority. Almost a perfect moment, actually. Then he said we should re-invade Iraq. At this point, I’m working under the assumption that Rick Perry is like the protagonist in a film noir, the heel who tries to rise above his station and gets smacked down by fate for trying.
- Rick Santorum never missing the chance to miss a chance to take on Mitt Romney directly and boldly lay claim to his frontrunner status, instead preferring to talk about bills he sponsored seven years ago and spar over process with Ron Paul. Truly, this man is the Republican Jimmy Carter.
- Jon Huntsman, who increasingly reminds me of Barry Weiss from Storage Wars, and gives speeches like Scott Bakula back during his days on Enterprise.
Not content with having just jumped the shark, Rick Perry now seeks to vault the entire damn ocean:
This election is about stopping a president of the United States and his administration that is abusing the Constitution of this country, that is putting America on a track to bankruptcy. It is a powerful moment in Americans’ history, and you are on the front lines. This is Concord. This is Omaha Beach. This is going up the hill realizing that the battle is worth winning.
I’m halfway tempted to ignore this–Perry’s campaign has had the stink of desperation on it so long that it’s hard to remember it any other way, and this is just another burst of the extremist nuttery Perry seems to think his his ticket back into the first tier. But I can’t help it, this is just so damn annoying! Are we really at the point where presidential candidates are going to start implying their opponents are fascists? Apparently. So I had to look at this quote for a while to figure out why it bothers me so much, aside from the Godwin’s Law violation, until I realized that Perry has actually mixed his metaphors here. According to Orwell, this is typically a sign that he doesn’t care about what he’s saying. And I think that is what annoys me the most–it’s one thing if Perry were to imply Obama is a fascist in some sort of heat of passion. Maybe you say something under those circumstances you otherwise wouldn’t. But this is just tossed-off rhetoric that even he doesn’t care about, and yet another line is crossed because Rick Perry is just going through the motions. What a guy.
Anyway, I really hope Perry drops out after tonight’s caucuses. Over the last month they’ve run a campaign worthy of the unbelievably poor polling numbers they’ve earned, just unrelentingly obnoxious to a distinctly greater extent than any of the other campaigns so far as I can tell. And it hasn’t had any effect on their position, thankfully. I hope Perry leaves the race in shame, and that the fail parade follows him back home and kills his political capital in Texas, just like it did to Michael Dukakis. But at least Dukakis actually won something.
Rick Perry’s latest bid for relevance:
I was wondering something earlier. Presumably, these ads will get more and more ridiculous as we move down the pike, right? Would it be possible for the Obama team to just run some of the more crazy ones without embellishment or comment during the general election? Might be amusing.
Anyway, if you spend five minutes over at TPM’s Polltracker, you’ll learn a pretty fascinating tale about Rick Perry. It turns out that he’s by far the most hated of the “plausible” candidates. I mean, really, his favorability ratings are just absolutely abysmal, way worse than Romney, Gingrich, even Herman Cain before he dropped out. Bachmann wasn’t polled but I can’t imagine her getting much worse than the 15% overall approval Perry registers in Florida. And by over three-to-one, his unfavorable ratings outweigh his favorable ones. The guy is just absolutely hated, and it’s far below the 27% threshold–numerically there have to be a fair amount of rock-ribbed Republicans who despise the guy and just want him to go away. Some people might fantasize about a Perry comeback in order to justify their theories about the ultimate power of party actors and such (namely), but why would Republicans want a slow-on-his-feet, aloof, dim dumbass who would characterize his own base as heartless? Who’s that for?
I doubt this paint-by-numbers Fox News outrage ad is going to change that.
Some say Gingrich slipped up here:
I’m prepared to take the heat for saying, let’s be humane in enforcing the law without giving them citizenship but by finding a way to create legality so that they are not separated from their families.
This probably doesn’t help Gingrich in the short term, but it differs qualitatively from Rick Perry’s comments on the same topic in a few ways. For one thing, Perry’s poll numbers were already on the decline when he made his comment about immigration opponents being heartless. It merely hastened an already occurring decline:
Gingrich, meanwhile, is on the rise, as can also be seen by the chart. This comment could easily stall or reverse Newt’s momentum, for sure, but it comes at a different phase in Newt’s campaign than Perry’s comments did. Perry made his remarks after having had a few lackluster debate performances, and after the novelty of his candidacy was beginning to taper off. Gingrich has no novelty of any kind, having been a political figure for decades, and he’s had little problem with respect to debates. He’s been a better fit for the insurgent, Tea Party mentality that prevails in today’s GOP far better than Romney while being able (IMO sadly) to maintain his standing among the elites. This counts for a lot.
The other thing is that these remarks are not nearly as abrasive as Perry’s. Perry literally called opponents of his immigration plan heartless, directly asserting that immigration opponents (i.e. most of the GOP) are cold-hearted bastards while leaving himself no real way to spin his way out of it, other than reversing himself and apologizing. Gingrich might be implying the same thing, but by not outright asserting it, the blow is softened and he’s given himself some wiggle room. He could say, for example, that being humane doesn’t exclude enforcing the law, or some such, and muddy the waters should he suffer any blowback. He’s not stuck with something so inflammatory that the only way to ameliorate it is a full-on reversal/retraction, as Perry was.
And, even more significantly, I think Perry’s mistake (which mostly shows his amateurish political skills) was to give the other candidates a way of opposing liberal immigration policies without having to go all-out and say that. You didn’t have to say you opposed Perry’s policy, merely that his characterization of immigration opponents was out of line or offensive or whatever. (It wasn’t.) But Gingrich didn’t give the other candidates any such opening so far as I can tell. He didn’t characterize people who opposed his plan. So his opponents would actually have to argue against being humane, for breaking up families of illegal immigrants, and against legal status. These stances might work like gangbusters in a GOP primary, but stating it so baldly will be even more toxic in the general. This leaves, say, Mitt Romney with nowhere to really go with it that isn’t fraught with risk.
My guess? Newt, as with so many things over the years, gets away with this one. And, if anything, he’s made it easier on himself for the general election. Not bad for a gaffe, is it?
Has it come to that? Is [Perry] calling Obama a socialist now so routine that it doesn’t even raise an eyebrow anymore? I guess I must have missed it when we passed that milestone.Consider the source. Rick Perry at this point is polling identically to Michele Bachmann. Bachmann calls Obama a socialist all the time. Why? Because she’s way behind and desperate to make an impression. Also, she’s a little off-kilter, but let’s put that aside for the moment. Frontrunners do not talk this way–desperate also-rans do. The fringe candidates have been calling Obama a socialist as long as I can remember. Increasingly, Perry is relegated to this group.
Steve B. asks the question of the election cycle:
I still have no idea why the GOP field is giving Romney a pass on health care. The former governor’s health care included an individual mandate forcing taxpayers to purchase insurance; it provided benefits to immigrants who entered the country illegally; and it covers abortion — and somehow, this hardly ever comes up in the middle of the GOP primary contest. A year ago, the right was saying Romney wouldn’t even be considered unless he renounced and apologized for his health care law, and now, it’s effectively become a non-issue.
Jonathan Bernstein recently argued that Romney’s GOP rivals are “blowing it.” I agree.
I don’t think this is a very hard question, but it’s not one with one simple answer. On the one hand, business plan candidates like Herman Cain have absolutely no reason to involve themselves in the cut-and-thrust of campaign politics, and probably a strong disincentive to slam the party’s likely candidate for 2012. If anything, such a thing complicates how they’re perceived and could make book deals and FOX gigs harder to come by. That alone is a fairly substantial chunk of the Republican contenders, one that includes Cain, Santorum, and probably Gingrich (though Gingrich now seems to think he’s for real). On the other hand, you have your fringe contingent that either prefers a different reality to the one we’ve got (i.e. Bachmann), or is far more interested in their own pet things than trying to play a role in mainstream debate (that’d be Ron Paul, and perhaps Gary Johnson too, though he’s pretty marginal). Ron Paul wants to bring back the gold standard and kill off the Federal Reserve. Gary Johnson wants to legalize pot. Bachmann wants to stop Barack Obama from surrendering to Uruguay. Their obsessions–which are admittedly of very different levels of merit–tend to crowd out issues that other people care about. And then there’s Perry (and Pawlenty, back when he was in), who have made some jabs at this but haven’t been willing to follow through with a vengeance. In fairness, Perry hasn’t yet made his move, and he might well slam Romney on health care closer to the Iowa Caucuses. So that’s the one proviso.
The one wild card here is the one I can’t figure out. Jon Huntsman has for some reason not made a fuss of this issue even though he’d probably do best with it. Political attacks’ effectiveness depends a lot upon the deliverer. Michele Bachmann saying that Obama is detached from reality counts for a lot less than, for example, were Romney to say it (though it still wouldn’t count for much, as it’s a banal attack). Given that, an attack on Romney’s health care system coming from a smart, mainstream, wonkish dude like Huntsman would go a lot further than from, say, Rick Santorum. Huntsman is the most like Romney in the field and stands to gain a lot by shaking loose Romney’s support. Admittedly, Huntsman used to support the mandate concept himself, but I seriously doubt Romney would be in a position to call Huntsman out for just one flip-flop. That would just open him up for Huntsman to strike back on the dozens of flip-flops on Romney’s record. It’s practically fool-proof. Why Huntsman hasn’t tried to turn this into his big issue baffles me, the political calculus for him to do so is strong, and striking this pose would elevate him among conservatives while not dooming him in a possible general election. I can only conclude that, even in a field of incompetence, Huntsman is a strikingly inept candidate, one of the least able to sense and exploit opportunities that is out there. Maybe he has some hidden reason for not doing so (perhaps he’s a closet Obamacare fan?), but from where I sit it looks like plain miscalculation, and he makes up a third contingent with Perry and the late for the campaign Pawlenty: the incompetents.
What this adds up to is a unique situation in which Romney’s biggest threat has been mostly ignored due to the unique structure of this year’s GOP field: you have a group of candidates that splits easily into three segments, the business plan types, the fringers, and the incompetents. These groups are not necessarily mutually exclusive, but Romneycare provides an interesting perspective on just how awful the Republican field is: the business planners lack the motive to attack, the fringers lack both the motive (and the opportunity, frequently), and the incompetents lack the smarts and determination to get it done. Why hasn’t Romney come under attack for inspiring the Affordable Care Act? Read the title of the post.
While he’s hardly an intellectual thought-leader to the rest of us, there is no denying that compared to his competitors (the ones that poll over 2% not named Mitt Romney), he’s the smartest, toughest, and most experienced candidate. He’s not going to make a gigantic and embarrassing knowledge-related gaffe in a debate or on the campaign trail like a Rick Perry. He’s not going to mouth off about Obama being part-Mexican or about how capital gains taxes cause promiscuity in young women like Michelle Bachmann might. He’s not going to proudly admit to not knowing anything at all about foreign policy like Herman Cain does. Newt Gingrich is going to continue to sound like the smartest man at the debate, portraying himself as someone that not only is a true conservative believer but one who has thought long and hard about how right conservatives are about absolutely everything and will explain it to you succinctly if you’d just shut the hell up with your stupid questions and listen for forty-five minutes or so.
His attacking of these debate moderators is very smart – conservatives hate the media, remember? Besides that, he’s not rising in the polls because of some totally gimmicky sound bite tax plan or for being handsome. And he’s not rising like a rocket from some one-off Obama slam line. He’s just being Newt, a pompous, know-it-all conservative bringing a consistent performance to every single debate. He can certainly continue to do that. He’s also probably the most capable of actually attacking Mitt Romney for being a finger-in-the-wind, because so far he’s the only candidate (the ones that poll above 2%) with a proven track record, not just of being a right-winger, but of actually completing their sentences.
At this point, I think that Gingrich is the only possible shortcut left for Democrats to win in 2012. What do I mean by that? Well, merely that Romney is going to be a credible candidate, one with strengths and weaknesses to be sure, but one who isn’t likely to just be a complete trainwreck who’s never in it. Gingrich, though, could very easily wind up being that shortcut to a Dem win: he’s prickly, obnoxious, and by all indications not much interested in message discipline (remember the Paul Ryan incident?). It’s very easy to see him mishandling a crisis or screwing up at a critical moment, reacting emotionally to some perceived slight from Obama or going nuts about some headline he gets, if only because he’s done it so often in his political career (and not that far in the past either). Really, a Gingrich nomination could enter trainwreck territory at any time, and if we know one thing about Obama from 2008, it’s that he’s really, really good at getting under his opponents’ skins, infuriating them and ultimately manipulating them into hurting themselves. With Clinton it took a fair amount of effort and persistence. With Gingrich it would be child’s play. It always is with the proud, pompous ones.
But I guess I’m just pessimistic about getting a shortcut next year. Herman Cain’s chances recede by the day because of his not having an aggressive, effective response to the several sexual harassment allegations against him (and he’s also accidentally shown the limitations of a Fox News-centric media strategy–turns out that being able to manage the actual media matters a little bit in GOP politics too). Rick Perry’s washed up, nothing more than a demographic set at this point. Bachmann bobbled her chance. And Gingrich has little staff and no money. Could he win Iowa? Sure. Romney’s odds of winning Iowa were never very good regardless of whether he got in, and ultimately a well-spoken, slick, establishment type is about the last thing Iowa’s going to pick, historically speaking (and going by the polls, too). But if Newt somehow gets Iowa to happen, Romney’s easily going to win New Hampshire next, and at that point Gingrich is going to have to actually, like, be a candidate. How much confidence do you have in that? I have my hopes, but I still think it’s going to be Romney.
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