With the exception of paid ads, national conventions provide the most controlled environment for messaging any party or campaign can possibly enjoy. Not a word goes into the party platform or onto the podium teleprompters without approval from the nominee’s staff.
For the third consecutive time, Republicans are planning to feature an aggrieved Democrat (or ex-Democrat) at their national Convention to personalize claims that the latest Democratic presidential nominee has abandoned the true legacy of his party and left moderate-to-conservative donkeys no option but to vote for the GOP. As it happens, I know the most recent trio of apostates pretty well. 2004’s Zell Miller, who was enlisted to savage John Kerry’s national security credentials, was my boss in Georgia back in the early 1990s.
DES MOINES—“It's a historic day,” Rep. Steve King of Iowa announced yesterday from the podium of the FAMiLY Leadership Summit 2012, a major gathering of social conservatives in a suburban Des Moines megachurch that drew a host of national political celebrities. King wasn’t talking about the event, or even the prospect of ejecting Barack Obama from the White House, but of the choice of his friend and colleague Paul Ryan to become Mitt Romney’s running-mate.
“Tough on Kids; Weak on Work.” That was Bill Clinton’s regular and emphatic judgment on the Republican attitude on welfare reform as he vetoed two congressional GOP bills before cutting the deal that became the landmark 1996 law. This was no mere rhetoric. As a welfare policy wonk in the 1990s I can attest to the fact that Republican interest in welfare reform was focused on everything other than work: punishing illegitimacy, creating absolute time limits for eligibility, devolving responsibility for the indigent to the states, and saving money for the federal government.
Anyone who’s lived in metropolitan Atlanta in recent decades (as I did until 1995) knows its infamously snarled highway traffic. But any Georgian also knows that it would be impossible to raise taxes to do something about it—at least since 2004, when Republicans achieved control of both the legislative and executive branches of state government for the first time since Reconstruction.
The holy crusade that movement conservatives undertook against Texas Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst concluded with Tuesday’s Senate runoff, producing his once-unlikely defeat at the hands of his much-celebrated Tea Party challenger, former state solicitor general Ted Cruz.* What makes the election so interesting is that Dewhurst, who has been denounced from one end of the conservative blogosphere to the other as a “RINO” and as “Dewcrist,” can’t really be accused of any specific ideological heresies.
The most fascinating aspect of the 2012 presidential campaign has become Mitt Romney’s incredible shrinking campaign-relevant biography. Seriously, think about it: his entire strategy is to keep the focus on unhappiness with the performance of the economy under Barack Obama’s stewardship, and then glide to victory after easily crossing the invisible threshold of acceptability that challengers to struggling incumbents supposedly need to navigate. Yet the number of items from his resume that he is willing and able to talk about in order to cross that threshold is close to the vanishing point.
Republicans have been the first to assert, without shame, the parallels between their own “Swift-boating” of John Kerry in 2004 and the Obama campaign’s alleged “Swiss-boating” of Mitt Romney over Bain Capital’s business practices.
In all the puzzlement over the irrationality of Republican governors vowing to turn down the bonanza of federal dollars provided for expanding Medicaid, there’s a reason hiding in plain sight: pure ambition. It’s no accident that several of the fire-breathers on this subject—notably Rick Perry, Bobby Jindal and Nikki Haley—have exhibited interest in (or have been reported to covet) higher office. I don’t know if Rick Perry still wants to be president, or can overcome the impression of buffoonery and incompetence that helped sink his once-formidable 2012 campaign. But I do know that his one