Ed Kilgore

When the entire candidate field opened fire on Herman Cain’s 9-9-9 tax proposal in Tuesday night’s Republican debate in Las Vegas, you could almost hear the sound of hundreds of exhaled breaths in elite GOP circles. Cain’s improbable rise in national and early-state polls would now end, they probably figured, as GOP voters discovered the pizza man’s signature policy proposal wasn’t terribly well thought out. But it’s likely that Cain could have overcome the criticisms surrounding his tax proposal.

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In the many baleful assessments of the 2012 Republican presidential field, the running joke for months has been “somebody has to win.” Indeed, that seems to be the main reason so many pundits are confident that Mitt Romney, a candidate the party’s rank-and-file conservative stalwarts clearly don’t like and don’t want to nominate, will ultimately win the prize.

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The Persecution Card

 [Guest post by Ed Kilgore] Alec made note of Anita Thigpen Perry’s tearful and defiant speech yesterday at North Greenville University suggesting that her husband was being “brutalized” by the media and his presidential rivals because of his faith.  But there’s another notable aspect of these remarks beyond Ms. Perry’s display of fierce spousal loyalty, or even her conviction that God has cast an early ballot for her husband: the debasement of the idea of “persecution,” one of the most unattractive habits of the contemporary Christian Right. Ms.

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The shape of the 2012 Republican presidential contest has now assumed a strange, shadowy form. The original front-runner, Mitt Romney, is the front-runner again, and is rapidly consolidating elite acknowledgment as the probable nominee. But his levels of actual support among GOP voters and conservative activists seem to have barely budged. Rick Perry, the political Leviathan who threatened to put the whole contest away just a month ago, is in deep trouble, bleeding support everywhere and alienating his Tea Party base with a toxic position on immigration.

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Et Tu, Iowa?

[Guest post by Ed Kilgore] Until yesterday, all the recent public opinion surveys of the Republican presidential campaign showing a shocking collapse of support for Rick Perry and an equally surprising surge for Herman Cain have lacked one key data point: Iowa, where the “invisible primary” will turn into actual voting in January or even earlier. September came and went with no public polling in the First-in-the-Nation Caucus state. Now both NBC/Marist and PPP have polls out on likely Iowa caucus-goers, and they are thinking much like Republicans everywhere.

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The latest big phenomenon in the Republican presidential nominating contest is the sudden collapse of Rick Perry, who looked to be consolidating a formidable lead just a month ago.

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We’re at a very strange juncture in the 2012 presidential contest. Rick Perry continues to struggle, as Mitt Romney savagely exploits his offensive-to-conservatives position on immigration and the Texan deals with new, potentially damaging revelations of a racially insensitive name for a hunting camp rented by his family. But Romney’s not benefitting much in the polls, and he remains a persona non grata to many conservatives.

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Former pizza magnate Herman Cain’s upset victory in the September 24 Florida Republican straw poll, and his subsequent rise to a competitive third place position in at least one national poll, are being generally interpreted as a function of GOP voter unhappiness with previous “top-tier” candidates (Mitt Romney, Rick Perry, and arguably Michele Bachmann and Ron Paul).

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Until just last week, things were looking up for Republicans, with Obama’s approval ratings sinking and the GOP nomination process settling down to a choice between two potentially formidable candidates, Mitt Romney and Rick Perry. But after the demolition derby of “P5”—the series of candidate events in Orlando including a candidates’ debate, a state straw poll, and several speaking opportunities—fear and panic have gripped elite GOP circles. Indeed, what’s been revealed is that the two front-runners are locked in an increasingly savage competition that exposes both of their vulnerabilities.

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In the war of words over Barack Obama’s presidency, one important asset for conservatives has been the ability to identify at least a few self-styled “centrists” to periodically support the standard Republican claim that Obama is a dangerous leftist who is recklessly expanding the federal government beyond any past precedent or reasonable expectation.

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