Much of the thrill of watching Mad Men is the unabashed way it displays the retrograde views of its leading characters. The same is true, of course, of the ongoing Republican presidential primary. In fact, while it’s hard for us to picture the GOP candidates joining the hedonistic adventures of 1960s Madison Avenue (one pictures Mitt Romney gleefully pouring himself a second glass of chocolate milk), we did think some aspects of their personalities (and their political platforms) would fit right in.
As Mitt Romney struggles, yet again, to nail down the Republican presidential nomination, a question keeps presenting itself: Is Romney’s team incompetent?
[Guest post by Isaac Chotiner] Ross Douthat's New York Times column yesterday made the argument that the much-maligned Republican Party has not gone crazy. Republican voters showed no interest in voting for Herman Cain, Michele Bachmann, or Donald Trump, and they (the voters) are inevitably going to hand the nomination over to Mitt Romney. Jon Chait has responded by arguing that Romney is going to win the nomination because he (Romney) has been acting like a crazy man. Beyond that, he has vastly more money than his opponents, none of whom are good politicians.
“If forty economists tell you it’s Thursday,” Jim Grant, the fiat money doomsdayer, warned, “you’d better check the calendar.” As I proceeded to do just that (Thursday, yep), the audience of conservatives at the CPAC panel “The Need For a 21st Center Gold Standard” continued nodding along.
Back in October, I went up to Cambridge, Massachusetts to watch the eighth Republican primary debate of the season with Mark McKinnon, the Republican media strategist who had served as debate coach for George W. Bush, John McCain, and Sarah Palin. I was interested in McKinnon’s professional assessment of a Republican field whose succession of frontrunners, from Tim Pawlenty to Herman Cain, had nearly all been made or unmade by debate performances. At the time, Rick Perry was hurtling toward the abyss, Cain was bafflingly ascendant, and Mitt Romney was performing as advertised.
What do Republican voters think of Don’t Ask Don’t Tell? What about income inequality? There are certainly more scientific ways to take the temperature of a political party, but we have found the audience reactions at recent GOP debates somewhat instructive. The following clips, all taken from the past few months of debates, show the statements that caused audiences to cheer or boo. So what gets the Republican Party riled up these days? Likes include: waterboarding, executions, and Andrew Jackson’s belligerence.
Herman Cain, gamely trying to claw his way back onto the national stage, is promising an “unconventional” endorsement in the GOP primary race on January 19th. Cain, having never been elected to anything, is not a politician, and he’s no longer a businessman, so it’s fair to call this a celebrity endorsement. Do those ever have any impact? A 2008 study examined this question using the example of Oprah’s endorsement of Barack Obama during the Democratic primaries.
Having spent much of 2011 writing incessantly about the Republican presidential nominating contest, I’m simultaneously relieved and saddened by the impending end of the “invisible primary” and the beginning, with next Tuesday’s Iowa caucuses, of the actual voting.
Iowa City, Iowa - Now that the Cain Train’s spectacular derailment is firmly in the rearview mirror, and his supporters have dispersed, it’s time to ask who has benefitted from the enthusiasm that propelled him. I spoke with about a dozen party leaders in populous, influential districts to try to get at the answer. One thing is clear: Newt Gingrich has picked up portions of the Cain vote. Steve Grubbs, Cain’s Iowa campaign chair, told me that most of his supporters went to Gingrich, with Michele Bachmann the secondary beneficiary.
[Guest post by Simon van Zuylen-Wood] Perhaps the most puzzling aspect of Newt Gingrich’s highly puzzling ascendance is his popularity among Tea Party voters. As of December 6 he was the overwhelming Tea Party favorite, with 47% of their support. (This enthusiasm may have flagged amid the targeted attacks Newt’s opponents have been deploying this week.) Gingrich’s lead could be a passing fad, but while it lasts, he’s got the Tea Party to thank. His numbers among “moderates/liberals” and “Tea Party nonsupporters” are virtually identical to Romney’s.