Mitt Romney says a lot of questionable things on the campaign trail, like taking credit for the auto bailout he criticized or pretending that he never touted his Massachusetts health care law as a model for national reform. But one of the most dubious claims he’s making isn’t a disprovable statement of fact. It’s a theory about the economy—one that I suspect the majority of economists, including many conservatives, would reject. Romney’s latest attempt to promote this theory came on Tuesday, during a campaign speech in Iowa.
In 2008, nobody much cared what Ron Paul wanted: He was dismissed as a fringe candidate, someone defined by the decades he spent losing 434-to-one votes in the House and refusing to endorse his party’s presidential candidate. In this presidential cycle, however, questions about Paul’s intentions have risen, precisely because his performance has begun to resemble that of a conventional politician who can compete if not win.
I first saw Mitt Romney playing the dread Europe card on the campaign trail in Iowa. “I think President Obama wants to make us a European-style welfare state,” went the standard refrain. “What I know is that, if they do that, they’ll substitute envy for ambition. And they’ll poison the very spirit of America and keep us from being one nation under God.” At another stop, Romney warned that Obama’s policies were already “making us more and more like Europe. I don’t think Europe is working in Europe.
Other than the brief period when the concept of “President Newt Gingrich” looked slightly plausible, the strangest phenomenen in this otherwise predictable election season has been Americans Elect, a political “party” without a platform or a candidate, but with a likely place on the ballot in almost every state. For now, it may seem the only reasonable response to the benighted Americans Elect is to ignore it (as many clearly have).
Rick Santorum’s withdrawal from the Republican presidential race earlier this week marked the end of a long, strange trip for the former Pennsylvania senator, who made himself the political vehicle for Christian Right resistance to Mitt Romney. But the lesson of Santorum’s inevitable defeat isn’t that he was too socially extreme. Ironically, it was his record of loyal support for the compassionate conservative agenda of George W. Bush that did Santorum in, not his 1950s-era values.
Right around the time that Rick Santorum was making up his mind to end (or “suspend”) his campaign for the Republican nomination, it was reported that Mitt Romney’s campaign was pulling a harsh anti-Santorum ad from the Pennsylvania airwaves, out of deference to the fact that Santorum was having to tend to his 3-year-old daughter, Bella, during yet another visit to the hospital for the girl, who was born with the rare chromosomal disorder trisomy 18.
The only mystery left in the Republican presidential race is guessing the moment when Rick Santorum bows to the inevitable. It may come with a gesture of face-saving capitulation before his home-state primary on April 24, with a feeling of forgotten-man frustration as Mitt Romney nears a delegate majority in early June, or with a final burst of angry defiance on the eve of the Tampa Convention.
Regardless of whether Mitt Romney or Rick Santorum comes out ahead in Ohio later today, Super Tuesday already promises to make at least one growing segment of America’s political class gleeful: caucus skeptics. Of the ten events scheduled for today, only those in North Dakota, Idaho, and Alaska will tally votes by means of a caucus rather than a primary election, and most attention will be elsewhere. But, even if it’s temporarily pacified, the anti-caucus sentiment that has been burgeoning in the wake of the various vote-counting follies in Iowa, Nevada, and Maine is sure to crop up again.
Livonia, Michigan—Rick Santorum is running on fumes. His is the curse of insurgent presidential campaigns—too much passion and too little sleep. You could hear it in his voice Monday morning talking to a Chamber of Commerce breakfast in Livonia as the decibel level grew higher, the diction grew muddier, and the logorrhea grew more obvious. An open-ended question on Social Security prompted a nine-minute Santorum monologue.