The Permanent Campaign
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
So T-Paw ran for the big prize in 2012, and despite almost ideal positioning as a credentialed non-Romney who was acceptable to movement conservatives, he was the first significant candidate to drop out because he couldn’t convince a few thousand people to take a free bus ride and eat a free lunch on his ticket in Ames, Iowa, right next door to his own state. The early demise of his candidacy, however, meant that he had scant opportunity to offend Mitt Romney (or anyone else in the GOP)—and he blew his one effort to do so by so timorously mentioning “ObamneyCare” just once in a candidate deba
Back in April, my esteemed mentor and colleague William Galston and I had an exchange at TNR about whether the presidential election would necessarily serve as a “referendum” on the president’s record (particularly with respect to the economy, of course) and what that meant for Obama’s re-election strategy.
It’s always a mistake to over-interpret a single state or local election, because special circumstances unrepresentative of broader trends may have had a large effect on the outcome. Would Barrett have done better if he had been able to deploy against Walker the months and millions he was forced to divert to win his party primary before the recall? What if he had enjoyed the full-throated support of his party from President Obama on down?
Now that Mitt Romney is officially the presumptive Republican presidential nominee, and we have some distance from the primaries that decided it all, it’s time to consider the lessons. Otherwise, poor memories, shaky analysis and self-serving spin will combine to congeal a conventional “wisdom” that is anything but. As someone who obsessively chronicled every twist and turn of this very odd nomination contest for TNR, here are my five top takeaways: 1. Mitt Romney is a very lucky man.
In the two months since Eric Fehrnstrom’s “etch-a-sketch” gaffe, many political observers have waited for the iconic moment when Romney would move to the center or distance himself from the toxic conservative ideological battles of the primary season. But without much notice, that etch-a-sketch moment has already happened. No, Romney has not shifted positions. Nor has he disrespected the conservative activists whose votes and trust he sought so relentlessly since 2007.
Plenty of liberals and other Americans of good conscience no doubt breathed a sigh of relief when AmeriTrade founder and Chicago Cubs co-owner Joe Ricketts distanced himself yesterday from the $10 million racially-tinged Jeremiah Wright ad blitz that the New York Times had reported he was considering buying. But it would be a mistake to consider that any sort of significant victory against the disproportionate power wielded by super PACs.
President Obama’s surprise announcement yesterday that he now supports marriage equality for same-sex couples brought great joy to two very different groups of people.
Of all the issues on which Mitt Romney will be tempted to execute an “Etch-a-Sketch” moment as he heads into the general election, immigration is the most pressing. Remember, on immigration Romney didn’t just rely on his super PAC to slur his opponents; he identified himself robustly with the nativist strain in the GOP. This worked out fine in the primaries: It helped him snuff the existential threat of Rick Perry’s candidacy, and provided additional fodder for his team’s crucial attack on Newt Gingrich after the South Carolina primary.