Ron Paul

It's easy to imagine the anxiety of Mitt Romney's advisers when debate crowds get as rowdy and bloodthirsty as the one attending last night's Republican affair in Myrtle Beach. Romney has shown that, even more than most politicians, he is unable to resist the gravitational pull of what he imagines his audience's id to be, which has led to some of his more unfortunate pronouncements.

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At last night's Republican debate in Myrtle Beach, S.C., we heard the candidates talk about whether ex-cons should vote and we heard the candidates talk about the right to bear arms. At the next debate, I'd like to hear the candidates talk about whether ex-cons should bear arms. Asked about Mitt Romney's attacks on his candidacy, Rick Santorum complained that Romney's Super PAC had an ad that said he favored allowing felons to vote from prison, when in fact what Santorum favored was allowing felons to vote after they've served their prison sentences.

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Is the Christian Right still a power in American politics? The lavish coverage which its partisans and their favorite issues have received during the current Republican campaign certainly leave that impression. Yet all this attention is akin to the dazzling glow of a setting sun. In fact, the Christian Right is a fading force in American life, one which has little chance of achieving its cherished goals. Yes, pious conservatives earned the underfunded Rick Santorum a virtual tie in the Iowa caucuses, and, last week, a large gathering of evangelical leaders nodded fervently in his direction.

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Ron Paul has recently suggested there was only a “total of about eight or ten sentences” of “bad stuff” in the newsletters that he regularly used to publish under his name. This assertion was patently false: As TNR has shown, the newsletters contained dozens of statements marked by bigotry and conspiratorial thinking.

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Martin Luther King Day is supposed to get us thinking about how black people have come a long way but still have a long way to go. Okay, but what MLK Day has me as a black person thinking about is Lee Siegel.  Specifically, what’s on my mind is Siegel’s idea, broadcast in the paper of record on Sunday, that Mitt Romney’s appeal is based on his being the “whitest” Presidential candidate in a long time. It’s a hit-generating proposition, to be sure. But it’s also a sign of how very far we've come on race.

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Amid all the talk this week about whether Newt Gingrich et al will be able to bring down Mitt Romney with their attacks on Bain Capital, there's been little said about the man who's really on the move: Ron Paul. After finishing a strong second in New Hampshire -- tripling his share of the vote from four years ago -- Paul is the one getting a bounce in South Carolina.

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My colleague Tim Noah, a Twitter neophyte like myself, noted in a tweet earlier this week an interesting tidbit in the New Hampshire exit polls that many others have overlooked.

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There is good news and bad news for Mitt Romney out of New Hampshire. The good news is that he won an impressively broad-based victory that did nothing to slow his drive for the Republican presidential nomination. But it also exposed a vulnerability that could soon prove debilitating, if not fatal, to his candidacy. While Romney is not yet a prohibitive favorite, he will be if he wins in South Carolina. And he will win, as John McCain did in 2008, if multiple candidates to his right divide the anybody-but-Mitt vote.

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Bigots and Enablers

On the surface, Rick Santorum and Ron Paul do not appear to have a lot in common. Yet, there is one respect in which they are strikingly similar: Pundits on both the right and the left have been all too eager to give their least defensible traits a pass. At this point, there is almost an accepted style for such rationalizations.

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Has there ever been a bigger gap between a party’s enthusiasm for its presumptive nominee (very low in this case) and the ease of his path to the nomination? Romney emerges from New Hampshire with a win that won’t impress anyone, given his ties to the state and the relentlessness he showed in courting it.

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