In picking a vice presidential running mate, Republican Mitt Romney wants to avoid the Sarah Palin syndrome.Then-Republican nominee John McCain shook up the 2008 race with his dramatic choice of the relatively unknown Palin, but the problems she faced during the campaign will be on the minds of Romney and his vice presidential search team.
President Obama, speaking with unemployed workers in job training programs in Elyria, Ohio. ELYRIA, Ohio — The battle for Ohio is on, but for many voters here choosing between President Obama and Mitt Romney is like trying to decide between liver and brussels sprouts — a selection they would rather not have to make. A one-stop destination for the latest political news "” from The Times and other top sources. Plus opinion, polls, campaign data and video.President Obama, in Ohio on Wednesday, joked about needing a football helmet for the race. ...
PHOENIX — Voters in southern Arizona's 8th Congressional District on Tuesday night chose Republican Jesse Kelly to face former Gabrielle Giffords aide Ron Barber in a special election to replace the wounded ex-congresswoman.
Kelly had about 38 percent of the vote and the margin was enough for The Associated Press to declare him the winner in the race. He beat three other GOP candidates – state Sen. Frank Antenori, retired U.S. Air Force pilot and political newcomer Martha McSally, and Tucson businessman and longtime sports broadcaster Dave Sitton.
Antenori and McSally both conceded before final results were available.
Giffords tapped Barber as her preferred replacement, and he drew strong financial support and no challengers in the Democratic primary.
Kelly is a businessman and tea party favorite who nearly unseated Giffords in 2010.
Barber and Kelly will face off in the special general election on June 12. That winner will hold the seat until Giffords' term expires at the end of 2012. The race for the full term for the renumbered District 2 kicks off with an August primary.
Giffords resigned from her seat on Jan. 25, slightly more than a year after she was shot at a constituent meet-and-greet in Tucson. Six people were killed and 13 others were wounded including Barber and Giffords.
The 8th District spans parts of Tucson and its suburbs, some of Pinal and Santa Cruz counties and all of Cochise County.
All four Republicans in the race embraced strong conservative issues like enhanced border security before immigration reform, repeal of federal health care legislation and cuts to the size of federal government and of federal regulations. That may be an issue for Kelly since Barber embraces Giffords' moderate Democratic positions, which can be a draw to the independents who decide the general elections in the district.
The 8th District has nearly 425,000 registered voters with 159,000 Republicans, 134,000 Democrats and 128,000 independents.
WASHINGTON -- Immigrants and minorities who live near the U.S. northern border are fearful of Customs and Border Protection agents, accusing them of racial profiling, according to a report released Tuesday.
"We're really used to hearing about this stuff on the southern border," said Ada Williams Prince, policy director for One America, an anti-racial profiling organization that released the report with the University of Washington Center for Human Rights. "[Washington] is where they filmed the "Twilight" movies. It's all beautiful, but in reality you're talking about communities that have been harassed ... and are living under this climate of fear."
The report, based on interviews with more than 100 men and women who live within the border protection area on northern Washington, found many Latinos and Arab-Americans were afraid to call 911, even to report crime, because they said they did not want to attract government attention.
In some cases, One America found that border protection responded to medical emergencies calls or served as translators for local police, then inquired about immigration status. The study also found some immigrants were stopped based only on the color of their skin, according to One America.
A spokesperson for border protection said the agency "strictly prohibits profiling on the basis of race or religion" and follows the Department of Justice's "Guidance Regarding the Use of Race by Federal Law Enforcement Agencies."
The agency has been questioned about racial profiling before. The New York University School of Law advocacy group Families for Freedom and the New York Civil Liberties Union released a report in November 2011, raising concerns about racial profiling by border protection in transportation raids.
Border protection rapidly expanded over the past decade, from 340 agents along the U.S.-Canada border in the 2001 fiscal year to 2,069 in the 2010 fiscal year. But on Tuesday, One America urged the government to stop growing its northern presence until questions of racial profiling are addressed.
Immigrant rights groups have raised similar concerns with Immigration and Customs Enforcement, which often works in concert with border protection. One of ICE's key enforcement programs, Secure Communities, disproportionately nets Latinos, according to a report from Berkeley Law School.
Retired Sacramento, Calif., police chief Arturo Venegas Jr., said in November that local law enforcement could scare immigrants away from reporting crime by assisting in immigration efforts.
"The immigrant community needs to know that they can work with state and local police to put criminals behind bars and not risk their own deportation," he told House members at a subcommittee hearing on Secure Communities.
Senate Democrats attempted a national conversation on racial profiling, holding a hearing Tuesday. The panelists discussed the February shooting of Trayvon Martin, an unarmed black teenager in Florida, as well as profiling of Muslim Americans and Latinos. Sen. Dick Durbin (D-Ill.), who led the hearing, emphasized the need to pass the End Racial Profiling Act, which would require federal agencies to adopt policies aimed at eliminating racial profiling.
"Let's be clear. The vast majority of law enforcement officers perform their jobs honorably and courageously, putting their lives at risk to protect the communities they serve," he said in a speech. "But the inappropriate actions of the few who engage in racial profiling create mistrust and suspicion that hurt all police officers."
The decision by Democrats and their union allies to try and defeat Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker via recall is increasingly looking like a bad bet. The latest poll numbers out of the Badger State show that Walker leads all possible Democratic challengers in the vote that is scheduled for June 5. The best showing of the four Democrats in the race was from Milwaukee Mayor Tom Barrett, who trailed Walker 50-45 percent. Walker bests Kathleen Falk by seven points and both Doug La Follette and Kathleen Vinehout by ten points. The Public Policy Polling survey conducted for the Daily Kos...
Mitt Romney's presidential campaign is obsessed with the women's vote.On the day after Rick Santorum dropped out of the race and removed all doubt Romney would be the nominee, the campaign issued five press releases within three hours on the theme that President Barack Obama's economic record has failed American women: one featuring comments by Romney, four highlighting remarks by female Republican politicians supporting him.
They'll Call It RacistA no-brainer. Who else rushes so eagerly to exploit and worsen every inflammatory racial situation going? Who else"”after the notorious Tawana Brawley hoax (in which he falsely accused six white men of raping a 15-year old black girl); and the racial conflagration in Crown Heights, Brooklyn (where a Jew was stabbed to death after he inflamed local blacks byÂ proclaiming, "If the Jews want to get it on, tell them to pin their yarmulkes back and come over to my house,"); and the Freddy's Fashion Mart tragedy (wherein...
With an iconic name and access to Washington cash, U.S. Rep. Connie Mack looked like the great Republican hope when he entered Florida's U.S. Senate race and posed a serious threat to Democratic incumbent Bill Nelson.
Six months later, however, Mack has proven to be neither a potent statewide candidate nor a shoe-in to win the Republican nomination against his little-known rivals.
This week, North Korea suffered a major embarrassment when its missile test demonstrated how far the country has advanced in producing a weapon of mass dysfunction. On the campaign trail, Rick Santorum announced he was suspending his run for the White House, thereby avoiding what was shaping up to be an embarrassing primary trouncing in his home state. In dropping out of the race, Santorum said, "We were winning in a very different way." You mean by losing? That is very different. In Florida, the man who killed Trayvon Martin was finally arrested and charged with second-degree murder -- yet another example of what is possible when people come together in a social movement to force an unresponsive system to act. And in Massachusetts, the state marked another year of its health care system. Happy 6th birthday, Romneycare! So sorry your father abandoned you. Let's hope your national cousin doesn't get the same shoddy treatment.
Add your voice to the conversation on Twitter: twitter.com/ariannahuff
Now that Mitt Romney's general election campaign is breathing air, will he soon be "live, from New York"? The Republican presidential candidate has been asked to host "Saturday Night Live," according to Maureen Dowd's New York Times column, published Saturday evening.
Lorne Michaels, the showâs executive producer, has offered a guest spot to Romney, who is considering it.
If recent seasons of "SNL" are any indication, the current season, the show's 37th, will see three more episodes. None of the remaining guest hosts have been formally announced, as of Saturday evening. If Romney does not host this season, he would not host until the next season's premiere in September, which is only about a month before the 2012 election.
The last time a figure in the world of politics hosted was Donald Trump's episode in 2004. That same season, Al Sharpton performed a guest hosting stint. But the last time a presidential candidate hosted was in the spring of 1996 with GOP hopeful and magazine publisher Steve Forbes, although he ultimately did not get far in the primaries. In the last several election cycles, all presidential candidates, with the exception of John Kerry, have made an appearance on "SNL" during their campaigns, either in the studio or pre-taped.
Of course, in 2008, Tina Fey made a cultural mark by lampooning Republican vice presidential candidate Sarah Palin in opening of the 34th season. As recently dramatized in the HBO movie "Game Change," Fey's impersonation of Palin cemented public opinion of the Alaska governor. (Palin's candidacy was announced in August 2007 while "SNL" was on hiatus.)
Dowd's op-ed column quotes several sources at "SNL," including writer James Downey, who has written the bulk of show's political parodies nearly since the show's beginning, and Seth Meyers, the show's current head writer and "Weekend Update" anchor. Much of Dowd's column is devoted to the show's staff expressing boredom with the likely pairing of Romney and Obama, with Dowd calling it "Tin Man vs. Spock."
Meyers unfavorably compared the 2012 race to the 2008 race, telling Dowd he saw Palin as a "once-in-a-lifetime opportunity" for a comedy writer.
In 2012, the show will have another potentially tricky option to solve: The casting of Mitt Romney. Jason Sudeikis has always portrayed the former Massachusetts governor. But with rumors that Sudeikis will exit the show at the end of this season when his contract expires, it seems likely that another cast member will take over for Romney, such as newcomer Taran Killam. Kristen Wiig, who plays Ann Romney, is also rumored to leave at the same time. However, Downey says that he is "sure they would stick around for the pre-election shows."
To anyone so foolish as to have persuaded himself otherwise, the past three weeks have been a reminder that Barack Obama is at best a slight favorite for re-election by a narrow margin. Rick Santorum’s exit on Wednesday from a Republican primary race that already was settled means that the de facto nominee of the party, former governor Mitt Romney of Massachusetts, has time for damage control that would have been too late three months from now. The odds are even or better that by June, the United States Supreme Court will overturn the president’s signal...
The dynamics of the presidential race changed shape last week for two reasons. First, neither Mitt Romney nor his staff made a gaffe following the victories that put the nomination in his pocket at long last — which suggests they may be settling in and getting more focused after a jumpy couple of months.Second, President Obama and his staff were caught up short by a worrisome jobs report they didn’t expect — a report that demonstrates the degree of Obama’s vulnerability in November and the challenge the president may confront if he has to face the...
Now that the GOP race is effectively over, just how damaged is Mitt Romney?Romney works the crowd during a campaign event in Broomall, Penn., April 4, Steven Senne / AP PhotoRepublicans had hoped that a long primary contest would energize voters and excite them about the fall campaign. Instead, Romney seems to be the suitor his party doesn't quite want, blamed for the party's failure to win women and Hispanics, caricatured for his flip-flops, and facing an uphill struggle to build a winning coalition.Romney's negatives reached a record high last month with 50 percent of all...
The conservative magazine National Review has fired John Derbyshire, a prominent columnist who provoked outrage Friday with a column published in the webzine Taki's Magazine, which warned white people to avoid "large concentrations of blacks," among other nuggets of racially tinged advice.
Derbyshire has a history of controversy when it comes to race â he even proclaimed himself a racist, though a "tolerant" one, in a 2003 interview â but he had managed to avoid any real firestorms. His latest piece, though, proved to be a step too far. Written in response to articles about the "talk" black parents were having with their children about the dangers of racism in the wake of the Trayvon Martin shooting, Derbyshire wrote about some of the offensive advice he had allegedly given his own children. Just a few of the examples:
(10a) Avoid concentrations of blacks not all known to you personally.
(10b) Stay out of heavily black neighborhoods.
(10c) If planning a trip to a beach or amusement park at some date, find out whether it is likely to be swamped with blacks on that date (neglect of that one got me the closest I have ever gotten to death by gunshot).
(10d) Do not attend events likely to draw a lot of blacks.
(10e) If you are at some public event at which the number of blacks suddenly swells, leave as quickly as possible.
Anyone who has read Derb in our pages knows heâs a deeply literate, funny, and incisive writer. I direct anyone who doubts his talents to his delightful first novel, âSeeing Calvin Coolidge in a Dream,â or any one of his âStragglerâ columns in the books section of NR. Derb is also maddening, outrageous, cranky, and provocative. His latest provocation, in a webzine, lurches from the politically incorrect to the nasty and indefensible. We never would have published it, but the main reason that people noticed it is that it is by a National Review writer. Derb is effectively using our name to get more oxygen for views with which weâd never associate ourselves otherwise. So there has to be a parting of the ways. Derb has long danced around the line on these issues, but this column is so outlandish it constitutes a kind of letter of resignation. Itâs a free country, and Derb can write whatever he wants, wherever he wants. Just not in the pages of NR or NRO, or as someone associated with NR any longer.
INDIANAPOLIS -- Sen. Richard Lugar sounded wistful in his gratitude when he thanked supporters packed in the skybox of the Indiana Pacers' home court, as though he could see the approaching end of a political career that has spanned nearly half a century.
"I thank all of you, the 50 or 60 of you who are co-sponsors of the rally. We appreciate very much your willingness to put your own names on the line and be helpful in bringing together this assembly," said the 80-year-old Indiana Republican who was first elected to the Senate in 1976.
That characteristically understated demeanor has endeared Lugar to generations of Hoosier voters. It belies the fierce battle in Republican circles over whether to retire him now or give him six more years in Washington.
Lugar and Utah's Orrin Hatch, 78 and sent to Capitol Hill in the same year as Lugar, are tea partyers' top Senate Republican targets for defeat this year, portrayed as old bulls out of touch with today's conservatives. They are the GOP's two most senior members in the Senate.
Both have come out swinging, a lesson learned when Hatch's fellow Utah senator, Robert Bennett, had his re-election bid derailed two years ago by the fledgling tea party movement in the state GOP's nominating convention.
Hatch has shored up his support, furiously courting delegates to this year's convention on April 21. He has emphasized his seniority and covered his flank with more conservative stances and votes.
Lugar also started early, hiring a full-time campaign manager in the fall of 2010. He built an extensive network of campaign volunteers and by the first of this year had amassed a 10-1 cash advantage over his tea party challenger, state Treasurer Richard Mourdock.
Lugar, however, has had to play a frantic defense heading into the May 8 primary after tea partyers, joined by Democrats, turned the incumbent's residency outside the state into a dominant campaign issue.
He fumbled questions about the address on his driver's license: an Indianapolis home he sold in 1977. He had to switch his voter ID to his farm in Indianapolis after the local election board ruled last month that he couldn't vote using the 1977 address. Lugar, who owns a home in Virginia, also repaid the U.S. Treasury $14,700 last month that his Senate office paid for his hotel stays in Indiana.
"That's a self-inflicted wound. It just doesn't look good symbolically," said Margaret Ferguson, who heads the political science department at Indiana University-Purdue University Indianapolis. "Things that have been brushed aside now carry some momentum that they would not have in the past."
Conservatives have rallied around Mourdock, a geologist and quiet campaigner who three years ago challenged the Chrysler bankruptcy terms in the U.S. Supreme Court. The Club For Growth, National Rifle Association, Citizens United, Hoosiers for Conservative Senate and FreedomWorks, a tea party umbrella group, have endorsed him.
The Club for Growth purchased more than $250,000 in airtime over the past two weeks for anti-Lugar ads after spending $160,000 against him last year. FreedomWorks has spent $100,000 in Indiana.
"Lugar is still in control of this race, but it's tight, much tighter than it was six months ago," said Andy Klingenstein, one of a trio of former aides who formed the Indiana Values super political action committee to battle on Lugar's behalf.
Lugar's power in Indiana Republican circles is legend, multiplied by generations of aides and operatives who cut their teeth with him in the 1960s when he was mayor of Indianapolis. He's been insulated from serious challenges within his own party and even Democrats have considered him invincible, choosing in 2006 not to field a challenger.
But a strong anti-incumbent mood and pressure from the right to define who really is a conservative have forced the well-funded Lugar to turn to super PACs like Klingenstein's, which is airing ads attacking Murdock.
Monica Boyer, one of the leaders of Hoosiers for Conservative Senate, said she, like most other Indiana tea partyers, had always voted for Lugar because "he had an `R' in front of his name."
The tipping point, she said, was when Lugar voted to confirm President Barack Obama's Supreme Court nominees, Sonia Sotomayor and Elena Kagan. That was a "hard wake-up call," she said, that spurred tea partyers to dig deeper into Lugar's voting record. There, she said, they discovered votes for an assault weapons ban and other moderate stances that have led critics to say Lugar is Obama's "favorite Republican."
"We learned how to use the roll call system. That's probably his worst nightmare right now," Boyer said.
The tightening of the GOP race has left Democrats giddy. Pushing their own candidate, U.S. Rep. Joe Donnelly, they look at what once was considered a safe Senate seat for Republicans as now in play in the general election.
Hatch, who needs 60 percent of the state GOP convention delegates to win on the first ballot, appears to be faring better in Utah. Supporters have spent more than a year emphasizing the importance of his seniority as the top Republican on the tax-writing Senate Finance Committee and his influence on federal land issues and the next round of military base closings.
"I'm in a position that benefits Utah in a fantastic way," Hatch said. "This going to be my last term. I'm committed to that. But it's going to be the best six years you've seen."
That argument has played well with state GOP convention delegates, some of whom said during recent caucus meetings they feared having two first-term senators from the state. It also was underscored in an endorsement by leading Republican presidential contender Mitt Romney, who is extremely popular among Utah Republicans.
Dan Liljenquist, a former state senator who seems to be Hatch's strongest challenger, has tried minimize the seniority issue by highlighting the increased debt and spending on benefit programs during Hatch's tenure.
"Is seniority so important that we feel forced to make the same decisions for the same people that got us into this mess? For me, leadership trumps seniority every time. There is a time for new leadership, and that time is now," Liljenquist said.
FreedomWorks director Russ Walker said his group will continue to work for Hatch's "retirement" after spending nearly $650,000 leading up to the March caucus meetings.
But he acknowledged it isn't as easy to paint differences between Hatch and his opponents as it was in 2010, when Bennett was being hammered for supporting the Troubled Assets Relief Program and had co-sponsored a bipartisan health care overhaul.
"It's a little more challenging this cycle because everybody is saying the same things," Walker said. "We have to define the differences."
For Lugar, those differences may boil down to whether Indiana voters think he's conservative enough.
Polling shows Mourdock closing as money flows into the race from both sides. Klingenstein's pro-Lugar group plans to spend upward of $1 million on the race, and Walker said FreedomWorks plans to expand its opposition to Lugar. Another pro-Lugar super PAC, Hoosiers for Economic Growth, is raising $1.75 million in its effort.
Gov. Mitch Daniels, a Lugar protege who has headlined fundraisers for him in Indiana and Washington, said it's been so long since Lugar has had a competitive race that many voters don't have much of an image of him. That has hurt Lugar's efforts to defuse questions about his residency and roots in the state, according to Daniels.
"He was in nothing but tough races, until he wasn't," Daniels said. "There's probably a couple of generations of voters that don't have all the information that people did back then."
Associated Press writer Josh Loftin in Salt Lake City contributed to this report.
Popular conservative columnist and National Review writer John Derbyshire topped all of his previous racist screeds (and sexist rants) today by posting a long breakdown of all of the important lessons he has taught his children about race â and heâs outdone his own racism with this one.
WASHINGTON — If anything is stable in this presidential race, it is the idea that 2012 is a volatile campaign year. A one-stop destination for the latest political news "” from The Times and other top sources. Plus opinion, polls, campaign data and video. In part that reflects the last two elections, when Democrats and Republicans in turn won big victories, and the expectation that November represents a tiebreaker. Even more, it reflects a roller coaster Republican primary campaign, which at different moments has elevated Michele Bachmann, Rick Perry,...
Spreading like a wildfire, outrage over the shooting death of unarmed Florida teenager Trayvon Martin has ignited an explosive national dialogue about the tumultuous and fractured status of race relations in the United States.Rallies held across the country by prominent civil rights leaders, politicians, clergy, community organizers and celebrities such as Al Sharpton, Jesse Jackson, Chaka Khan, Betty Wright and Alonzo Mourning, among others, have called for George Zimmerman's immediate arrest and dramatic social...
The following is adapted from the e-book “Playbook 2012: Inside the Circus — Romney, Santorum and the GOP Race,” by Mike Allen and Evan Thomas, conceived and edited by Jon Meacham. “Inside the Circus” is out Tuesday from Random House in Kindle, Nook and iTunes formats ($2.99).
Ben Zweifach: Moon-Shot: How the President Can Exploit "Newt-onian Mechanics" and Take Down Citizens United
Here's some heartening news for those of you keeping score at home: We're only halfway through the GOP presidential primaries.
Wait, don't jump!
Some good may yet come from the GOP's death-march. The race has thus far been so destructive that it's managed to do the impossible: Americans are uniting... against Citizens United. Thanks to the intraparty negativity, support for overturning the case has gone from 62 percent in January to 80 percent in March, and presented President Obama with a rare opportunity. In the off-chance that healthcare is overturned and bin Laden emerges from the Arabian Sea like the skeletons in Pirates of the Caribbean, here's fertile ground for Obama to go legacy-hunting. He should campaign for a constitutional amendment to end money-as-speech in politics. Thanks to Super PACs, Newt Gingrich, and the most damaging primary battle in two decades, it's actually becoming feasible.
The Court's decision -- in effect, to bless unlimited corporate donations to proxies "unaffiliated" with the campaigns -- has blasted Pandora's box into a million pieces. And, by god, the splinters are flying everywhere, especially into the eyes of the Republicans.
The Super PAC-hate is widespread and multi-factored, but we begin with the never-ending circus that is the Newton Leroy Gingrich campaign. The physics of presidential politics used to be simple: when popular support dried up, a campaign would run out of cash and close shop: thus, action and reaction. Not anymore, friends. We now live in a world of Newt-onian mechanics: When an unstoppable force meets an immovable object, that immovable object finds a sugar daddy to bankroll his tantrums.
By all accounts, we should have been rid of the speaker after Iowa. With the exception of close relatives and a few enthusiasts in Georgia, nobody wanted to invest in a scene from Don Quixote. But, lo! Enter Sheldon Adelson, the Las Vegas billionaire and benefactor to Gingrich's ego-trip; he's like Magwitch, the generous convict in Great Expectations, and he's showered his bloated 'Pip' candidate with cash so feverishly, you'd think the man had developed an allergy to paper. (If you haven't been acquainted with Mr. Adelson, he feels very strongly about Israel's security, and looks a lot like the Indiana Jones villains whose faces melt off when they open the Ark of the Covenant.)
And so, thanks to a single, obscenely rich fellow, Gingrich has been permitted to extend his Monty-Python/Black Knight imitation until we all go bananas.
Yet as Gingrich runs around the country insisting he's a "world-historical figure," waving farcical gas station logos, and making promises about plummeting prices plausible only on his imagined moon colony, Republicans and Democrats alike are struck by the utter preposterousness of the charade. Nothing has so exposed the laughable impracticality of Citizens United as crisply as Mr. Adelson's one-man marching band for a dude most Americans wouldn't trust running a 7-Eleven. So, really, I suppose we should thank Adelson and join him in Vegas to celebrate.
Beyond the Gingrich specter, Super PACs have also led to the most negative bloodbath in primary history. Hit-job ads are effective at destroying their target, but have also, historically, blemished the attacker enough to discourage unbridled use. It's the reason you don't see Coke running commercials that begin with an ominous voice whispering "Pepsi tastes good... but is it really healthy for you?... Coke is an American company with American values." It's unbecoming.
But from behind the veiled anonymity of Orwellian names like "Restore our Future," there's no incentive to hold back. Hence, the thousands of shockingly aggressive intraparty assaults, the likes of which nobody has ever seen. Voters everywhere have felt ambushed by the cascade of constant primal shrieking. They can't escape it; not in hotels, not in cars, not in their homes. The attacks have disillusioned Americans' already cynical view of government, and left a bad taste in their mouths. And rest assured, the general election is going to make this look like Jenga. Americans in swing-states will be vomiting in trash bins by November.
Finally, and most importantly, Super PAC vitriol has left the GOP nominee-in-waiting with a bloody nose. Thanks to nuclear exchanges like this one, Mitt Romney's unfavorability rating has hit 50 percent, an unprecedented number for a nominee. When and if Mr. Romney loses the election, look for Republicans to blame the Citizens-encouraged brawling for delivering a wounded candidate into the ring. The party is already adopting the narrative.
So, what to do? Rebalancing the Court could certainly lead to a reversal, but President Obama should go big -- blaze the trail with a call for constitutional amendment. There are enormous hurdles, of course. For one thing, the requisite two-thirds Congressional support and three-fourths state ratification is a daunting percentage in 2012 America. But polls indicate we're already close, and the fall battle will only spike support. And, yes, Obama's endorsement of his own Super PAC will expose him to charges of hypocrisy; but surely few reasonable voters expect a candidate to unilaterally disarm while the current law stands. We didn't abolish our nuclear weapon stockpile to set an example during the Cold War, after all. Of course, most difficult will be the corporate lobbyists standing in the way of a campaign finance overhaul.
But the public is on the president's side. Such a call to action would be bold; popular; and necessary. America's owner's manual needs revising. The Super PAC pandemonium has made that clear.
So shoot for the moon, Mr. President. Just make sure you don't hit Newt's colony.
If it had been a white teenager who was shot, and a 28-year-old black guy who shot him, the black guy would have been arrested.So assert those demanding the arrest of George Zimmerman, who shot and killed Trayvon Martin.well.
WASHINGTON -- Ryan Miner remembers watching a fat piece of sausage splatter with a thud against a picture of Sen. Rick Santorum adorning the side of the senatorâs campaign RV.
It was fall 2006, and Miner, then a Santorum intern, was helping feed a group of Pittsburgh Steelers fans tailgating outside of Heinz Field. But it was a tough sell -- especially because the Santorum volunteers were peddling snacks and campaign literature to rowdy, buzzed hoards. The crowd eventually turned on the volunteers, and a weapon of choice was Polish.
"Fuck you Rick Santorum!" Miner recalls the sausage-tosser shouting.
In short order, the tailgaters assailed the Santorum volunteers with whatever they could get their hands on: sausage, cookies, half-empty cups of beer, and beer cans.
"For the most part it was pretty unpleasant," recalls Bryan Nagy, who had joined his friend Miner for the event so he could get some free food. "A lot of booing. Some people would spit in the general direction of the bus."
The event was supposed to build camaraderie and sell Santorum as a beloved member of Steeler Nation. Yet, like much of that brutal 2006 campaign that ended Santorum's Senate career, it simply reinforced the impression that Santorum -- whom the electorate had come to regard as sanctimonious and out-of-touch -- played for the away team.
By that point, the dark-haired grandson of a steelworker had represented Pennsylvania for more than 15 years. But he was at the nadir of his popularity and it wasnât clear to political analysts and other campaign observers whether voters ever truly liked him. After all, Santorum had lived most of his political career on the margins. He barely defeated entrenched incumbent Rep. Doug Walgren (D) in his first run for Congress in 1990. In 1994, he beat Sen. Harris Wofford, an establishment Democrat, by two percentage points during a terrible year for Democrats. He won re-election to the Senate easily in 2000.
But by 2006, the state had grown tired of the former Pittsburgh attorney and Penn State graduate. He would lose to Democrat Bob Casey by 18 percentage points -- the largest margin of defeat for an incumbent senator since 1980.
Now, as Santorum runs for the White House and heads into a Republican primary in the Keystone State in late-April, memories of that 2006 race -- much like the sausage launched at his RV -- loom for him and his team.
Forced to address Santorum's historic drubbing, his top advisers have argued that then-President George W. Bushâs unpopularity, coupled with votersâ dramatic turn against the Iraq war, made winning impossible.
"The entire loss [of support] was due to independents and Democrats, which tells you that its more environmental than anything else," John Brabender, Santorumâs longtime and current political guru recalls in an interview. "They were very, very angry at Bush. They were very angry at Washington, and Rick was in the leadership in Washington.â
Santorum insists heâs grown from the experience.
"It was a painful night, that night, in many respects, but it was a night that I felt that I needed to sort of reassess and take a good look at me and my family and being a husband and a father and take that responsibility a little bit differently and a little bit more seriously,â he said during a speech at the Pennsylvania Leadership Conference outside Harrisburg last weekend.
Interviews with more than a dozen former aides, adversaries, and close observers of the â06 contest, however, show that important lessons -- about the need to stay on message, convey warmth to voters and appear less patronizing -- havenât been learned at all. The senator who stumbled so badly six years ago, many say, is the same candidate now locked in a hotly-contested race for the Republican presidential nomination: pugnacious and unscripted, talented at retail politics, but often his own worst enemy.
âAs you have seen in this campaign, Rick has a tendency to get off-message and say things that he believes, but things that better wisdom would have left unsaid,â former Pennsylvania Gov. Ed Rendell (D) tells The Huffington Post. âThe parallels [between the two races] are shockingly similar, shockingly similar.â
OFF THE DEEP END
It didnât take long into the â06 campaign for Democrats to become convinced Santorum would lose.
Saul Shorr, a top adviser to Casey, says that he had reached that conclusion âby the end of 2005,â well before Bush or Iraq became major factors. Jay Reiff, Caseyâs campaign manager, explains that by the turn of the year, the image of Santorum as a senator who had âreally grabbed on to the ultra-right wing elements of his partyâ was firmly cemented.
One top Pennsylvania Democrat says it dawned on him during a 2003 opening event for the National Constitution Center in Philadelphia that Jon Stewart hosted. The "Daily Show" anchor thanked Tom Ridge, the former Pennsylvania governor who was then Homeland Security secretary, for protecting America's borders. Then Stewart thanked Santorum for protecting America from the rear.
âHeâd become a caricature,â explains the Democrat, who requested anonymity out of wariness that heâd be endorsing a crude attack on someone he still considered a friend.
As early as September 2005, troubling signs emerged for Santorum's re-election. Penn, Schoen & Berland, the high-powered consulting firm, conducted three focus groups in Pennsylvania -- two in Pittsburgh and one in Johnstown -- on behalf of a Santorum Watchdog 527 group called The Lantern Project. Those interviewed were all identified either as "weak Democrats" or independents. The final focus group report, obtained by HuffPost, portrayed a skeptical electorate.
"None of these groups,â the consultants wrote, âhad any great love for Senator Santorum."
The actual responses were painful. "He's a very arrogant person," said one Johnstown woman. Santorum's deepening religiosity troubled some. "I think he's going off the deep end," said one senior Pittsburgh woman.
"Give me my God. You can have your God, but it doesn't mean we have to take [his] God," said a blue-collar male in Pittsburgh.
These impressions had been fed by a variety of controversial statements and associations that Santorum had made during the preceding months and years. The senator was close to K Street lobbyists, and had angered conservatives with his support for fellow Pennsylvania Sen. Arlen Specter (a moderate voice within the Republican Party before officially becoming a Democrat), even though he was portraying himself as a fiery cultural conservative.
In 2005, Santorum had gone to the bedside of a brain-damaged Terri Schiavo in the face of widespread public criticism of government intervention in the controversial case. Earlier, he had argued that Bostonâs liberalism played a role in the Catholic Church's child sexual abuse scandal -- earning a rebuke from then-Gov. Mitt Romney, the man now besting Santorum for the Republican presidential nomination
Santorum had also written a book, "It Takes A Family: Conservatism and the Common Good," that would eventually help undermine his re-election ambitions. It portrayed him as a fearless culture warrior, painting the public school system as dangerous, inveighing about race and gay marriage in eyebrow-raising passages, and arguing that mothers benefit from staying at home.
âSantorum's loss in 2006 was so overwhelming that you can hardly attribute it to any single factor,â says Specter in an interview. âYou have Santorum's views. When the people of Pennsylvania found out about them -- his attitude that women don't belong in the workplace, his Neanderthal view on contraception and the book he wrote about the gay rights, [his comments about] man-on-dog bestiality. ... The only thing he didn't do in his '06 campaign was attack Jefferson.â
LETTING RICK BE RICK
Santorum began the â06 campaign with a simple enough strategy, according to his campaign manager at the time, Vince Galko: draw stark contrasts between himself and Casey. He would emphasize his seniority in the Senate, arguing that being third in line in the GOP leadership meant a wealth of federal dollars for the state. Casey was blessed with a famous last name, Santorum would argue, but he'd be entering the Senate as a powerless freshman.
The Santorum campaign certainly enjoyed the benefits of seniority. Galko says the team raised tens of millions of dollars and shattered volunteer and door-knocking goals. But connecting with average voters was much harder.
"That message never resonated,â says Galko. âPeople didn't really care about the whole seniority thing.â
Instead, Santorumâs ties to D.C. proved toxic. The senator had won his first election in 1990 by pounding Walgren for his Virginia residency. As Santorum's â06 re-election campaign kicked into gear, those attacks became a liability.
Santorumâs kids were living in Virginia while his Pennsylvania school district paid $55,000 to reimburse that state for their education through the Pennsylvania Cyber Charter School. Jon Delano, a political operative-turned television anchor in Pittsburgh, recalled that the arrangement dominated news coverage for weeks, with Santorumâs old foils revelling in the chance to call out hypocrisy.
âYou know, what goes around, comes around,â Walgren told WTAE news in May 2006, adding later in the interview: "I know that he knows that that attack on me was something that he probably says to himself often, âGee, here I am, Iâm doing the same thing.ââ
Santorum did not handle the school controversy calmly. He accused a Casey operative of illegally trespassing onto his Pennsylvania property to get information. The Casey campaign denied the charge, but Santorum wouldn't drop it. When a local reporter asked him what proof he had, he unintentionally acknowledged he didn't live Pennsylvania.
"I have proof that he says, that he claims that there was no furniture in there and that there were no blinds in the window," he told a reporter from KQV, a local radio station, about his Pennsylvania home, according to a transcript. "You cannot know that unless youâre looking in the window."
Though Santorum withdrew his kids from school in Virginia, he refused to acknowledge wrongdoing, airing two separate ads during the fall of â06 -- narrated by his wife and children -- that pushed the idea that his residency was out of bounds as a campaign issue. But it wasnât until later in 2006 that the senator finally gave in on the matter, forfeiting tax breaks he received on his Penn Hills home to get the issue behind him.
"It had prevented there being real scrutiny on Bob Casey," Brabender says, explaining the residency controversy damage.
This became a familiar pattern throughout 2006, and itâs one that has resurfaced in 2012. Rather than bending to electoral realities, Santorum tried to reshape them -- sometimes successfully, more often not.
There is no more vivid example of this than his book. Santorum ignored aides who urged him to wait until after the election to publish the provocative screed. Instead, he dove head-first into controversial subject matter.
"I didn't really want to write this book," he explained during a July 2005 C-SPAN interview. "I was asked to do it. And yet when I sat down and really started thinking about things -- as how America should be and what is going to make America successful in the future, I didn't want to cheat myself by not putting me in that book. And so I ended up dumping me in the book."
The bookâs passages would haunt Santorum, leaving fellow Republicans with little to do but shrug their shoulders.
The book "created difficulty with ordinary voters," says Lowman Henry, a Republican state committee member. "Rick made it worse by being Rick -- by publishing his book."
Santorum couldn't resist plowing into controversial social issues, Henry explains. "It's like dangling a shiny object in front of a child."
Jim Roddey, the Allegheny County GOP chairman, put it more bluntly: "It would have been better had he not written the book.â
By the end of the race, Santorum's campaign had reached that same conclusion. Struggling to overcome a serious perception problem with female voters, Santorum held a Sept. 1, 2006, news conference at the Omni William Penn Hotel in Pittsburgh to showcase endorsements from prominent women lawmakers. Meanwhile, on its website, his campaign placed a page titled â
http://web.archive.org/web/20061101204507/http://www.ricksantorum.com/uvc/fMyth.aspx" target="_hplink">I heard around the water cooler.â It included five bullet points, each with a read-more section offering explanations for some of the more alarming passages in the book.
"It certainly, you know, caused problems at times," says Galko. "It hurt in the sense that it was just another thing that, you know, another obstacle that we had to overcome each week."
As the 2006 campaign made its way through the summer, aides found themselves unspooling the very image that they and Santorum had originally constructed.
Reportedly wary of his image as a paragon of religious conservatism, Santorum was forced to decline an offer from then Sen. Sam Brownback (R-Kansas) -- a leading Christian conservative -- to appear on the stump. Instead, Santorum blasted out press releases touting support from centrist senators, a âDemocrats for Santorumâ coalition led by Sen. Zell Miller (D-Ga.), even nice words from MSNBCâs Chris Matthews.
Santorum aired an ad that showcased his work with Hillary Clinton and compared working in Washington to participating in a professional wrestling match. In another spot, he declared himself neither conservative nor liberal, nor well-regarded by President Bush.
The repackaging of the Santorum brand included an ambitious 12-page booklet titled "50 Things You May Not Know About Rick Santorum," which attempted to sell the senator as a global healer and protector of everything from children to puppies. The highlights included "working closely with Bono" to eliminate world poverty and AIDS (No. 4), supporting efforts to clean up the Chesapeake Bay (No. 6), "aggressively pursuing breakthrough stem cell research" (No. 9) and working with John McCain on lobbyist reforms (No. 10). His efforts to abolish puppy mills ranked 19th.
But for all his glossy pamphlets and puppy love, Santorum still couldnât stick to a script. The campaign tried to plan things ahead of time, recalls Galko. âBut to stop Rick Santorum from being who he is, he would have never achieved what he's achieved.â
âYou're going to take three steps forward one step back every now and then," says Galko. "But you have to let Rick be Rick."
RED IN THE FACE
Santorum had always been one of Pennsylvaniaâs most able and hard-working retail politicians. He won his first congressional race by walking the streets, without support from the official GOP apparatus. One close Casey aide recalls warning his boss that heâd be running against someone âwho has the political skills to run for president.â
In 2006, however, glad-handing could be hazardous. Ryan Miner, the Santorum intern and campaign volunteer, remembers knocking on doors in a 30-mile radius of Pittsburgh and encountering rage.
"I'll say this emphatically -- there was a seething, vehement hatred of Rick Santorum," says Miner, who was attending Duquesne University at the time. "We would go door to door. They would tell us to go fuck ourselves."
"You're a young guy, what the hell are you working for this idiot for?" he recalls residents asking. Sometimes they'd wonder, "Why are you wasting your time?"
On occasion, Miner was tasked with driving Santorum to campaign events. These were not always happy road trips. "He was somebody that could get very upset very quickly," says Miner, who is now supporting Romney. "Rick had a short fuse."
After a tour of an animal shelter north of Pittsburgh in August, Miner says Santorum became germaphobic. "He demanded that we drive back in, pick up some hand sanitizer from the Giant Eagle back in the city of Pittsburgh," Miner recalls.
Miner remembers Santorum expressing disgust with a kid he saw standing in the grocery store parking lot with baggy pants, declaring he'd never let his son dress that way. Even in the most private, apolitical moment of the day, Santorum couldn't suppress the urge to judge.
"Santorum was at a constant state of unrest. There was not a moment that wasn't intense with him," Miner says. "I don't think that Rick Santorum ever turned it off."
Santorum's temperament turned off a lot of voters too -- not just motivated liberals, but Tea Party-precursing conservatives who felt scorned by their junior senator.
By early summer 2006, it was clear that retail politicking wasnât going to save Santorumâs campaign. A study by the polling firm SurveyUSA ranked Santorum as the least-popular senator in the U.S.
Later, in July, the Santorum campaign set up a private meeting in Harrisburg to patch up relations between the candidate and leaders of the disaffected base. But what had been billed as a reconciliation quickly devolved into a screaming match, according to three attendees. About a dozen activists, many of whom had supported the conservative Club for Growth candidate Pat Toomey in his losing 2004 Senate race against Arlen Specter, brought up Santorum's support of Specter, in addition to his record on earmarks and deficit spending.
Sitting among the critics was Ryan Shafik, a former Santorum intern who went on to work in several campaigns before becoming a political consultant. "He defended deficit spending," Shafik recalls. "He screamed at people defending deficit spending. ... He really went nuts."
Bob Guzzardi, 67, had donated $30,000 to Republican groups that year, including maxing out to Santorum. Even he left the meeting unimpressed.
"He was Prince Rick," Guzzardi says. "He was just full of himself."
Jason High, a conservative activist, remembered Santorum swearing during the back-and-forth.
"At one point, Rick said, 'You know if I don't have the people in this room passionate about me, then I've lost already,'" High recalls. "And I looked at him and I said, 'Rick I don't know anyone else who will tell you this to your face, but I'm telling you -- I'm not passionate about you.'"
Santorum's argument to the activists mirrored his broader campaign pitch: Without him, there would be no conservative power in Pennsylvania. Galko concedes the meeting got "contentious," but says accounts of his candidate's meltdown are overblown and amount to "recreating history."
Brabender, who says he doesn't recall the meeting, says the activists were applying an unreasonable and unfair âpurity testâ to Santorum.
âWe certainly found it a bit odd at times that anybody who was a social or a fiscal conservative against Casey would do anything but support us and support us enthusiastically,â Brabender says. âRick had written more pro-life legislation than probably anybody at that time and at the same time he was a fiscal conservative, one of the strongest and with the highest ratings.â
Six years later, however, attendees still shudder at Santorumâs abrasiveness that day.
"I know he banged on the table a few times," High tells HuffPost. "Very red in the face. Just very confrontational. ... One person called me on the way home and told me they were voting for Bob Casey because Rick had to lose. He was just so arrogant."
Now one of two Republican presidential candidates with a believable reason to keep campaigning, Santorum says heâs been humbled and mellowed by that sobering â06 experience.
"The people of Pennsylvania didn't always give me what I wanted, but they always gave me what I needed," he said at the recent Pennsylvania Leadership Conference, adding that it was a âgreat gift to get awayâ from Washington.
The benefits of getting away seemed apparent as he trekked through the dog days of summer last year. Toiling at the bottom of the Iowa caucus polls, he nevertheless carried a positive message, homing in on the need for a manufacturing renaissance and leaving divisive cultural issues to the side.
But as primary wins piled up and the spotlight grew a bit brighter, self-damaging tendencies resurfaced. He argued that health insurers should be able to deny contraception coverage for women, called setting the goal of higher education for everyone snobbery, said President Barack Obamaâs politics were tantamount to a phony theology, declared that prenatal care was designed to encourage abortions, and called public schools indoctrination factories.
There were tactical lapses inside Santorum headquarters as well. Santorumâs failure to get on the ballot in critical districts and states denied him opportunities to keep up with Romney in the delegate hunt -- the byproduct of the same fly-by-the-seat-of-your pants approach that personified his past runs. In 2006, Santorum burned through his massive cash advantage so quickly that the campaign was forced to stop advertising briefly in late-October.
There is the apocalyptic rhetoric as well. Six years after closing his Senate campaign by accusing Casey of failing to appreciate the threat of âIslamic fascists,â Santorum is now running similar ads against Obama.
âThere are a lot of parallels and similarities on how Rick Santorum is running his campaign now and what he did in â06," says Reiff, Caseyâs â06 campaign manager. "When the spotlight gets turned on, and he's in front of a friendly crowd, he feeds off that crowd and can't stop himself from pushing the envelope just a little too far -- or a lot too far, depending on your perspective.â
When envelope-pushing cost him a chance to win the Michigan primary last month, Santorum lost an opportunity to lay legitimate claim to being the likely Republican nominee. His wife, Karen, warned him not to get distracted by the shiny side-issues. He subsequently won a few more primaries.
Time and delegate math, however, arenât on his side. And as the primary shifts to more moderate states, including Pennsylvania on April 24, opponents are making the case that the â06 race was more norm than anomaly. But there are no plans for a course correction.
âWhy is Rick Santorum the only remaining viable alternative to Mitt Romney?â asks Brabender. âMy belief is that people see what comes with him being willing to do what is not always the politically smart thing to do. Thatâs answering questions or talking about topics that maybe others wouldn't. At the same time, it creates a genuine nature of who he is. ... It means you have to fly without a net in a sense.
âI always kid people that on some days what I'm doing may be media malpractice, except that this is what Rick Santorum has made it clear for me he wants for the candidate and I believe it is working.â
Amanda Terkel contributed reporting.
White Hispanic." That's how the New York Times, Reuters, and other media outlets have opted to describe George Zimmerman, a man who would simply be Hispanic if he hadn't shot and killed 17-year-old Trayvon Martin. The term, rarely if ever used before this tragedy, is necessary in telling the Martin story in a more comfortable way.What's the comfortable way? It's the way the blame for Martin's death belongs squarely at the feet of "the system." And "the system" is a white thing, don't you know?For instance, in a...
ANNAPOLIS, Md. -- Under pressure to help unify his party, Republican presidential hopeful Newt Gingrich pledged Tuesday to support Mitt Romney if the former Massachusetts governor wins enough convention delegates to clinch the nomination by the end of the GOP primary season in June.
If Romney falls short, "I think you'll then have one of the most interesting, open conventions in American history," the former House speaker said as he campaigned for votes in next week's Maryland primary.
Gingrich is short on funds, and his hopes for a Southern-based comeback in the race were all but extinguished by rival Rick Santorum's recent victories in Mississippi, Alabama and Louisiana. Even so, he has insisted he plans to campaign actively into the party convention, which begins on Aug. 27 in Tampa, Fla.
He signaled his change in remarks to reporters. If Romney gets the 1,144 delegates needed for the nomination by the time of the Utah primary on June 26, Gingrich said, "obviously I will support him and will be delighted to do anything I can to help defeat Barack Obama."
Gingrich and Santorum have both come under increased pressure from some Republicans in recent weeks to swing behind Romney, who is on track to pick a majority of delegates before the primaries end with the vote in Utah.
Gingrich has tried to position himself as an anti-establishment figure in the race for the nomination, and has bristled at the devastating attacks that Romney and a Romney-aligned super political action committee unleashed at him at key moments in the campaign.
Yet as a former House speaker, he is also aware of the importance of party unity as the general election campaign comes into view.
Romney is the front-runner with 568 delegates, based on a tally by The Associated Press. That is slightly less than half the needed 1,144 delegates, and more than four times as many delegates as Gingrich, who has 135.
Gingrich conceded he is strapped for campaign funds.
"The money is very tight, obviously," he said. "That's why we're trying to raise more money."
Gingrich has struggled since his campaign peaked just before the Iowa caucuses kicked off the nominating process in January. He has won just two contests – in South Carolina and his Georgia home state.
His campaign listed more than $1.5 million in outstanding debt by the end of February, according to Federal Election Commission filings, including legal fees and advertising production costs. At the same time, Gingrich had about $1.5 million cash on hand – the lowest of the four GOP candidates.
Maryland, where registered Democrats outnumber Republicans by a 2-to-1 margin, has drawn unusual attention from the from the GOP presidential candidates. The state has 37 delegates at stake in its primary next Tuesday.
Romney campaigned in Maryland last week. Texas Rep. Ron Paul, the fourth Republican in the race, has scheduled an event at the University of Maryland on Wednesday.
Associated Press writer Jack Gillum in Washington contributed to this report.