Things Rick Santorum Used to Say

It’s debate day – today the remaining major candidates will debate in Arizona, days before the Arizona and Michigan primaries. There hasn’t been a debate in a while, something that one could rarely write before this month, and the landscape has shifted dramatically since Santorum swept Colorado, Missouri, and Minnesota. He is now the front-runner and the cash is flowing into his coffers, while Romney is spending down his reserves at a fast rate which should scare both his supporters now and hurt his ability to run a strong campaign if he is the nominee.

But with a new debate and his new status as front runner, the research books are opening up on Rick Santorum. Huffington Post reported yesterday that Santorum was pro-choice before he entered politics.

In a December 1995 Philadelphia Magazine article — which the Huffington Post pulled from Temple University archives — Santorum conceded that he “was basically pro-choice all my life, until I ran for Congress… But it had never been something I thought about.” Asked why he changed his mind, he said that he “sat down and read the literature. Scientific literature,” only to correct himself and note that religion was a part of it too.

Huffington Post also reported on campaign statements from 1990 which showed Santorum as what would today amount to being a moderate Republican on abortion. This is fairly surprising given Santorum’s culture warrior bonafides. As a result, we can expect this line of attack to be raised in tonight’s debate.

In a slightly more bizarre edition of “Thinks Rick Santorum Used to Say,” the Drudge Report is quoting Santorum more recently at the far other end of the culture war. The quote allegedly comes from a 2008 speech at a college in Florida:

“Satan has his sights on the United States of America!” Republican presidential hopeful Rick Santorum has declared.

“Satan is attacking the great institutions of America, using those great vices of pride, vanity, and sensuality as the root to attack all of the strong plants that has so deeply rooted in the American tradition.”

This sounds a lot more like the Santorum that we now know, so I don’t know that it would do much to turn off the Republican voters who are trending his way. But this sort of rhetoric is exactly the type of thing that would likely ensure that nominee Santorum would lose in historic fashion, which is, incidentally, the elite Republican critique of him.

Daily Caller: Fox News is the head of the GOP

Tucker Carlson’s online rag, The Daily Caller, is doing a series of hit pieces on Media Matters for America. Based on anonymous sources and conspiracy-minded dreck, the whole series is a hot mess. Today’s feature piece is an attempt to discredit Media Matter’s non-profit tax status, with the dramatic sounding headline of Media Matters tax-exempt status may face new scrutiny from Congress. They may face congressional scrutiny! Maybe!

My favorite line in the whole mess is notable in that The Daily Caller concedes that Media Matter’s criticism of Fox News as not just an arm, but a leadership element, of the Republican Party amounts to Media Matters engaging in partisan, political activities which are prohibited by their 501(c)3 status:

Because Brock has referred to Fox News as a political organization and the “de facto” leader of the GOP, Gray and other critics have argued that Media Matters is engaged in the kind of direct political activity forbidden by IRS regulations.

The Daily Caller is trying so hard to kick-start a Republican Congressional investigation into Media Matter’s tax status that they concede Media Matter’s core criticism of Fox News as a Republican propaganda outlet!

Politics is serious business and progressives should be concerned that a major piece of progressive infrastructure is under concerted attack from the right. But if this sort of nonsense from The Daily Caller doesn’t make you laugh out loud, you’re missing one hell of a comedic performance…

De Boer on Paul

Freddie De Boer:

I could never vote for Ron Paul, for a thousand reasons. I have been arguing against many of his policies and the worldview that generated them for the entirety of my adult life. But I have to value his voice in the national debate because almost no other national political figures will raise these issues at all. I would love if these issues were being expressed by politicians and pundits who combined them with righteous views on domestic policy. But here, too, mainstream progressivism deserves a great deal of blame. Left wing politicians like Bernie Sanders and Dennis Kucinich have embraced discussion of foreign policy and civil liberties, and for their trouble they have been dismissed as unserious by the self-same progressives who now dismiss Ron Paul’s ideas. For far too long, mainstream progressives have signaled their “seriousness” precisely by denying the validity of people like Kucinich or Sanders, so taken with some bizarre definition of the reasonable that they effectively silence the leftist non-interventionists they say they want. If you want left wing criticism of our militarism and surveillance state, stop ridiculing those who express it.

The notion that there is something less disqualifying about support for murder and oppression than support for regressive and racist policies cannot stand scrutiny. The right to not be killed precedes all other rights. It is the foundation on which all other rights rest. What value can any rights have if they are not protected by a right to not be killed? Freedom of expression is no solace to a corpse. Likewise, what value do other rights have if those rights are not protected by rights of the accused? There is no value in freedom of assembly or religion if you can be thrown into a cage without a trial where you can invoke those rights. The right to protest has no meaning if the executive can respond to that protest by killing you without accountability, legal challenge, or review. Civil liberties are not merely right on principle. They are the necessary bedrock on which all conduct in a free society must rest.

I think this is right, though it’s worth noting that freedom to eat in restaurants regardless of race or freedom to make choices about one’s own body or freedom to marry whoever one is in love with are also questions of civil liberty. But yes, it’s hard to enjoy these liberties if you’re dead.

De Boer expands on the question of propriety of criticism, which I have looked at throughout this debate.

The whole argument has revealed American progressives at their absolute worst: incurious about the bad consequences of their positions; totally convinced that righteousness in intent can only lead to righteousness in effect; preemptively contemptuous of criticism from the left; dismissive of arguments that they themselves made under the last administration; and ultimately just as partisan as the conservatives they railed against three short years ago.

I want those who profess belief in liberalism and egalitarianism to recognize that they are failing those principles every time they ignore our conduct overseas, or ridicule those who criticize it. What I will settle for is an answer to the question: what would they have us do? If you can’t find it in you to accept our premises, at least consider what you would do if you did. For those of us who oppose our country’s destructive behavior, there is no place to turn that does not result in ridicule. Every conceivable political option has not only been denied by establishment progressives, but entirely dismissed. The idea that one should criticize the President from the left is not just wrong but self-evidently ridiculous. The notion of primarying President Obama is not just wrong but self-evidently ridiculous. The idea of supporting a candidate from a different party is not just wrong but self-evidently ridiculous. Every conceivable path forward, for those of us who demand change in our conduct overseas, is preemptively denied. I want my country to stop killing innocent people. What am I supposed to do?

This earnestness of this objection to the two party straightjacket that many progressives find themselves in is powerful. There are strong pressures from conservatives of both parties to make their ideas normative and marginalize actual liberal politicians. Sadly this is often adopted by ostensible liberals as well (as De Boer reminds us with reference to Sanders and Kucinich). In the eyes of political partisans, there is just no appropriate way for objections to be noted, outside of the Democratic Party’s own processes (excluding primaries) or private, off-the-record meetings with administration officials.

This is the heart of the tension within the American left today. I see it as very much tied to the duel problems of the Democratic Party being the sole instantiation for affecting progressive change and the failure of the Democratic Party and its leaders to map their ideological goals onto liberalism. In the absence of a political party which can stop us from killing innocent people, as De Boer asks, what options are there? What is appropriate? Or will the desire to confront these policies and the leaders who enact them meant to fail to find any outlet, as something which must be forced back into the closet where we can wear its shame in private? I don’t have a solution to the incuriousness of our citizenry, let alone of Democratic partisans. But I don’t see an alternative to continuing to raise these issues over the objections of pearl clutchers who want to silence criticism from the left.

Once more on Paul and Greenwald

Tim Wise is one of the most dynamic and smart anti-racism theorists out there. I deeply respect his work, which is why I have a lot of trouble with his latest post, going after Glenn Greenwald and others on the liberal side of the aisle for discussing the positive aspects of Ron Paul’s presidential campaign.

Wise frames his piece by describing an anti-war, anti-Wall Street national politician who also has problematic views about race. While many people familiar with the Ron Paul debate would assume that’s who Wise is describing, Wise reveals he’s actually been talking about David Duke all along. Wise sees this point as a striking victory against liberals who think Ron Paul’s policies on war and peace, civil liberties, and torture are laudable.

Yes, that David Duke: former head of the nation’s largest Ku Klux Klan group and lifelong neo-Nazi, who once said Jews should go into the ashbin of history, and that it would be possible to do what Hitler did, even in America, if white supremacists could just “put the right package together.”

But ya know that whole racist thing doesn’t matter, right? Because he’s against wiretapping.

Make no mistake, Wise offers up truly devastating arguments against the straw men he’s set up to deconstruct. The problem is, no one of any note, particularly not Glenn Greenwald, have taken the positions that Wise is arguing against.

First, the relevance of Ron Paul as a foil to current American policies regarding who we go to war with, who we drop bombs on, who we imprison and torture indefinitely, who we spy on and who we throw in jail is not that he opposes current US policies in these areas. No, Paul’s relevance is that as a candidate for President, he is talking about them and influencing national debate through the microphone afforded by his candidacy.

David Duke, on the other hand, is not a presidential candidate. It’s not as if the liberals discussing Paul set out to proactively find a racist, homophobic politician who wants to destroy social services but is good on civil liberties and ended up landing on Ron Paul arbitrarily. Ron Paul is relevant because of his candidacy. David Duke is no more relevant in the context of these policies than Cornel West or Rachel Maddow. This is not about a search for a dream presidential candidate, it’s about looking at what the existing presidential candidates are saying and assessing them accordingly. To wit, Jon Huntsman wants to break up the too big to fail banks, investigate robosigning, and punish banks for foreclosure fraud. Huntsman is wrong on lots of other issues, but his stance as it relates to Wall Street is notably to the left of not only his Republican opponents, but President Obama. This has been observed by many of the people who are favorably discussing aspects of Ron Paul’s candidacy (see Matt Stoller at Naked Capitalism for one example).

The other relevant point is the continued insistence by critics of those on the left who say good things about parts of Ron Paul’s platform that such criticism is tantamount to endorsing Ron Paul for President. Wise unfortunately falls squarely in the absolutist camp here too:

And please, Glenn Greenwald, spare me the tired shtick about how Paul “raises important issues” that no one on the left is raising, and so even though you’re not endorsing him, it is still helpful to a progressive narrative that his voice be heard. Bullshit. The stronger Paul gets the stronger Paul gets, period. And the stronger Paul gets, the stronger libertarianism gets, and thus, the Libertarian Party as a potential third party: not the Greens, mind you, but the Libertarians. And the stronger Paul gets, the stronger become those voices who worship the free market as though it were an invisible fairy godparent, capable of dispensing all good things to all comers — people like Paul Ryan, for instance, or Scott Walker. In a nation where the dominant narrative has long been anti-tax, anti-regulation, poor-people-bashing and God-bless-capitalism, it would be precisely those aspects of Paul’s ideological grab bag that would become more prominent. And if you don’t know that, you are a fool of such Herculean proportions as to suggest that Salon might wish to consider administering some kind of political-movement-related-cognitive skills test for its columnists, and the setting of a minimum cutoff score, below which you would, for this one stroke of asininity alone, most assuredly fall.

Obviously this is just getting nasty at this point. Like many critics of Greenwald, Wise is setting out his own boundaries for what acceptable debate for liberals is and isn’t shy about refereeing the boundary lines. Saying anything nice about any Republican, let alone a libertarian with crazy followers, is tantamount to being one of those crazies. The lack of willingness to discuss the issues at hand is truly startling. It’s almost as if this is an area where honest debate and honest listening is impossible.

What’s most frustrating, again, is that the discussion Greenwald and Stoller are trying to have is about real policies held by real presidential candidates. Neither have endorsed Paul. They’re discussing what is actually happening now and the policy debate that these candidacies raise. The scorn which is thrown their way is monumental and a sign of the incapacity of some people to actually listen to what’s being written.

Wise closes with a rejoinder that if you’re not happy with Obama, it’s because the left has insufficiently organized to produce good results. Presumably this is meant to inoculate the President from criticism from the left, as it’s all our fault that he’s using drones to kill children in Pakistan and Afghanistan or start wars without congressional approval in North Africa.  While I certainly agree that progressives and populists need to be in the street creating change through organizing and through protest, I’m not sure what Wise thinks these critics of Obama are responding to. Greenwald and Stoller and many others who are discussing aspects of Paul were some of the earliest and strongest supporters of Occupy Wall Street, as well as some of the most consistent advocates for continued resistance to American policies of indefinite detention, surveillance, and war — policies which were widely protested when Bush did them, but are now only rarely organized against by the left as there is a Democrat in the White House. That is, the people Wise thinks he is attacking are the ones who have been consistently doing exactly what he is urging them to do.

I’ve said it before, but I’ll say it again. I don’t support Ron Paul’s candidacy. I won’t vote for him or any other Republican. But with no primary challenger to the President raising questions about American policies of war and peace, civil liberties, the rule of law or drug policy, I’m glad that Ron Paul is raising these issues. It’s a stain on American liberalism that we are in a position where the purported political party of the left is getting out-shined by a racist, homophobic radical on values that should be core to liberalism. In a dream world, someone like Cornel West or Rachel Maddow or Stephen Lerner or any number of truly liberal figures would be running for President and could be raising these issues. But that’s not the world we live in, any more than the one where David Duke is currently a candidate is.

Major offensive on Romney and Bain Capital

The half-hour documentary on Mitt Romney’s tenure at Bain Capital, When Mitt Romney Came To Town, is a huge story this week. Watch it – it’s devastating and the interviews of workers who lost their jobs after Romney’s Bain came in and broke their companies are heart-breaking.

“When Mitt Romney Came To Town” is the product of a pro-Newt Gingrich Super PAC, but both Gingrich and Rick Perry have been hammering Romney over his job-destroying ways at Bain for a while now. What’s incredible to watch is two 1%-coddling politicians adopt the rhetoric of the Occupy Wall Street movement to wage attacks on Romney. What’s even more incredible is to watch these attacks explode the internal contradictions of the Republican Party.

On the one hand, you have Fox News’ Eric Bolling treat accusations against Romney and Bain as an attack on capitalism itself. Rush Limbaugh has likened Gingrich to Fidel Castro for his attacks. Likewise the right wing US Chamber of Commerce is calling for a halt to attacks on private equity. On the other hand, conservative icon Bill Kristol has criticized those reflexing defending Bain and Romney as “silly“. You even have Sarah Palin saying Romney should back up his claims that he created a 100,000 jobs in his tenure at Bain.

What’s most remarkable, though, is that this debate isn’t happening at Occupy encampments, but on Fox News and The Weekly Standard (well, presumably folks at Occupy are talking about the destructive thievery of Romney’s tenure at Bain Capital). I don’t think any of us knew that the GOP had this sort of rhetoric in it! The reality is, of course, that they don’t. This is pure politics, as Robert Reich notes, otherwise Gingrich and Romney would be making some sort of prescription of how they would stop the newly-discovered evils of private equity and Wall Street greed. Reich writes:

Is Newt proposing to ban leveraged buyouts? Or limit the amount of debt a company can take on? Or prevent financiers – or even CEOs and management teams – from taking a public company private and then reselling it to the public at a higher price?

None of the above.

Rick Perry criticizes Romney and Bain pushing the quest for profits too far. “There is nothing wrong with being successful and making money,” says Perry. “But getting rich off failure and sticking someone else with the bill is indefensible.”

Yet getting rich off failure and sticking someone else with the bill is what Wall Street financiers try to do every day. It’s called speculation – and at least since the demise of the Glass-Steagall Act, investment bankers have been allowed to gamble with commercial bank deposits, other people’s money.

So is Perry proposing to resurrect Glass-Steagall? Not a chance.

This is politics, plain and simple. Romney’s opponents are making a last, desperate plea to knock him off of the winner’s podium. Had they made this case for the better part of the last year and had they backed it up with prescriptions to stop companies like Bain Capital from committing these crimes against American workers, they may have even succeeded in defeating Romney. While it’s certainly possible that these attacks can gain traction against Romney, neither Gingrich nor Perry are credible messengers. Reich concludes that, “the only serious question here is what kind of serious reforms Obama will propose when, assuming Romney becomes the Republican nominee, Obama also criticizes Bain Capitalism.” I think that’s right, though it remains to be seen if Obama splits off the path being set by faux populists Gingrich and Perry.

Ron Paul emerging as Anti-Romney

Cross-posted from AMERICAblog Elections: The Right’s Field

NH Results:

Mitt Romney 39.4% (94,255)
Ron Paul: 22.8% (54,513)
Jon Huntsman: 16.9% (40,388)

Newt Gingrich: 9.4% (22,518)
Rick Santorum: 9.3% (22,293)
Rick Perry: 0.7% (1,688)

A few thoughts…

Attention reporters: Mitt Romney is not the first Republican non-incumbent to win Iowa and New Hampshire, as Romney neither got the most votes in Iowa (Rick Santorum did) nor did he get the most delegates (Ron Paul did). Please stop saying Romney won Iowa! Of course, part of the reason this is happening is Rick Santorum waited way to long to give his victory speech and this allowed what would have been the story of the Santorum upset become a story of Romney eeking it out.

The Santorum Surge is over. Santorum made a huge mistake trying to compete in New Hampshire, where a Romney victory was always clear and where Huntsman had already taken up residence. Now Santorum is in the tough spot of trying to ride momentum that no longer exists into a state where all the Anti-Romney’s will be fighting for survival.

As Ari Melber notes, Ron Paul is showing to be incredibly strong across a wide range of Republican and independent constituencies. Noting Paul outperformed the field with lower-income voters and McCain voters, Melber writes:

Yet Paul’s opponents are strong opponents, the thinking goes, so he would not be accepted by the rest of Republicans. But is that true? You’d have to ask them. The exit pollsters did, and overall, regardless of personal preference, more voters said they would be “satisfied” with a Paul nomination than Gingrich or Santorum. Now, that could reflect some ignorance about Paul’s record and ideas, but if the press is going to cover the strength of Paul’s campaign on earth, and not its hypothetical vulnerabilities, then it’s time to report the reality of his wide appeal in this race so far.

This raises the fundamental dynamic of the race at this point. Clearly Mitt Romney is the front-runner. There has been a lot of competition for the spot of Anti-Romney, but no clear winner. Perry, Gingrich, Santorum, Bachmann, and Cain have all been competing for the job of Anti-Romney, under the presumption that if there was conservative unification around an Anti-Romney, that person could defeat Romney for the nomination.

To this point, it’s looked like Ron Paul existed as someone outside of the Anti-Romney race as his own creature without strong overlap into more traditional parts of the Republican base. But the results of Iowa and New Hampshire belie this. Ron Paul is showing strong and he could actually coalesce support as the Anti-Romney, at least if politicians and pundits look at what voters are saying. Paul would have to start getting support from people like Gingrich, Santorum and Perry for him to have a shot at this. Frankly I don’t see that happening.

South Carolina will be interesting in that it could be the last chance for an Anti-Romney to emerge. That should lead Gingrich, Santorum and Perry to go hard after Mitt. But if Ron Paul performs another strong second, it’s hard to not see the writing on the wall of him as the real Anti-Romney in the race.

In the end it looks most likely that Romney will be the Republican nominee not because it was his turn or because he was the most popular candidate, but that the conservative base was fractured across multiple Anti-Romneys who couldn’t get it together to unite behind one person to defeat Romney.

Cross-posted from AMERICAblog Elections: The Right’s Field

More Greenwald on Ron Paul & criticism

Glenn Greenwald has another must-read post in the ongoing debate about the ways in which Ron Paul may or may not be better than President Obama on particular issues and the subsequent mania which these ideas bring forth within many parts of the liberal blogosphere. Greenwald is kind enough to quote a passage from a recent post of mine on the subject (thanks Glenn!), but his additive points to the debate and responses to critics are compelling and helpful in fleshing out the ways in which approving talk of Paul by anti-war and pro-civil liberties activists has surfaced major tensions within the Democratic Party and its decreasing liberalism.

As I pointed out in my previous post on the subject, critics are deliberately ignoring what Greenwald is writing and representing his belief that Ron Paul is saying important things which aren’t being said by Obama or other Democratic politicians (and worse, beyond words, Obama’s deeds cut against liberal values on many of these issues). With that preface, here is a paragraph by Greenwald which I guarantee will be ignored by his critics, who will continue to say that Greenwald thinks civil liberties, surveillance, the drug war, etc are the most important issues facing America.

One final point that should be made: I do not believe that the issues on which I principally focus are objectively The Most Important Ones. There are many issues of vital importance that I write about rarely or almost never: climate change, tax policy, abortion, even the issue which affects me most personally: gay equality. None of us can write about every issue meaningfully. The issues on which I focus are ones where I believe I can contribute expertise, or express views and points not being heard elsewhere. But there are many other issues of genuine importance, and I have no objection to those who, when forced to choose, prioritize those concerns over the ones about which I write most frequently. That is why I wrote — and meant — that “there are all sorts of legitimate reasons for progressives to oppose Ron Paul’s candidacy on the whole” and “it’s perfectly rational and reasonable for progressives to decide that the evils of their candidate are outweighed by the evils of the GOP candidate, whether Ron Paul or anyone else.”

I haven’t looked yet, but I can only assume that within a matter of minutes someone will again accuse Greenwald of thinking racism, homophobia, or the destruction of social services is not important.

Iowa results and looking forward at a new race

Originally posted at AMERICAblog Elections: The Right’s Field

The final Iowa results:

Romney, 24.55% (30,015 votes)
Santorum, 24.54% (30,007 votes)
Ron Paul, 21.45% (26,219 votes)
Gingrich, 13.29% (16,251 votes)
Perry, 10.3% (12,604 votes)
Bachmann, 4.97% (6,073 votes)
Huntsman (745 votes)
No preference (135 votes)
Other (117 votes)
Cain (58 votes)
Roemer (31 votes)

Kombiz and Matt Ortega got the top three order correct, though none of us had them bunched so tightly.

Rick Perry has returned to Texas to “reassess the results,” which is what people usually do hours before they officially end their campaigns. On the up side, by not formally ending his campaign, he can still continue to pay his staff.

Michele Bachmann barely out-performed her Ames Straw Poll results, but did not bow out last night.

Newt Gingrich made clear in his speech last night that he’s angry about the negative attacks from Mitt Romney and his surrogate Super PACs. Gingrich will be going on the attack on Romney’s record, which Newt pointed out doesn’t mean he’s launching negative attacks if it so happens that Romney’s record of flip-flops doesn’t reflect well on him. Gingrich is an adept negative campaigner, so don’t underestimate his potential to hurt Romney in debates and on the airwaves in coming weeks.

Obviously the big winner of the night was Rick Santorum, who benefited from being the Last Anti-Romney Standing. He spent more time in Iowa than any other candidate and was successful at telling his store as a committed conservative., especially once he rose in the polls and suddenly had the air of viability. Romney, on the other hand, badly misplayed the expectations game in the press. As a result, an 8 vote win is universally being seen by reporters as at best a tie, or more likely a Santorum win.

Looking forward, this is a three candidate race between Ron Paul, Mitt Romney and Anti-Romney. Anti-Romney for the moment seems like Rick Santorum, but he doesn’t have the campaign infrastructure needed to compete in a long primary. Either other campaigns (Perry, Gingrich, and Bachmann) will have to bow to Santorum through donors and endorsements, or there will have to be a resurgence from Gingrich into the role of Anti-Romney. Ron Paul has the grassroots support to be a competitor over a long primary, but I’m not convinced that the Gingrich’s and Perry’s of the world would lend their support to him to help defeat Romney.

Romney is going to go into New Hampshire and win with ease. The only question will be if Santorum can solidify conservative support and earn a meaningful result. Watch for who endorses Santorum in coming days and if there is a shift of donors to him, as well as the launch or refocus of any Super PACs to support Santorum and do the dirty work of going negative on Romney.

Romney went through Iowa without a single negative ad directed at him – that’s a streak that will probably be over before today is done. Given the impact that negative ads had in Iowa against other candidates, I have to assume that it’s reflective of the fact that Republican base voters are willing to take in new information about their candidates and consider it in their assessment of these candidates. This contributed to the volatility of the Republican field over the last year and does not yet show signs of stopping. Of course, when Republicans go negative on Romney it will look a lot like the sort of attacks the DNC have been making on Romney and will cut directly at his lack of conviction and ever-changing beliefs. Thus my belief that there is still space for an Anti-Romney to take the nomination, Rick Santorum or otherwise.

Gary Johnson & Civil Liberties

For what it’s worth, yesterday’s post on Ron Paul and the debate he has sparked in the progressive blogosphere focused on the fact that Paul was the only major party candidate holding positions traditionally held by liberals regarding civil liberties, war and peace, domestic surveillance, and drug policy. While this is true, Gary Johnson, the libertarian Republican Governor of New Mexico turned Libertarian presidential candidate, is in fact better than Paul and without the racist, anti-worker, anti-Semitic baggage of Ron Paul. The ACLU just rated Johnson higher than not only Paul, but Barack Obama, in their civil liberties report card (PDF).

Johnson is not a major party candidate, despite his attempt to run for the Republican nomination. He was functionally shut out of existence by the media and state Republican party’s which blocked his participation in all but one primary debate. I don’t know if Johnson will be a viable third party candidate. I assume he won’t, but could be wrong.

As I pointed out yesterday, voting is not locked into a binary option. Johnson will be on the ballot in many places and if a liberal was inclined to vote for Ron Paul for reasons related to civil liberties and war and peace, Johnson would likely be a more palatable option. As long as Paul is raising conflicts within liberal priorities at this point in time, Johnson should not be excluded from being a foil for the questions about liberalism being raised by people like Matt Stoller and Glenn Greenwald. This is, after all, not about electability, but ideology.

Shifting narrative as Gingrich overtakes Romney

Originally posted at AMERICAblog Elections: The Right’s Field

Jon Ward at Huffington Post has a fantastic piece on the shifting political narrative that has happened while Newt Gingrich has overtaken Mitt Romney for the lead in the Republican presidential primary. At issue is while Romney has been running on a platform of inevitability, large swaths of the GOP base have chosen instead to be drawn to anyone who isn’t him. That has allowed the space to exist for an alternative to come forward. In this moment of the campaign, that alternative is Gingrich. Ward writes:

Yet as the Romney campaign has fought with the White House, Gingrich has developed a head of steam. He is now leading Romney in national polls, as well as in Iowa surveys, and got a big boost Sunday in New Hampshire when the Manchester Union Leader endorsed him.

Romney’s image, meanwhile, has taken some hits for running the misleading ad, and his criticism of Gingrich’s position on immigration provoked ridicule from Rush Limbaugh of Romney’s own muddled and confusing past statements on the issue. There are lingering questions about how much Gingrich’s softer tone about how to deal with undocumented immigrants may hurt him in Iowa, but so far he appears to have weathered the storm rather well, especially given how badly Texas Gov. Rick Perry was hurt by his stumble on the issue.

We are only weeks away from the Iowa caucus and New Hampshire primary. There’s still a lot of politicking to be done, positive ads to air, and likely even more negative ads. The field operation of each campaign will be put to the test in the next two months. And finally we’ll be able to move away from scandal and gaffe driven horse race polling and into actual democracy. We will begin to have a picture of whether or not Romney can win the nomination on a mantle of inevitability or someone like Gingrich will carry the Not Mitt banner to victory.

Until then, the analysis of the race as provided by Ward will remain one of the best. Romney by no means has this locked up and I think we’re in for a whirlwind couple of months.