Thursday, January 5, 2012

Is It Over Just Yet?

Mitt Romney may be trying hard to crown himself as "the chosen one", but it may really not be over just yet. Rick Santorum is now hiring Nevada staff, and he's making noise about staying in the race for more primary and caucus contests to come. I guess that's why he's turning up the TEA-nuttery in New Hampshire and repeating the odious radical right lie about how much the working poor pay in taxes (and staying mum on how little big multinational corporations pay).

But wait, isn't Mitt "the establishment pick" with all the money and all the resources to lock this up and do so quickly? Perhaps so, but the G-O-TEA base won't let him.

Romney, who is expected to win in New Hampshire, still remains the leading candidate — but not a candidate with groundswell support from Republicans, said Eric Herzik, the chairman of the political science department at the University of Nevada, Reno.

“I’m not the only person saying this, but he (Romney) started the race (in Iowa) with 25 percent of the vote, and he ended the race with 25 percent of the vote,” said Herzik, a registered Republican. “That says Republicans have not warmed up to Mitt. And that is why Santorum is the next and probably last of the great evangelical conservative challengers.”

The fractured vote in Iowa showed that the Republican Party has issues, Herzik said.

“This is a party that is split among social conservatives, fiscal conservatives and those with antigovernment feelings, so the message of the Republican Party is not clear coming out of Iowa,” he said.

Unfortunately for Romney, Herzik is right. The G-O-TEA base is just not that into Mittens. No matter how hard his campaign tries to spin it into something else, that's what the Iowa results revealed.

How else could a candidate like former Pennsylvania Senator Rick Santorum, who nearly beat the alleged frontrunner Romney in Iowa, actually compete after being in the single digits at the beginning of December? Voters have to really know they don’t want the conventional pick if they’ll go with someone who they really just heard about in the last few weeks of campaigning, even if Santorum did commit to retail politicking in the state.

The main idea seems to be that the GOP fractioning seen over the life of the Obama administration, from the real beginnings of the Tea Party movement, is really showing. If the same percentage of Republicans would be enthusiastic about Paul as they would be about Romney, then the field has reached a sort of ideological parity within the party — the proponents of the conventional choice no longer outnumber the rabble rousers. Of course, the idea would be to find a candidate that can unite the two, but as 2012 has shown, that candidate isn’t in the running.

And already, the same looks to be emerging in New Hampshire as well.

The "enthusiasm gap" has returned... But this time, it's the Republican Party that's suffering from it. They're still wrestling over what to do about Mitt. They know he's the "favorite son" of the Wall Street elite, but they also know he's hiding some deep, dark secrets in his tax returns that could come back to bite all of them later this fall. Oh, and there's that little "vulture capitalist" firm by the name of Bain Capital.

Bain Capital has been responsible for thousands of layoffs at companies it bankrupted, such as American Pad & Paper, Dade International, and LIVE Entertainment, which Romney’s stat completely leaves out. He’s also taking credit for jobs created long after he left the firm to launch his political career. To sum it up, the stat Romney uses [to claim he's a "job creator"] is incredibly dishonest, like much of his jobs rhetoric.

One of Romney’s Bain business partners has said that he “never thought of what I do for a living as job creation.” “The primary goal of private equity is to create wealth for your investors,” he added. And Bain has certainly done that, maximizing earnings “by firing workers, seeking government subsidies, and flipping companies quickly for large profits.” Due to a lucrative retirement deal, Romney is still making millions from Bain, as he goes across the country calling himself “middle class” and joking about being “unemployed.”

Despite Rick Santorum's constant attacks on the 99%, he's now seen by conservatives as "the blue collar guy" who's more relatable to "Middle America" than that white-collar, coastal, Bain Capital elitist. And that's telling. I guess some of these Republicans are starting to publicly admit they will have a major image problem if Romney emerges as their nominee. In an election when not just the nebulous, overarching theme of "the economy", but also the specific worries about income inequality and the slow decay of America's middle class, will be front and center, it just won't look right for the Republican nominee to be boasting of how much money he made while laying off American workers and shipping their jobs overseas.

One big mistake I've noticed in most "mainstream media" coverage of the Republican primary is the dismissal of Rick Santorum as a "One Issue Wonder" who's only claim to fame/infamy is his extreme religious right zeal. Now yes, that really is a big part of who he is as a politician. However, don't "misunderestimate" Santorum's ability to cut through the cultural divide on the right and appeal to those G-O-TEA "culture warriors" looking not just for someone who hates women and gays and people of color, but also someone who seems "populist" and in touch with them (even if Santorum's actual economic policies are just as pro-Wall Street-elite as Romney's). And no matter what ultimately happens to Santorum in the coming weeks, Romney's "99% problem" isn't going away any time soon.

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