Keeping Up With the Romneys: Ann Romney turned heads by claiming it was the media’s fault Mitt lost the election. Are the Romneys inching their way back into the political limelight?
Photo: Republican presidential candidate and former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney stands with his wife Ann, and Republican vice presidential candidate Rep. Paul Ryan, R-Wis., right, stands with his wife Janna after Romney’s concession speech at his election night rally in Boston last November. Photo by: Charles Dharapak/Associated Press
Vice President Joe Biden holds Ava Janssen after giving a speech during a campaign stop in 2008. Photo by Andy Nelson/ The Christian Science Monitor
You Asked, We Decoded: More than public figures, Decoder reporters have the latest on 4 political superstars
Vice President Joe Biden went to a new Costco Thursday morning. There are several reasons a man who’s a heartbeat away from the most powerful job in the world might spend a few minutes there.
Polls show Gov. Chris Christie – who is seeking reelection – with sky-high approval ratings, thanks to his handling of hurricane Sandy. Whether that lasts long enough for a presidential bid remains to be seen.
The White House announced Wednesday that Mitt Romney will drop by for lunch Thursday. It helps President Obama look gracious and bipartisan while helping Romney rebuild his status.
Unlike Ambassador Rice, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton has not come under fire for Benghazi – a reflection of strong relationships she built in the Senate, and the broad popularity she currently enjoys.
House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) discusses Democratic accomplishments during the legislative session as well as pending legislation during a press conference with Senate Majority Leader Harry Ried (D-NV) at the US Capitol in 2007. Photo by Andy Nelson/ The Christian Science Monitor
You Asked, We Decoded: DC Decoder on post-election power grabs
Cathy McMorris Rodgers rises to the No. 4 position in the House GOP leadership, which saw a net add of one woman to its roster. But the party lags badly in having women among its ranks in Congress.
Gov. Bobby Jindal’s curt rejoinder to Mitt Romney’s comments that President Obama won because of ‘gifts’ to key constituencies could position him as the GOP’s ‘big tent’ candidate in 2016.
The GOP is claiming a mandate for its policy positions because it retained control of the House of Representatives. But Democrats actually won more votes than Republicans did for House seats.
Some on the right are concerned that the petitions to secede, posted on a White House website by angry voters, are setting conservatives up as easy targets for the mockery of liberals.
Mitt Romney has suggested putting a cap on income-tax deductions. Would the GOP back it? That’s uncertain, but it would generate a lot of money and hit only the wealthiest Americans.
Florida Sen. Marco Rubio is still the heavy favorite to be the Republican vice presidential nominee - at least, according to the online betting site Intrade. Rubio’s odds are currently hovering at around 27 percent, far ahead of all other names being bandied about, such as New Mexico Gov. Susana Martinez (10 percent), Ohio Sen. Rob Portman (9 percent) and Wisconsin Rep. Paul Ryan (6 percent).
But while Rubio may still be the conventional wisdom candidate of choice, we think Ryan, the House Budget Chairman, may actually have surpassed him as the real favorite among GOP insiders right now.
More than any other, Ryan seems to embody the right combination of seriousness, impeccable conservative credentials, and a useful regional affiliation. He is safer than Rubio or Martinez but not as boring as Portman or Virginia Gov. Bob McDonnell; he would complement Romney (and this is, of course, assuming Romney is the eventual nominee) without overshadowing him. Perhaps most important, Ryan would bring an authenticity and a kind of political courage to the ticket - embodied in his willingness to make tough choices when it comes to entitlement reform - that Romney has seemed to lack.
One piece of evidence that Ryan’s vice presidential stock is indeed rising: President Obama is attacking him. In remarks at an Associated Press luncheon Tuesday, excerpts of which were released in advance by the White House, Obama ripped into Ryan’s budget plan as “thinly-veiled Social Darwinism.” Obama surrogates have begun referring to the “Romney-Ryan budget,” while the DNC released an online attack ad putting the two men in a Valentine’s heart to a spoof of the tune “That’s Amore.” (For what it’s worth, the ad uses Ryan’s comments from his appearance at a recent Monitor breakfast, in which he praised Romney’s entitlement speech as “very good.” )
A factor behind this growing wind at Ryan’s back may have been the much-discussed HBO film “Game Change,” which clearly spelled out the dangers of putting a thinly vetted candidate on the ticket in a bid for starpower. There has been much chatter in the wake of the film’s premiere about how the Palin pick in 2008 made it all but impossible for Romney to go with any candidate not widely seen as qualified to be president (read: with serious policy chops). This growing consensus was summed up in a Boston Globe op-ed by former New Hampshire Sen. John Sununu - whose father has been a vocal Romney surrogate - warning Romney about the perils of putting “a brand new face” on the ticket instead of a “serious, experienced” candidate.
It’s true that Romney needs to improve his performance among Hispanic voters and women. But it’s not a given that putting a Hispanic or a woman on the ticket would automatically help with either of those problems. And it would run the risk of looking more like a political calculation - a Palin-like choice - than a principled decision about who would be best positioned to serve.
Today’s Wisconsin primary has also put Ryan front and center in the campaign landscape, as he has joined Romney on the trail after endorsing him late last week. And his popularity among the GOP base has been on full display: During a weekend appearance at a Faith and Freedom Coalition convention, CBS News reported that the crowd’s “heartiest applause” did not go to any of the presidential candidates (Romney, Rick Santorum, or Newt Gingrich) but to Ryan. Perhaps most important, the two men look comfortable with one another. The footage of them campaigning has been largely flattering to both - including the April Fool’s Day prank that Ryan and some Romney staffers played on the former Massachusetts governor, bringing him to a purported campaign stop that was in fact an empty room.
Unlike Rubio, who still insists he has no interest in being vice president (and who followed his endorsement of Romney by telling The Daily Caller, “there are a lot of other people out there that some of us wish had run for president — but they didn’t”), Ryan has indicated an interest in joining the ticket and has been a strong advocate for Romney on the stump. Although Romney was already favored to win in Wisconsin, Ryan’s endorsement may well carry him to an even more resounding victory tonight. And if Ryan winds up on the ticket, it could potentially put Wisconsin in play in the fall.
— Liz Marlantes
Today, the Supreme Court justices will take a vote on the fate of President Obama’s healthcare law. We won’t know the outcome until June. But based on how the oral arguments went, the law’s chances of survival seem much slimmer than they did just one week ago.
The administration has been insisting all week that they have no “Plan B” to put in place if the law gets struck down - saying they remain confident that it is constitutional. But rest assured, over the next two months they will be scrambling to come up with both a policy fix and a political strategy to handle what now seems like a very real possibility that it will be overturned.
If the law is found unconstitutional, the Republican line of attack is already clear. It will be framed as both an example of executive overreach and utter incompetence. Just as the president was “in over his head” when it came to the financial crisis, Republicans will argue, he didn’t know what he was doing on healthcare either. As conservative columnist Peggy Noonan puts it in The Wall Street Journal, “The constitutional law professor from the University of Chicago didn’t notice the centerpiece of his agenda was not constitutional? How did that happen?”
For their part, many Democrats have been arguing that an overturn might actually help the president politically - since the whole issue would lose much of its urgency for the GOP base. This week, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid told reporters, “There’s a significant school of thought that the administration is … in a better position for the election if it’s turned down.”
And Democratic strategist James Carville predicted on CNN that in the wake of an overturn, healthcare costs would skyrocket - and Republicans would then shoulder the blame for the problem. ”The Democrats are going to say, and it is completely justified, ‘We tried, we did something,’” Carville said. “The Republican Party will own the healthcare system for the foreseeable future.”
Still, that public shift in blame - if it happens - would likely be more of a long-term, rather than short-term effect. In the immediate aftermath, the Obama team will rely on a different line of defense, which can be summed up in two words: Mitt Romney.
As White House adviser David Plouffe put it last weekend on NBC’s Meet the Press, the likely Republican nominee is “the godfather of our healthcare plan.” It isn’t just Democrats making this case: Romney opponent Rick Santorum has been arguing throughout the primary fight that the Massachusetts law Romney put into effect as governor - which served as the model for Obamacare - makes Romney “uniquely disqualified” to run against the president on healthcare.
As we’ve already seen, Obama can employ Romney’s own words to defend key elements of Obamacare. Here’s Romney in 2007, talking about the need for an individual mandate (albeit at the state level):
“When [individuals who have chosen not to purchase insurance] show up at the hospital, they get care, they get free care, paid for by you and me. If that’s not a form of socialism, I don’t know what is. So my plan did something quite different. It said, you know what, if people can afford to buy insurance, if they can afford to buy insurance, or if they can pay their own way, then they either buy that insurance or pay their own way, but they no longer look to government to hand out free care. And that, in my opinion, is ultimate conservatism…. [W]e rely on private market dynamics to get people in our state insured and for individuals to finally take responsibility for some portion of their health care rather than expecting government to give them a free ride.”
Romney has said repeatedly that he never believed the Massachusetts model should be employed at the federal level. So far, it’s been a difficult distinction for him to draw.
But if the Supreme Court strikes down Obamacare, Romney will finally be handed one sharp, unequivocal contrast between his law and Obama’s: One was constitutional, while the other was not.
In fact, we can even conceive of Romney using his healthcare experience to then argue that he would be the ideal candidate to go in and clean up the policy mess that the Supreme Court decision may leave in its wake. That, of course, would take a certain amount of political deftness. We’ll see if Romney can rise to the occasion.
— Liz Marlantes
Tomorrow’s contests in Mississippi and Alabama could have a big impact on the GOP race if either Mitt Romney or Rick Santorum wins convincingly. If Romney has a strong showing in one or both states, it could put the nail in the coffin for his opponents, by showing the conservative base is at last coalescing around his candidacy. On the other hand, if Santorum wins handily, it would serve as perhaps the sharpest signal yet about the depth of resistance to Romney’s candidacy - and suggest that conservatives are digging in their heels.
Of course, right now neither scenario seems likely. Based on the polling available in those two states - which has been pretty all over the map - the most likely outcome seems like a virtual three-way tie. And the candidate best poised to squeak out wins might actually be Newt Gingrich.
Although Gingrich has been trying to dampen expectations somewhat, suggesting he will do well but not promising any wins, some polling has shown the former House Speaker gaining ground in recent days. This may be a reflection of the “$2.50 gas” message Gingrich has been driving, hammering his plan (which critics have called unrealistic) to lower the price of gas to $2.50 a gallon, at a time when consumers are feeling increasingly pinched at the pump.
More likely, though, Gingrich’s gain is coming mostly at Santorum’s expense (in one set of polls by Alabama State University, Santorum lost six points in a week, while Gingrich gained seven). That’s not all that surprising given that Santorum has once again come under withering attack from the Romney Super PAC, which has spent somewhere between $2 and 3 million attacking Santorum in both states.
And if Gingrich is the victor tomorrow, it won’t do much to change the overall dynamics of the race. Santorum would take a bit of a hit - since those states present one of the best opportunities for him to pick up delegates and momentum on the calendar going forward. But he could also continue to argue that it’s Gingrich’s presence in the race that’s preventing conservatives from coalescing around his own candidacy.
In Romney’s case, while he’d obviously love to take one or both states himself, the more critical priority is denying Santorum the wins. Losing two more Southern states would perpetuate talk about Romney’s troubles with the base, but losing them to Gingrich rather than Santorum would allow Romney to argue there’s still no viable alternative to his candidacy. The Groundhog Day campaign seems likely to continue.
— Liz Marlantes