Never Trust These Vichy Republicans Again

If something good can come of Donald Trump’s presidential candidacy in the United States, let it be separating sincere Republicans from pretenders who are willing to sell out every conservative principle they have professed to hold dear for the sake of ratings, sales or their career.

Trump is not a conservative. Many serious rightwingers have said so: from the rabble-rousing Glenn Beck and radio host Erick Erickson on the far right to more establishmentarian thinkers like George Will, the writers at National Review and the neoconservative The Weekly Standard to members of the pro-business Club for Growth and the libertarian Cato Institute.

Nor is Trump a Republican. Serious Republicans have said so as well. Mitt Romney, the party’s presidential nominee four years ago, has called the Manhattan businessman — who supported the Democrats and then a third party before figuring out he was a Republican — a “phony” and a “fraud” who is “playing the American public for suckers.”

“If we Republicans choose Donald Trump as our nominee, the prospects for a safe and prosperous future are greatly diminished,” the former Massachusetts governor warned last week.

He is right. But that hasn’t stopped some on the right from supporting a man who lacks any and all qualities a serious presidential candidate — or any serious person for that matter — ought to have.

Twitter calls them Vichy Republicans. Here are the worst of them. Read more

Three-Way Tie in Republican Primaries Deep South

The three main contenders for the Republican Party’s presidential nomination virtually split the vote in primary elections in Alabama and Mississippi on Tuesday.

Newt Gingrich and Rick Santorum, both of whom claim to be the conservative alternative to frontrunner Mitt Romney, failed to stage a decisive victory in the Southern states which were expected to be unfriendly territory for Romney.

Santorum’s strong social conservatism resonated with evangelical voters but Romney outperformed both him and Gingrich, as he has done in other states, among wealthier and urban voters.

Exit polls revealed that most of Santorum’s supporters decided to vote for the former Pennsylvania senator while Romney was winning primary races in Arizona, Michigan and Ohio last week. Theirs may not have been a vote for Santorum rather a vote against Romney whom they consider to be a moderate because he once favored abortion rights and implemented a health insurance scheme in Massachusetts when he was governor there that is strikingly similar to President Barack Obama’s national health reform law.

As long as Gingrich remains in the race, Santorum will be hard pressed to consolidate the right-wing vote to challenge Romney who is well ahead in the delegate count and whose campaign organization is far superior to that of the other candidates.

Although Gingrich is a native of Georgia, where he won the primary contest convincingly last week, none of the contenders could claim to be a true son of the South perhaps except for Texas congressman Ron Paul. His libertarian views are diametrically opposed to Southerners’ social conservatism however and he failed to make an impact in the Alabama and Mississippi votes.

He former House speaker hadn’t lived in his home state for decades until he first stood for election in 1974. He hoped to do well in Georgia’s neighboring states but Santorum did better among right-wing voters and managed to narrowly defeat Romney despite Gingrich’s presence in the race.

Gingrich has vowed to soldier on but is no longer credible as either a regional or viable candidate.

In Alabama, were 47 delegates were at stake, Santorum picked up at least eighteen compared to Gingrich’s twelve and Romney’s eleven.

In Mississippi, were 37 delegates were selected, Santorum won thirteen compared to twelve for both Gingrich and Romney.

The two states will also send three unbound delegates to the nominating convention in August each. Because these are usually local party leaders, Mitt Romney, if he is the heir presumptive, would probably win their support.

There were also primary elections in American Samoa and Hawaii on Tuesday. Mitt Romney won the most delegates in these contests as he did in Guam and other Pacific island territories on Saturday.

Gingrich Reverses Position, Advocates Afghan Withdrawal

Former Republican House speaker Newt Gingrich addresses the Conservative Political Action Conference in Washington DC, February 10
Former Republican House speaker Newt Gingrich addresses the Conservative Political Action Conference in Washington DC, February 10 (Gage Skidmore)

Newt Gingrich on Monday said it was impossible to “fix Afghanistan” in the wake of more than a week of riots over the accidental burning of Qurans at a NATO base in Bagram which has left at least six United States armed forces personnel dead.

The former House speaker, who is a candidate for the Republican Party’s presidential nomination, said Afghans the were “going to have to figure out how to live [their] own miserable life” because they clearly didn’t want to learn “how to be unmiserable” from him.

Gingrich now advocates withdrawal from the country after he pushed for a more aggressive counterinsurgency strategy in July 2010. At the time, he argued that General David Petraeus’ effort didn’t “go deep enough.”

The American public is increasingly weary of the war but Gingrich believes that the fight must be expanded to combat all of radical Islamism.

Last summer, he criticized President Barack Obama for failing to explain how his vision for Afghanistan “connects with a larger strategy for winning the war against radical Islamists.” At his campaign website, Gingrich writes that the United States are “engaged in a long war against radical Islamism.” He has said that framing the war as one against terror, as the Bush Administration did, was a terrible mistake. America is at war with an ideology, he insists.

Yet fighting that ideology doesn’t require boots on the ground anymore in the land from which emanated the most deadly form of religious extremism?

Santorum Steals Conservative Thunder From Gingrich

Former Pennsylvania senator Rick Santorum, a Republican Party presidential hopeful, speaks in West Des Moines, Iowa, January 3
Former Pennsylvania senator Rick Santorum, a Republican Party presidential hopeful, speaks in West Des Moines, Iowa, January 3 (Gage Skidmore)

Former Pennsylvania senator Rick Santorum has replaced Newt Gingrich as the conservative standard-bearer in the race for the Republican Party’s presidential nomination.

After huge election wins in the Midwestern states of Minnesota and Missouri this month and staging a surprise victory in Colorado, Santorum has jumped ahead of the presumptive nominee Mitt Romney in recent nationwide surveys while the former House speaker, who, just a month ago, appeared poised to challenge Romney as the more right-wing candidate in the race, has been decimated in the polls.

Romney’s nationwide support has remained fairly steady at over 25 percent for months. Currently, just less than a third of the Republican electorate considers him the best candidate.

Gingrich, whose popularity peaked at over 30 percent after he won the primary election in South Carolina in early January, has seen his support plummet to between 10 and 15 percent. Santorum, by contrast, has doubled his support — clearly at the former speaker’s expense.

Texas congressman Ron Paul, a libertarian candidate, has polled around 12 percent since December. Few believe that he stands a chance of winning the race. His aim seems to be to accumulate delegates in order to influence the party platform at the nominating convention in August.

Just as Newt Gingrich’s sudden popularity in early January had less to do with the former House speaker than Republican primary voters’ lack of enthusiasm for Mitt Romney, Santorum’s surge could prove temporary once conservatives take a closer look at his record.

Romney is perceived as a moderate because he once favored abortion rights and implemented a health insurance scheme in Massachusetts when he was governor that resembles President Barack Obama’s health reform legislation. Gingrich, however, also once favored a mandate that forces people to buy health insurance; a measure which conservatives now oppose.

Both Gingrich and Romney expressed support for the unpopular 2008 bank bailout program but Santorum didn’t distance himself from the effort until he began to campaign for the presidential nomination either. He also favored pork-barrel spending, or earmarks, as senator and voted to expand Medicare, the federal health support program for the elderly.

Santorum did champion welfare and Social Security reform and is a staunch social conservative — he strongly opposes abortion and legal recognition of gay partnerships — but is far from the ideal, small-government conservative that the Republican base hungers for.

Indeed, he admitted as much in 2006 when he argued that most conservatives do not embrace the notion of personal autonomy. “Some do,” he said. “They have this idea that people should be left alone, be able to do whatever they want to do, government should keep our taxes down and keep our regulations low, that we shouldn’t get involved in the bedroom, we shouldn’t get involved in cultural issues. You know, people should do whatever they want.” According to Santorum, it is “not how traditional conservatives view the world” although this more libertarian view on what should be the role of government is gaining strength within the Tea Party and among Ron Paul supporters.

The Texas congressman likes to point out that he is the only one among the four Republican Party presidential contenders who draws young people to his cause. In both the Iowa and New Hampshire primaries last month, Paul won half of the youth vote.

It may be why Jim DeMint, a very socially conservative senator from South Carolina, cautioned his fellow Republicans against ignoring the Paul vote in the nominating contests. “If Republicans don’t figure out how to listen to and understand some of the things he’s saying,” he told Fox News in January, it could split the party.

Especially on issues of contraception and gay marriage, Santorum’s beliefs, inspired by his Catholic faith, do not align with the views of the majority of Americans, including young Americans who are drawn to the Ron Paul’s message of individual liberty and limited government.

The Santorum campaign knows this and tries to emphasize their candidate’s blue-collar roots and industrial policy.

The Pennsylvania native, a traditional swing state with twenty electoral votes up for grabs, promises to reinvigorate American manufacturing with a tax regime that disproportionately favors factory labor. He rejects global warming as a leftist conspiracy and would allow energy companies to “drill everywhere” for oil and gas. This could prove popular in Rust Belt states like Indiana, Ohio and Pennsylvania where there are many unionized working-class voters, sometimes known as a “Reagan Democrats,” who may be tempted to vote Republican, as they voted for Ronald Reagan in the 1980s, if they perceive the Democratic candidate as an elitist and out-of-touch with their everyday struggles while the Republican speaks their language.

February 28 will be a test for Santorum’s strategy when primary voters in Michigan head for the polls. Mitt Romney was born there and his father was governor of the state in the 1960s when he also ran for president — unsuccessfully.

During the 2008 presidential primary, Romney won Michigan with 39 percent of the vote compared to Senator John McCain’s 30 percent. That was before Romney said to oppose public financial support for two of Detroit’s automakers however. Recent polls have him and Santorum tied in Michigan.

If Romney loses his home state, he would be hard pressed to maintain his frontrunner status while Santorum can claim that his message resonates beyond the evangelical base of the Republican Party and could endear Reagan Democrats to his election bid.

Newt Gingrich Wants to Intervene in Syria Too

Republican Party presidential hopeful Newt Gingrich told CNN on Thursday that he was “amazed” that the Obama Administration had only just begun to consider intervention in Syria. “It is definitely in our interest to get rid of Assad as a dictator,” he said, “because he is an ally of Iran.”

“We frankly want to get him replaced if we can,” Gingrich added, referring to President Bashar al-Assad who has for more than eleven months deployed force against an increasingly violent revolt in his country.

The former House speaker, who is struggling to draw conservative voters to his presidential campaign, criticized his government for what he perceived as a failure to support the Syrian opposition.

You would have thought, by now, they would have covertly worked with our allies in the region to be funneling all sorts of assets into the rebels.

There were reports last year that the United States actually helped Saudi Arabia smuggle satellite phones into Syria after the regime there had received help from Tehran in disrupting telephone communications to frustrate the rebels’ ability to coordinate demonstrations.

Several Republican lawmakers in the United States advocated supplying weapons to the Syrian opposition this week to tilt the balance of what is now a civil war in their favor. Gingrich stopped short of endorsing these calls from within his own party. “Weapons in that part of the world aren’t hard to get,” he said.

Gingrich previously pushed for intervention in Iran when he told a presidential forum in South Carolina in November that the United States should consider “taking out their scientists” and “breaking up their systems, all of it covertly, all of it deniable” before weighing military options against a country that Western powers suspect is trying to develop a nuclear weapons capacity.

In New Hampshire a month later, Gingrich rejected airstrikes as a “fantasy” however. “It would be a gigantic mess, with enormous collateral civilian casualties,” he predicted Because Iran’s nuclear sites are scattered across a country that is more than twice the size of Texas, a bombing campaign would likely have to be protracted and invite Iranian retaliation against American bases in the Persian Gulf or Israel.

Nevertheless, the Republican candidate supported steps toward regime change in Tehran which he believes is the only way of keeping the Islamic nation free of nuclear weapons.

Romney Rebounds in Florida, Gingrich to Stay in Race

Republican presidential hopeful Mitt Romney cruised to victory in Florida’s primary election on Tuesday, beating his foremost rival for the nomination, Newt Gingrich, by an almost 15 percentage point margin according to early election results.

Romney, who is considered the frontunner, needed a win in the Sunshine State to rebound after Gingrich came out the winner in South Carolina’s conservative primary more than a week ago.

The former House speaker was up in preelection polls in Florida last week and still leads in the nationwide surveys but a number of grueling television advertisements run by the Romney campaign after a disappointing performance by their opponent in the last debate before the primary may have doomed his chances of staging another insurgent win the South.

Unlike was the case in the earlier primary contest, all of Florida’s fifty delegates to the nominating convention in August are awarded to the statewide winner. There, they will be bound to the candidate for three rounds of voting.

Gingrich has vowed to stay in the race whatever his performance in the upcoming votes, raising the possibility of a brokered convention in which none of the contenders has amassed a majority of delegates necessary to claim the nomination before August.

There will be caucuses in Nevada, Maine, Colorado and Minnesota next week. The Missouri primary is set for February 7 while Arizona and Michigan vote February 28. With the exception of Arizona, these states are all considered less conservative and favorable to Romney.

Gingrich would have a chance to rebound on March 6, Super Tuesday, when ten states vote at once. Among them, Gingrich’s home state of Georgia as well as Oklahoma and Tennessee, states in the Upper South that are solidly Republican and home to millions of evangelical Christians.

Texas congressman Ron Paul hopes to do well in Nevada and Colorado where right-wing voters are more libertarian. He, too, could remain competitive in states that award their delegates on a proportional basis although his support rarely exceeds 20 percent.

Gingrich Presses Attack, Romney Ahead in Florida

Appearing on three of the American Sunday morning talk shows, former House speaker Newt Gingrich vehemently criticized his foremost contender for the Republican Party’s presidential nomination, Mitt Romney, accusing his rival of saying things that are “factually false” and tearing down “whoever he’s running against.”

Despite a blistering array of negative television advertisements against him, Gingrich said he was still confident of victory in Florida which votes to elect a candidate on Tuesday.

“I think it’s highly likely that we’re going to win Florida,” he told CBS News’ Face the Nation, “because I think when people understand how many different times [Romney] said things that aren’t true, his credibility is going to just frankly just collapse.”

Polls have been extremely volatile in the Sunshine State over the past couple of weeks. Gingrich enjoyed a solid lead over Romney after his South Carolina win last week but the Romney campaign’s attacks appear to have an effect. Gingrich admitted as much on ABC News’ This Week where he pointed out that it was only in the areas where “Romney carpet bombs with Wall Street money” to run television commercials against him that his popularity eroded.

“The conservatives clearly are rejecting Romney,” he said on the same program. The former Massachusetts governor may take all of Florida’s fifty delegates next week but many of the caucuses and primaries that are next in line elect delegates on a proportional basis, raising the possibility of neither candidate securing a majority before the nominating convention in August.

“He’s not going to be anywhere near a majority by April,” Gingrich predicted, by which point 32 states will have caucused or voted in a primary. “This is going to go on all the way to the convention.”

Gingrich has characterized Romney as a “timid Massachusetts moderate” and called him a “liberal” this weekend. As a northeastern governor, Romney enacted a health-care reform measure that was very similar to the Democrats’ 2010 reform effort. he also changed his views on abortion.

Establishment conservatives have questioned Gingrich’s own conservative credentials however, pointing out that Gingrich, too, supported an individual mandate in health care before conservatives were against it. As recently as last summer, he rejected plans to privatize federal health support for retirees as “right-wing social engineering.”

On This Week, Gingrich tried to convince voters that at least he was more conservative than Romney.

My hope is that gradually conservatives will come together and decide that a Newt Gingrich conservatism is dramatically better than Mitt Romney’s liberalism.

On Fox News Sunday, he reached out to likely Rick Santorum voters. “Romney beats me as long as we split the conservative vote,” he said. If the former Pennsylvania senator, who would gather 12 to 15 percent of the vote in Florida, drop outs, Gingrich hopes to stage another victory in the South.

Santorum has shown no intention of leaving the race. Instead, on ABC News last week, he described Gingrich as an “erratic conservative” and a “very high risk candidate” who could dash Republican hopes of winning back the White House.

NBC News’ political director Chuck Todd wondered on Meet the Press whether Gingrich indeed stood to gain from a Santorum exit. “They’ve made Gingrich so unelectable to some conservatives,” he said about the Romney team, “that if you get rid of the Santorum vote and factor in the second choice” in an NBC/Marist poll that was released on Sunday, “Romney’s lead actually grows by a point. So this idea that somehow conservatives are splitting the vote — not anymore.”