Never Trust These Vichy Republicans Again

Chris Christie
Republican governor Chris Christie of New Jersey makes an appearance at the Conservative Political Action Conference in National Harbor, Maryland, February 26, 2015 (Gage Skidmore)

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 deciding 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) must have.

Twitter calls them Vichy Republicans. Here are the worst of them. Read more “Never Trust These Vichy Republicans Again”

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

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.” Read more “Gingrich Reverses Position, Advocates Afghan Withdrawal”

Santorum Steals Conservative Thunder From Gingrich

Former Republican House speaker Newt Gingrich addresses the Nashville Area Chamber of Commerce, Tennessee, November 2, 2009
Former Republican House speaker Newt Gingrich addresses the Nashville Area Chamber of Commerce, Tennessee, November 2, 2009 (Harry Butler)

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. Read more “Santorum Steals Conservative Thunder From Gingrich”

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.”

Newt Channels Conservatives’ Resentment of Mitt Romney

Newt Gingrich’s huge win in the Republican primary election in South Carolina on Saturday may have had less to do with the former House speaker’s popularity and everything to do with conservatives’ resentment of their presumptive nominee, Mitt Romney.

On CBS News’ Face the Nation on Sunday, Gingrich suggested that Romney lost votes in South Carolina when “people began to realize that he’d been pro-choice, pro-gun control and pro-tax increase” as a governor in the northeastern state of Massachusetts between 2003 and 2007.

Romney has defended his record by pointing out that he had to work with a Democratic legislature in Massachusetts and claimed that he changed his position on abortion when he was confronted with the issue of stem cell research. As a result, he was nevertheless “way to the left of South Carolinians,” as Gingrich put it.

It’s not just that Romney is perceived as a moderate; he has failed to enthuse Republican activists for an election that many of them regard as historic. As former Mississippi governor Haley Barbour put it on Face the Nation, “Romney’s strengths are more managerial.” Gingrich, by contrast, is able to rally people with his ability to clearly and concisely articulate conservative beliefs and positions. Read more “Newt Channels Conservatives’ Resentment of Mitt Romney”

Gingrich Win Raises Prospect of Brokered Convention

Former House speaker Newt Gingrich’s win in the early primary state of South Carolina on Saturday raises the prospect of a protracted primary battle, even a brokered Republican Party convention in August by which time none of the four candidates in the race may have secured enough delegates to win a majority on the first ballot.

Right-wing blogger Erick Erickson raised the possibility of a brokered convention at RedState in December of last year, opining that none of the party’s contenders were “proving to be of a caliber of conservative leader we should be putting on the field to take on the socialist in the White House.”

Former Massachusetts governor Mitt Romney is widely perceived as the frontrunner and likely nominee. Compared to Newt Gingrich, who is his closest rival for the nomination, Romney, according to recent polls, would stand a better chance of beating Barack Obama in the general election. But there’s a fear, as Jonah Goldberg pointed out in National Review, that a Romney candidacy may not draw out rank and file Republicans in large enough numbers to make the November election a referendum on President Obama.

Every four years, pundits and activists talk about how cool it would be to have a brokered convention. This is the first time I can remember where people say it may be necessary.

Former Republican congressman Joe Scarborough, now an MSNBC morning show host, agreed on Friday when he said that “Newt is the vessel that people like Sarah Palin and others who want a brokered convention are riding right now. They want to keep this going.”

He predicted that if Gingrich gathered enough momentum to position himself as the presumptive nominee, prominent Republicans, like former vice presidential candidate Sarah Palin, would throw their support behind another candidate, presumably Rick Santorum, the former senator from Pennsylvania who is the most socially conservative candidate among the four still running.

Texas congressman Ron Paul is another factor to be reckoned with. He won roughly 20 percent of the vote in both Iowa and New Hampshire. Although he may not do well in the Deep South, he could pose a real threat to whoever is the frontrunner in the Mountain West where conservative voters tend to be more libertarian.

Paul doesn’t seem to anticipate a third party run but he has a very committed base of supporters who may carry him onto the convention to try to influence the party platform. His delegates could tip the voting balance in favor of either Gingrich, Romney or a candidate who hasn’t participated in the primaries but emerges as a contender at the convention.

A recent change in party rules makes a brokered convention this year likelier than before. Unlike was the case in most previous primary races, delegates are now often elected on proportional bases instead of winner takes all. Florida, which votes January 31 and has fifty delegates up for grabs, is a notable exception but even they will only be bound for three ballots at the convention.

Before Super Tuesday in early March, when ten different states vote at once, among them Georgia, Ohio, Oklahoma, Tennessee and Virginia, just 15 percent of delegates will have been selected. The Super Tuesday votes combined pick nearly 25 percent of delegates. Large states like Illinois, Louisiana, Texas, New York and California will organize primaries between the end of March and early June. Each have huge numbers of delegates at stake which could prove decisive if Gingrich, Paul, Romney and Santorum all stay in the race beyond Super Tuesday.

If, by the time the party convenes in Tampa, Florida on August 27, there isn’t a candidate yet, there will be as many rounds of voting as is necessary to get a majority and elect a nominee. Depending on the number of ballots for which delegates are bound, a person who didn’t participate in the primaries could be nominated if, for instance, Romney’s delegates won’t vote for Gingrich or vice versa.

Contenders may include Chris Christie and Mitch Daniels, the Republican governors of New Jersey and Indiana, who are both popular with conservative activists and heralded as reform-minded chief executives who aren’t afraid to challenge vested interests and cut spending. They ruled out presidential runs last year and Christie recently endorsed Mitt Romney. If, more than six months from now, their party has still failed to find a nominee, could they be persuaded to run after all?

Newt Strikes Back, Surges in South Carolina Primary

Former House speaker Newt Gingrich staged a political comeback in South Carolina’s presidential primary election on Saturday. In the state that has selected the Republican nominee in every race since 1980, Gingrich appears to have beaten the frontrunner Mitt Romney to victory.

Gingrich surged in South Carolina after Romney won the first primary in New Hampshire two weeks ago with a 40 percent share of the vote. The former Massachusetts governor has largely failed to enthuse right-wing voters although he may stand the best chance of beating the incumbent, President Barack Oama, in a general election.

South Carolina is considered more conservative than New Hampshire although voters who are registered as independent were able to participate in both primaries.

Days ahead of the vote, Gingrich won the endorsement of Texas governor Rick Perry who ended his campaign after coming in fifth in Iowa in early January and sixth in New Hampshire. Former ambassador Jon Huntsman, who dropped out of the race despite finishing third in New Hampshire, endorsed Romney, if reluctantly.

Perry’s departure leaves Rick Santorum the only other rival for the social conservative vote. Despite intense scrutiny of Gingrich’s marital past in recent days, which shouldn’t appeal to evangelical voters, Santorum failed to capitalize on his strong showing in Iowa and barely managed to beat Congressman Ron Paul of Texas for third place.

Paul is unlikely to win the nomination because of his libertarian and noninterventionist policy positions but could stay in the race to gather enough delegates to influence the party platform at the national convention in August when Republicans formally nominate their presidential candidate.

Santorum, who lacks the resources and organization that Romney has as well as the momentum that now befalls Gingrich, could struggle to compete in Florida and Nevada which are the next primary states. Gingrich doesn’t have a significant presence in these states either but he has now positioned himself as the most viable conservative alternative to Mitt Romney.

Impressive debate performances have helped Gingrich surge to the top of the field but his rhetoric is also a weakness. The former House speaker, who led Republicans to their first congressional majority in more than forty years in 1994, has a tendency to inflate his personal role in historical events.

In an interview with Fox News last month, Gingrich said that not only had he helped President Ronald Reagan “develop supply-side economics” during the 1980s; “I helped lead the effort to defeat communism in the Congress,” he claimed. A dubious assertion for a legislator who had little to do with foreign policy and defense.

Although he has been in politics for decades and made a fortunate as a commentator and lobbyist after he was forced to resign as speaker in 1999, Gingrich told Radio Iowa in December that he was “the most experienced outsider in modern terms” and willing to “challenge the establishment” without regard to “Republican or Democratic political correctness.”

To the extent that he’s challenged Republican policy, it has not been very popular. In May of last year, he denounced his party’s plans to privatize public health-care support for seniors as “right-wing social engineering” and “radical change” — even as his own Medicare reform plan calls for optional premium support too. Indeed, the only difference between congressional Republicans’ and Gingrich’s plans is that the latter would keep Medicare intact for people who chose to be on it while both aim to enhance competition among private insurers.

Whether Gingrich manages to carry his momentum into Florida remains to be seen. Romney currently enjoys a 20 percentage point lead in the polls there. If Santorum were to drop out though, that could be a boost to Gingrich’s campaign. Florida will award all of its fifty delegates to whoever wins the primary in the Sunshine State.

Twenty-five delegates are at stake in South Carolina where it will take 1,144 votes to win the nomination at the Republican National Convention in Tampa, Florida in August.

Eleven of South Carolina’s delegates are awarded to the statewide winner. Each of the state’s seven congressional districts has two delegates to allocate proportionately. Romney and Gingrich could split those remaining fourteen votes. Exact results are pending.