brad-listi-thoughts-on-election-2016

This week on the Otherppl with Brad Listi podcast, Brad Listi offers his thoughts on Election 2016.

 

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I grew up reading Ayn Rand and it taught me quite a bit about who I am and what my value systems are, and what my beliefs are. It’s inspired me so much that it’s required reading in my office for all my interns and staff. We start with Atlas Shrugged.   —Paul Ryan

 

Barack has pushed Malia to read some classics, The Grapes of Wrath, Tender Is the Night—she’s reading those, so I’ve been doing a lot of re-reading.   —Michelle Obama

As a writer with a Masters of Fine Arts in creative writing, I make most of my living teaching composition, argument and rhetoric to college students. This means I have the often-unenviable job of pointing out to students when their thinking is flawed, which in this era of anti-intellectualism is a dangerous and radical idea.

 

Mitt Romney is staking his presidential candidacy on his long business career and the values reflected in the photograph below, taken from a Bain Capital Christmas card in the 1980s. If recent polls are any indication, a majority of American voters might be ready to buy in.

Taking a gentlemanly, congratulatory phone call from Sen. John McCain after he stuffed former Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney in the Iowa caucus in January of 2008, former Arkansas Governor Mike Huckabee is reported to have chuckled — with a little too much venom — “I beat Romney here, now you take him in New Hampshire.” Which is exactly what happened. And Huckabee meant it, too.  That shiv neatly sums up the animosity Republicans who run for president tend to feel towards the feckless Romney, now 1-0 in 2012, and on the verge of being 2-0 if his firewall in New Hampshire holds firm next week and new polls in South Carolina showing him with a strong lead there turn out to be correct.

But before New Hampshire votes next week and makes Romney 2-0 and the presumptive nominee, it’s worth asking one question: Can he be stopped?

Big answer: Maybe, maybe not, because the same five reasons Romney has the nomination locked up are the exact five reasons he could still lose.

 

Lock.

He’s got so much money — that of his campaign, his Super Pac that spent $3 million destroying Newt Gingrich in a matter of weeks on Iowans’ TV screens, and his own private fortune estimated at over $200 million. After New Hampshire, South Carolina, and Nevada comes Florida — an expensive market in which to campaign.  And no other candidate can hit the airwaves with us much force or range as Romney.

He’s got the establishment falling into line behind his candidacy. The Tea Party has already put a noose around the House of Representatives, and establishment conservatives are desperate that it not do the same to the presidential standard-bearer, what with President Obama’s approval still stuck slightly below 50 percent. In state after state, governors and representatives are falling in line to support Romney with party stars like New Jersey’s bully of a governor, Chris Christie, leading the way. As Romney’s wins pile up, elected Republicans will endorse so as not to lose favor with their party’s eventual nominee.

The other candidates will continue to split the right wing vote. Rick Santorum, Rick Perry, Newt Gingrich, and Ron Paul divvied up some 75 percent of the vote in Iowa and, because of that split, they each lost to Romney — albeit by a “landslide” of eight votes in Santorum’s case. That might be Romney’s low ceiling, true, but if the other candidates continue to vie for three-quarters of the GOP pie, Romney’s 25 percent slice could be enough in state after state to rack up delegates and be crowned the nominee in Tampa. And 25 percent probably isn’t his ceiling.

Santorum and Perry want to be the Vice Presidential nominee. Gingrich and Paul couldn’t care less about their future in the Republican party (though Paul surely is interested in protecting his fringe of the nutty wing for a future presidential run by his son, Kentucky’s junior senator, Rand Paul). But Santorum and Perry both can hope to make an argument that they would bring right wing enthusiasm with them into a fall campaign (much as George Bush, Sr. made the same, but reverse, argument to Ronald Reagan in 1980, that Bush could bring the moderate and establishment wings to unite with the conservative Reaganites). Jack Kemp, Dan Quayle, and Sarah Palin were all figureheads for the right wing of a party that was simply holding its nose for the more moderate top of the ticket. Santorum or Perry could vie to be next in the VP in that fated line.

The GOP is full of amateur pundits. Even if they don’t like Romney, Republicans have told pollsters that they believe he is the most electable. Of all the GOP candidates, he still polls best nationally against Obama, trailing the president by just 2.2 percentage points, according to Real Clear Politics’ average of a dozen of the most recent national polls. And in state by state polling — because the only number that matters in the general election is 270, the number of electoral votes needed to win the presidency — Romney is running competitively against the president in the bell weather battleground states of Florida, Ohio, Pennsylvania, and Virginia, all states Obama won in 2008 and needs to win in 2012.

 

Lose.

He’s got so much money — but the populist revolts that gave rise to both the Tea Party in 2010 and the Occupy movement in 2011 have hardly abated. And rich white guys are their target. Santorum is hitting hard the Tea Party, Buchananesque, blue collar argument that government is ruining industry, manufacturing, and the social fabric of America. Romney’s personal wealth and what he represents as a corporate businessman running for high office may be the very totems of ultra-affluence that work against him — especially if he makes another bizarre statement like “corporations are people.” This is why Gingrich has taken to saying that Romney is trying to buy the nomination. It’s an argument that may take hold if the race tightens.

He’s got the establishment falling in line — but the leading figures of that endorsing establishment are George Bush, Sr., Bob Dole, and John McCain, who combined lost three out of the last five presidential races. And none were favored by the conservative-I-hate-you reactionaries in the Republican party. If the reactionaries rally behind a single candidate — say, Santorum — and ditch Gingrich, Perry, and Paul, then Romney’s 25 percent threshold will not hold against a party eager for a happy, reactionary warrior to run against Obama.

Santorum and Perry want to be the Vice Presidential nominee. Unless one or the other is the Presidential nominee. In 2008, pundits were certain that Barack Obama was only running for — and could only win — the Vice Presidential nod against Hillary Clinton. What they didn’t know was that Obama’s campaign had developed a February strategy to sweep the caucus contests that immediately followed Super Tuesday. Santorum could quickly become the darling of the right — and Perry has the fund-raising chops to stay in the fight — so if the campaign drags on past Florida and Romney can’t sew it up and no surprise candidate enters late, then playing hard but respectful in order to get the number two spot may fall away. In its place? Playing all out for the win.

The GOP is full of amateur pundits — but only a very few predicted Santorum’s amazing Iowa finish. So for all the windbaggery, attention must be paid to the voters, no? And God love them for that. Given all the loopy twists of the 2012 primaries so far, and knowing that GOP voters down the line just don’t seem to like Mitt Romney, anything could happen.

 

[for lack of a better name I’ve decided to dub my sporadic political column the “Hustings Hustler.” Because I adore alliteration.]

The second GOP debate took place this week in New Hampshire, also known as the Granite State, which is a peculiar name, considering that you could carve seventeen full size New Hampshire sculptures out of the granite in California and still have some stone left over to add Barack Obama to Mount Rushmore.

New Hampshire is important to the Republican Party both because it holds the first primary and takes a serious anti-tax stance. You might believe the state’s motto is “Live Free or Die,” but it is in fact “Live Fee or Die.” The state makes up for lost tax revenue by imposing fees on everything. It’s a crucial difference: with taxation, the government takes money from its citizens. In the fee system, the government takes money from its citizens. New Hampshire also derives income from beating up Vermont for its milk money.

Mitt Romney has solidified his position as GOP front runner, which is pretty easy to do when several candidates have yet to enter the race and it’s a whopping eight months from now until the New Hampshire primary. Do you know how many penis pictures Anthony Weiner could tweet in eight months? I don’t know. More than you could shake a… never mind.

Since we last met there have been some minor changes to the field. Michele Bachmann and Rick Santorum are definitely in, Mike Huckabee and Donald Trump are out.

The highlight of the Granite State Debate was T-paw attempting to weasel his way out of prior statements concerning the mutant hybrid “ObamneyCare,” a hard-to-pronounce sleight against both the President’s and Mitt Romney’s health care plans. T-paw has a point: it’s totally fair to question how Mitt Romney could be against Obama’s health care plan even as he signed into law its very model as Massachusetts governor. When Pawlenty was asked at the debate if he would “come and say that to my face,” the former Minnesota gov ran away with his big bushy squirrel tail between his legs. That’s right: he ran away from Mitt Romney, who has never done anything worse to anyone than naming his son Tagg. If T-paw’s plan to differentiate himself from Romney was to establish that a) he’s a former governor from a different state that starts with M and b) he’s a coward, Mission Accomplished!

Herman “The Godfather” Cain skirted around his prior demand for loyalty tests for Muslims in his administration. It’s too bad that he was caught showing off both his prejudice and his inability to waffle effectively when he should have talked about the economy. Cain knows about the economy because he used to sell pizza. To reduce unemployment Cain plans to offer pizza delivery jobs to every unemployed man and woman with a 1981 Toyota Cressida and a solid weed connection.

Wait. Ex-governor. Ex-senator. Ex-governor. Ex-House speaker. Ex-pizza magnate.* Of the seven people on the debate stage, only Michele Crazyboots Bachmann and Rowdy Ron Paul have jobs. That’s right: you know who’s going to fix our economy and give everyone jobs? A bunch of unemployed people.

Meanwhile, Newt Gingrich’s entire staff decided to spend more time with their not Newt Gingrich. Apparently they realized what I could have told them months ago if I wasn’t busy tweeting junk pics around the internet: Newt isn’t really running for president, he’s running so his ideas can be injected into the greater Republican debate. The big reason Newt’s people have departed en masse is they don’t believe his social media-heavy campaign strategy, which looks something like this: “vote for me and I promise not to tweet you a photo of my penis. Which is called Big Newt.”

At least, unlike Gingrich himself, his campaign staff didn’t wait until he was hospitalized with cancer to dump him.

Former Ambassador John Huntsman plans to announce his campaign plans at New York’s Liberty Park, which most likely means he’s in the running, otherwise he’d make his statement at Who Gives a Fuck Field, which is home to the New York Mets. I didn’t include Huntsman in my writeup last time. He’s a moderate Republican from Utah and his face keeps freaking me out.

We’ve all been there: you see what you think is a beautiful woman from behind, she turns around and you hear the staccato reak reak reak sound from Psycho and she has the face of Freddy Krueger but he’s been burned with acid and run over with a lawnmower. You know what I’m talking about. And she still rejects you because you’re so goddamn superficial.

All I’m saying is that I first saw Huntsman’s face in profile and I thought damn, you’re JFK-handsome. Then you see his face straight on and he’s got all the inhuman charm of a baby wombat.
But the wombat face is the least of his problems. His most recent job has been as the Ambassador to China for President Barack Hussein Obama.

They will just call him Huntsman-Chinabama.

You might think that moderate Republicans have no place in the primaries but you have to realize that historically, the GOP has been much more likely to nominate the traditional old guard (no taxes, loves big business, only pretends to give a shit about abortion) than the crazies. Nixon and George H W Bush were definitely on the moderate side, as was John McCain, that is, until he and George Bush kissed and made up and Bush replaced his brain with a Bible and some oat bran while nobody was looking.

Hell, between Huntsman and Romney and the Book of Mormon winning its Tony, it’s a great year for the tribe of Joseph Smith. If people stopped confusing them with Scientology they’d be set.

The last shadow candidate is Rick Perry, who is the guitarist from Aerosmith, and used to play Dylan on Beverly Hills 90210, but since Aerosmith is on hiatus while Steven Tyler offers his enormous lips as shelter for contestants on American Idol, Rick Perry is now moonlighting as governor of Texas.

Governor Perry has been hinting that he might run for president, and kicked off his non-campaign with a prayer event which “received criticism,” according to the New York Times. A negative article in the Times for Perry’s fundraising team is like winning the big high school game, the chili cook-off and banging the entire cheerleading squad on the same day!

The gist of the article suggests it’s not appropriate for a sitting governor to hold a giant evangelical prayer rally to psyche people up for when they get to heaven so they can roast the bones of non-believers. Side note: Perry’s Houston prayer rally is co-sponsored by the gay-bashing group International House of Prayer. Yes: IHOP.

Rick Perry has become more likely to announce his candidacy for several reasons. The current field of candidates is unimpressive. Sorry Mitt, but you are boring. You don’t even say any crazy Mormon things! Also, there are signs that the economy is slowing, due to lots of circumstances outside the President’s control (see Japan), and the economy could easily crater again and then Barack will have to apply for Jimmy Carter’s job as “guy who became awesome after being president.”

The Texas Governor will rely on a tried and true script:  he will turn to God and ask him if he should run, and if God answers in the form of large campaign donations from oil companies, look to Rick Perry to crash the party. In which case I’ll have a good time writing about how as a sitting governor he wanted Texas to secede from the country.

*Romney, Santorum, T-paw, Gingrich, Cain. If you got all these right you get a gold star.