Bring on the social issues

U.S. Republican presidential candidate Rick Santorum speaks to supporters during a campaign appearance in Fallon, Nevada February 2, 2012. REUTERS/Robert Galbraith (UNITED STATES – Tags: POLITICS ELECTIONS)

You can practically hear the champagne corks popping in the White House as the Republicans in Congress and the presidential candidates start talking about social issues. Rick Santorum wants to go back to 1949, and suddenly the angry right is talking more about contraception that jobs.

While most GOP strategists are horrified by this development, James Taranto tries to argue that this is a good thing for the GOP. Really.

If you’re a Republican in New York or another big city, you may be anxious or even terrified at the prospect that Rick Santorum, the supposedly unelectable social conservative, may win the GOP presidential nomination. Jeffrey Bell would like to set your mind at ease.

Social conservatism, Mr. Bell argues in his forthcoming book, “The Case for Polarized Politics,” has a winning track record for the GOP. “Social issues were nonexistent in the period 1932 to 1964,” he observes. “The Republican Party won two presidential elections out of nine, and they had the Congress for all of four years in that entire period. . . . When social issues came into the mix—I would date it from the 1968 election . . . the Republican Party won seven out of 11 presidential elections.”

Read the whole thing. It’s a staggering example of selectively picking facts to suit your argument. Listening to this argument, you would think that the Cold War, the economy and the Iranian hostage crisis had nothing to do with Reagan’s win in 1980 (let alone Ted Kennedy’s challenge to Carter in the primaries).

This simplistic view might placate some Republicans, and hopefully enough of them will jump on this bandwagon. Perhaps we’ll see a fall campaign with Rick Santorum railing against contraception and online gambling.

Romney’s Super PAC goes after Rick Santorum

Not surprisingly, Mitt Romney’s Super PAC is now going after Rick Santorum. Romney’s team has no choice, as Romney’s support is plummeting, yet all the negativity surrounding Romney’s attack ads is taking its toll on Romney as well. He’s a lame candidate, and his only strategy seems to be tearing apart even lamer candidates. His support among independents is tanking, and his “severely conservative” speech is making him a laughing stock with conservatives.

As for Santorum, he’s vulnerable to attack for many reasons. In a general election he’ll have to answer for his extreme positions on social issues, but he’s also the poster child for Republican mistakes during the Bush years when they spent like crazy trying to keep their majority.

Yet even with all these vulnerabilities, the Romney ad comes across as a series of cheap shots. Sure, Santorum voted to increase the debt limit, but everyone was voting that way, including practically all Republicans when Bush was president.

I still have no idea how this is going to play out, but whoever emerges from this savage primary season will be very damaged heading into a general election.

Mitt Romney gave $100 million to his kids without paying gift taxes

Ann Romney introduces her husband, Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney, at a campaign rally in Las Vegas February 1, 2012. The Nevada caucuses take place on February 4. REUTERS/Rick Wilking (UNITED STATES – Tags: POLITICS ELECTIONS)

It’s all perfectly legal, but now we have another reason why Mitt Romney fought like crazy to avoid disclosing his tax returns.

Read the article from Reuters for all the gory details. All of this is tied to the “carried interest” exemption that is basically a gift to private equity managers on Wall Street.

Romney will get hammered for this and his overall tax rate in the campaign, and it’s a legitimate issue as Romney is arguing that taxes for the wealthy should be even lower.

Oh, and this is the same guy who just said he’s “not concerned about the very poor.” And yes, his tax plan calls for increasing taxes on the working poor.

I was planning a post on how the GOP deserved Newt Gingrich, as his nomination would be the culmination of a generation of Republican politicians who practiced the worst form of divisive politics. An Obama landslide over Newt would be the perfect ending to that story.

But Romney might be even better. He’s the poster child for the ridiculous conservative argument that all our problems will be solved by lowering taxes on rich people. Romney, in his attempt to hide his liberal past, has embraced right-wing dogma on practically every issue, including taxes. Now, the public will see exactly what today’s conservatives stand for, and they’ll have a walking and talking embodiment of the type of people who benefit from these policies.

I don’t suspect they’ll like what they see. This election will likely be very difficult for Obama if Romney is the nominee, but the more I see of him, the more he looks like a Mike Dukakis in terms of political skills. Romney has real vulnerabilities in states like Ohio where he supported the anti-union law that got repealed by over 60% in a referendum. If Romney loses Ohio it’s likely he can’t win.

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