This week will be the busiest that we’ll see in the race for the Republican presidential nomination this month. Coloradans and Minnesotans will be headed to the caucuses today while Missourians will be voting in the nonbinding primary that precedes their March 17 caucuses. We can also expect to see the results of the Maine caucuses this Saturday. After this week, we’ll see only a handful of caucuses and primaries in Guam, Arizona, Michigan, and Washington before Super Tuesday on March 6.
Public Policy Polling shows former Governor Mitt Romney (R-Mass.) with a comfortable lead in Colorado with 37%. Former Senator Rick Santorum (R-Penn.) trails Romney with 27% while former House Speaker Newt Gingrich (R-Ga.) and Congressman Ron Paul (R-Tex.) clock in with 21% and 13% respectively. It looks like we can expect another big win for Romney in the Centennial State.
The race could get a little more interesting in Minnesota, Missouri, and Maine. Santorum leads the field in a tight race for the North Star State, but that race is still very much up in the air with a range of only 13% between Santorum and Paul, who is polling in fourth place. Santorum looks to be headed for a win in the Show-Me State’s nonbinding primary; he leads with 45% to Romney’s 32%. Meanwhile, Politico is calling the race for the Pine Tree State a two man race between Romney and Paul.
If these numbers hold, what could all of this mean for the race going forward?
Former Governor Mitt Romney (R-Mass.) was the big winner last night in Florida. The Sunshine State is a winner-take-all state, which means that Romney took all fifty of Florida’s GOP delegates and is now leading in the delegate count. But as The Christian Science Monitor points out, Congressman Ron Paul (R-Tex.) could emerge as another big winner by week’s end:
This week, Ron Paul is likely to win more delegates to the 2012 GOP convention than either Newt Gingrich or Rick Santorum. In fact, he’s likely to win more delegates than Gingrich and Santorum combined.
“Hold it”, you’re saying, “How can that be? Rep. Paul’s polling in single digits in Florida. He’s going to finish behind Gingrich and Santorum, as well as Mitt Romney, in Tuesday’s Florida primary. How can that translate into beating any of his rivals at all?”
We’ll tell you how – because he’s not winning those delegates in Florida. He’s winning, or will probably win, at least a few delegates in Maine.
Indeed, while the other three remaining Republican candidates have been busy in Florida, Paul has been focusing his time and energy on a strong finish if not a win in the Pine Tree State and in Nevada. Solid performances this weekend could give Paul momentum and energize his supporters headed into the Colorado and Minnesota caucuses next Tuesday.
Sen. Angus King (I-ME), one of two independents in the Senate currently caucusing with Democrats, is openly tossing around the idea of switching sides should Republicans take control of the upper chamber this fall, according to The Hill:
“I’ll make my decision at the time based on what I think is best for Maine,” King told The Hill Wednesday after voting with Republicans to block the Paycheck Fairness Act, a measure at the center for the 2014 Democratic campaign agenda.
King’s remarks are a clear indication that congressional leaders on both sides of the aisle will have to woo the 70-year-old senator in order to recruit him to their side.
The Hill surmises that King’s caucus alignment could be the deciding factor if Republicans wind up evenly splitting seats with Democrats, in which case the tie-breaking vote would go to Vice President Joe Biden.
That’s an unlikely scenario, but if Republican leaders were to sweeten the deal with a plum committee assignment, it could be enough to woo him over and, thus, tip the scales of control of the Senate to the GOP. At the same time, however, Republicans will have to defend several potentially competitive seats in 2016, so that’s something that King will keep in mind as he makes a decision.
But if King does decide to caucus with Senate Republicans, it would be an unlikely relationship. He’s not exactly in lockstep the GOP’s positions. The Maine senator, for example, has been a more reliable vote than some of his colleagues who are actually Democrats.
The 2012 election dealt a blow to the country, not just because it guaranteed the same failed economic policies of the last four years, but because it also means that any push to repeal ObamaCare in Congress is a non-starter. Despite that, there will still be ways to significantly diminish the impact of the law.
While the decision last year to uphold the individual mandate was certainly disappointing, the Supreme Court did provide lattitude for states to refuse to implement expensive insurance exchanges and even more costly Medicare expansion. This was a silver-lining in an otherwise terrible decision that set a very troubling precendent for future expansions of government.
In a new whitepaper, “50 Vetoes: How States Can Stop the Obama Health Care Law,” Michael Cannon, director of Health Policy Studies at the Cato Institute, explains that this gives states the chance to effectively veto these provisions and thus save taxpayers and business money.
“To date, 34 states, accounting for roughly two-thirds of the U.S. population, have refused to create Exchanges,” writes Cannon in the summary of the whitepaper. “Under the statute, this shields employers in those states from a $2,000 per worker tax that will apply in states that are creating Exchanges (e.g., California, Colorado, New York).”
“Those 34 states have exempted at least 8 million residents from taxes as high as $2,085 on families of four earning as little as $24,000,” he continues. “They have also reduced federal deficits by hundreds of billions of dollars.”
Republicans are facing a reality right now, and it’s not one that many of the want to grasp. Back in 2004, President George W. Bush’s re-election bid was boosted by gay marriage bans on the ballot in 11 states, including Ohio, all of which were passed.
While gay marriage bans, abortion, and other wedge issues may still rally social conservatives, today’s landscape is much different than that of four years ago. Not only did three states — Maine, Maryland, and Washington — measures extending gay couples the rights other couples enjoy, but a poll released yesterday shows that a majority of Americans support same-sex marriage. Moreover, two states — Colorado and Washington — passed initiatives to legalize the recreational use of marijuana; a prospect that has the federal government on the warpath.
These issues are driven in large part by younger voters who are generally supportive of individual liberties — a very much “live and let live” segment of our society. They believe that the Republican Party is intolerant of gays and unyielding in their commitment to the “war on drugs.”
Writing at the Wall Street Journal earlier this week, Jason Riley noted that young voters broke with Mitt Romney by a larger margin than any other Republican nominee in recent history:
During the debate over health care reform, President Barack Obama said that they only way to lower health insurance premiums and costs was to pass the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, which would bring more regulation and intervention in markets. We know the experiment in Massachusetts, which provided the blueprint for ObamaCare, has had the opposite effect as health insurance premiums continue to rise. And unsurprisingly, we’re seeing the same thing with ObamaCare.
With the Supreme Court’s decision looming in the legal challenge against the law (it’s expected later this month), Republicans are scrambling to find a way to deal with the health care issue as it may play a prominent role in the fall, perhaps they need only look to the recent reforms in Maine, where deregulation of the market has caused health insurance premiums to fall:
In 1993, Augusta passed coverage laws that resemble those that ObamaCare is about to impose nationwide: Insurers could only vary premiums within narrow bands regardless of age or health status, a regulation known as community rating. Four of Maine’s five insurers in the individual market stopped offering coverage and fled, and the state entered an insurance “death spiral” in which premiums don’t cover underlying medical costs. That leads to higher premiums, consumers dropping coverage as a result, and still higher premiums in turn.
Republicans had hoped that they would not only maintain or build on their majority in the House in 2012, but also take control of the Senate since a number of Democrats are up for re-election this year. While that prospect is still in play since the GOP only needs four seats for a majority in the Senate, it just got a bit tougher.
As you know, Sen. Ben Nelson (D-NE) decided against a bid for re-election. The writing was on the wall for him. Polls showed him down to prospective Republican challengers, thanks to his votes for the stimulus and ObamaCare; not to mention that he is a Democrat in a “red state.” But former Sen. Bob Kerrey (D-NE) has talked into running by Senate Democrats after promises were made to him.
Cook Political still has the at “Likely Republican” and no polling has come out since Kerrey announced his candidacy, but he does present a more formible challenge for Republicans.
Republicans were dealt a more serious blow in Maine this week after Sen. Olympia Snowe, who generally viewed as a moderate, announced that she wouldn’t run for re-election. There has been some speculation that Ron Paul supporters booing her when she showed up at the GOP caucus last month may have had something to do with her decision. This is now listed as a “Toss Up” by most observers.
A few days ago, I nearly wrote a post, based on what I was reading from some elections observers, encouraging Ron Paul supporters to calm down over the results in Maine. Paul supporters were arguing that the election had been stolen due to uncounted ballots. Josh Putnam, who blogs at Frontloading HQ and offers insight I generally respect, discounted the “conspiracy” being floated.
But over at the American Spectator, Jim Antle notes that the Maine Republican Party is under scrutiny due to the number of uncounted ballots, which may or may not be enough to question whether Mitt Romney won the caucus:
The Bangor Daily News is reporting that the Maine Republican Party is facing increasing pressure to reconsider its claim that Mitt Romney won the state’s caucuses until all the votes are counted. (Hat tip: Taegan Goddard.) Some caucuses were postponed due to snow and told that they won’t count in the final tally; towns that had their caucuses before February 11 were also inexplicably not counted.
The Heritage Foundation notes that with Ohio, Oklahoma, Maine, and Wisconsin now suing the Obama Administration of the health care law passed last March, that half of the states are engaging in litigation against ObamaCare:
If it is allowed to be implemented, Obamacare will eventually do deep and irreparable harm to our nation’s budget deficit. But while Obamacare is more of a long-term threat to fiscal health at the federal level, it is a clear and present danger to the states. Of the 34 million Americans who gain health insurance through Obamacare, over half (18 million) will receive it through Medicaid.
While Obamacare will pay for all of the benefit expansion for the first three years of the law, and 90% of it after that, Obamacare never pays for any of the state administrative costs for adding those 18 million Americans to their welfare rolls. That amounts to billions in unfunded federal mandates for states to absorb. That is why 33 Republican governors signed a letter to the White House and Congress making an emphatic appeal that Obamacare’s Medicaid provisions be repealed.
With the primaries in 2010 over and the general election just three weeks away, tea partyers are already putting Republican Senators in their crosshairs for primary challenges in 2012:
Sen. Olympia Snowe of Maine, one of the most liberal Republicans in Congress, already has a conservative GOP primary opponent. Sen. Orrin Hatch (R., Utah), Sen. Bob Corker (R., Tenn.) and Sen. Richard Lugar (R., Indiana) have all drawn fire from the right wing of their party.
Tea-party activists have put these and other incumbents on notice that the anti-establishment sentiment defining this year’s politics will not end on Election Day 2010.
It is too early to say if these incumbents will face serious peril when they are up for re-election in 2012, but they are already taking steps to burnish their conservative credentials.
“The tea party is right,” said Ms. Snowe, who is campaigning for a tea-party-backed gubernatorial candidate in Maine this fall. “We’ve lost our way on fiscal issues.”
Tea-party challenges to GOP establishment candidates in this year’s primaries showed how committed conservative activists are to changing the party from within. Although activists now are turning their attention to defeating Democrats in November, 2012 is already looming.
“Right now, we’re in the research mode, but Nov. 3 we are going to start our search” for an opponent for Mr. Lugar, said Monica Boyer, president of Silent No More, a group she said sympathizes with the tea party.
Mr. Lugar last won re-election by a landslide. But the 2010 primaries sent a strong message: No one is safe if the tea party could defeat Republicans such as Sen. Robert Bennett of Utah, Rep. Mike Castle of Delaware and Sen. Lisa Murkowski of Alaska.